“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. [NRSA: John 15:1-8]
Who owns the vineyard?
God is the owner of the vineyard, the plants, the soil, pays the taxes, cares for the property, cares for the vine. We are called to be fruit of God’s labor.
Who is the Vine?
Who are the branches that bear fruit?
Us, the church, the people of God, Christians, Disciples, folks in this room and watching this stream.
When someone takes your hard work and uses you’re your idea, your product, our your effort to produce work for themselves? What if they not only use your labor, but do so in a way that brings harm to others? Even more so, they take credit that is yours, blame you for the harm and shame, and they become justified by the law of the land by discrediting your work but sticking you with the blame for their theft and abuse? How does that reflect on you? How is this different from God’s perspective when we claim what is our property, our ideas, our value, wealth, power, or the like?
To God belongs all things, all people, all the history and future.
We are the branches… we already established that, but our question is about fruit production.
Imagine you and I are watermelons in the field. We are connected to the vine, the source, of God’s love in Jesus Christ, fed the nutrients of the Holy Spirit, nurtured by those in the faith and body of Christ. Know, we are not of the seedless variety. We are connected to God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit and the church, to be more than a plump specimen of survival, we are to produce seed that become other vines and branches.
What is the expectation of branches in the parable that do not produce fruit? Do they remain part of the vine system? Do they continue to thrive and mature? No, they are pruned. They are cut off. They are not helping to extend, reproduce, expand, and branch outward and they are no longer useful to God.
This is such a harsh statement? Where is the grace? Where is the loving God?
It’s in the call upon each disciples to use the spiritual seeds that you are designed, born, and already have in your spiritual DNA.
Reality of Fruitfulness
Frankly, we are in a season of pruning, no control over the global pandemic, no control over the decisions of our denomination, no reason to trust our political leaders, no reason to believe in justice when the system is broken. We are hopeless, depressed, and afraid. And in these times of uncertainly we tend to be withdrawn, hunker down, and retreat.
In these times we are not planting seeds and not sharing the faith, assurance, love, grace, truth, and power that has been given us through Christ, the Holy Spirit, nor the church.
We can busy ourselves with finding the appropriate person, system, institution, or corporation to blame, or we can recognize that none of these are charge with the same power, tools, gifts, blessings, and authority to scatter the seeds: some on the path, some in the poor soil, and some in the good soil. But the task is to be planting, sharing, and scattering the seed we already have been given.
Blame and Shame never plant seeds of life.
Where there is no fruit, there are no seeds, no future, no life, no hope. What is the reverse of that story? IF we have hope, we have faith, if we trust the life given to us, we see the future God has for us, and it begins in the tools, stories, adventures, suffering, and life God has already given us, and will give us.
The vine and branches are connected:
If, and only when, we are connected to God through Christ do we KNOW we are receiving life, Jesus’s question to disciples like us and the world, are you just getting plump or are to preparing seeds?
The power is conveyed through our connection with Christ, but our goal is not simple to live, rather we live to share God’s story. It is fruit we have been prepared and saved to share.
Two Months Ago
This returns us to our invitation, of now 8 weeks ago, 2 months, of responding to the call to bear fruit. We need to be checking to see how our seed supply is doing for reaching beyond ourselves to the world around us.
What are our Seeds to Share?
What are our seeds? From the Bible are both stories of faith, examples of love and forgiveness, rules and commandment of boundaries, examples of living connected to the vine of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The seeds are
- in the scripture we live,
- songs we sing,
- the stories we tell,
- the lessons we study,
- the sermons we preach,
- the experiences we share,
- the struggles we persevere.
Tell the person next to you: I already have the seeds for sharing my faith!
Where and When to plan the seeds?
- Brothers fighting for approval.
- Sisters working for appreciation.
- Neighbors divided over politics, members splitting hairs over theology,
- the sick, forgotten, and excluded long to be included and overcome their brokenness.
- The weary seek rest,
- Those grieving, seek hope and life.
Remember Zacheus: He is the tax collector who has oppressed everyone in town, no one welcomes him at their door, he is seeking Jesus and Jesus invited himself to the man’s home and table. Zach encounters Jesus, and leaves knowing that every evil deed can be mended through Christ. He new business is to work justly and personally makes right what he himself has done to harm others. Jesus does not give him a law or commandment, he plants love and grace in a sinner’s heart and the vine transforms the branches. He begins bearing fruit of grace. Zack, sees the power of his sin and selfishness, and forsakes that lifestyle for a life of restoring connections that once were broken and dead.
Hear the Good News
Did you know that God desires for us to be whole more than to be guilty? Confess our sins and be free and made new in Christ. Zach, already had the seeds to bring justice and to restore what was stolen and extorted.
Jesus knows our Struggle in this World
Did you know God gives us these bodies in this broken and sinful world so that it truly means something when we give away all that we could have to have everything we truly need in Christ.
The seeds of faith that are already part of who we are, are NOT ours alone
The Alternative to growing, spreading, sharing, and bearing fruit, is simply existing, biding our time, or even more harmful, using God’s connects for our power, our success, our glory, our prize, our will.
Lord Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.
This the best prayer to start and finish the day… The context is that as long as we are in this world, with the temptations and freedom to choose our life is an ongoing choice to stay connected AND bear fruit.
Are we bearing fruit? If not, then wake up people.
We are preparing for fruit we might never see: But if we never see any fruitfulness then we are dying on the vine, in the heat of the day. Question from the parable: What happens to the melons that are beginning to rot, or have stopped growing before they mature? They are removed to make room for the branches that will bear fruit.
The Seeds in our Pocket.
One of the early sermon illustrations from 37 years ago came from William Barclay’s commentaries, and he recalled an old English rhymn: “It’s not what I would do if millions were my lot, its what I WILL do with the pence I’ve got. “What are the seeds. Seeds are the miracles of potential. Given the opportunity seeds, as pieces of God’s work, planted through out hands, become the new generation of livelihood for the vineyard.
Just about the same time I started preaching the GA Satellites wrote a song:
Georgia Satellites: “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”
[Verse 1] I got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling; Wanna call you on the telephone, baby, I give you a ring; But each time we talk, I get the same old thing; Always, “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding ring” [Chorus] My honey, my baby; Don’t put my love upon no shelf, She said,”Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself”
[Verse 2] Ooh, baby, baby, baby; Why you gonna treat me this way? You know I’m still your loverboy I still feel the same way; That’s when she told me a story ’bout free milk and a cow; And said “No huggee, no kissee until I get a wedding vow” [Chorus].
Verse 3] You see, I wanted her real bad and I was about to give in; That’s when she started talking about true love; Started talking about sin; I said, “Honey, I’ll live with you for the rest of my life”; She said, No huggee, no kissee until you make me a wife”
There is much talk about loving our neighbor, but it is a combination of loving our neighbor who happens difficult to love. This is the work to which we are called and connected to Christ to live.
How do we plant seeds when someone eats them for their dinner?
Watermelon is not on my list of food to reach my healthy weight, but once I reach that goal, it will be choice on my plate, what is already on all our plates, is to get access to the seeds that are within us and put them to work.
I chose the watermelon as the image for today because we tend to forget that its not just about our own sweetness, and goodness, it is the seeds that are produced in our lives that enable and empower others to be connected to Christ.
A Hands on Opportunity
If you don’t know where to start sharing your faith, start with a seed or small tomato plant or other fruit bearing plant and go and offer it to a neighbor, help them plant it in their yard, for find a place to keep the pot on their porch, deck or patio, and show them how and when to water and nurture, advise them on what problems to anticipate and how you might avoid them, and check back in when it time to see the fruit. And you have the model of what to share with someone about their faith…
The Journey of Discipleship is like that of gardening:
- We share what we have known as a gift to others,
- We invite them to work in northing faith in their own life,
- We give them tools, knowledge, and experience of what it good and evil,
- We hold them accountable and celebrate the journey with them.
The Power of a Lawn Mower
God gives each of us the details to fill in the blanks… but if we secretly planted a watermelon seed in someone’s backyard, and it happen to spring up, they might cut it down with the mower thinking it was a weed. And the effort is wasted.
- Share what you know, God will fill in the rest.
- Stay with the growth and God will give you words and build the relationship.
- Hold accountable as support, just as God holds us accountable in judgement!
- And the vine will thrive through us, and through others, and others, and more until Christ returns for the harvest.
Are you ready to plant seeds of faith, love, grace, hope, joy and life? Then let’s get busy!
Video Hello, My name is John Brantley, my wife is Wendy Williams Brantley, our children are Susanna, Luke, and Frances. Our golden retriever is named Turner, our sailboat project is the ‘turtle.’ We love to travel; we are lifelong Braves fans, and welcome you to participate in our NCAA brackets, as part of our Easter season tradition.
I was born in Metter, Georgia as the son of a United Methodist minister who showed me a deep love of the church, prayer, and making disciples. My childhood church families gave me every example of why to and not to go into the ministry, yet while on a UMW/UMM mission to Monterrey, Mexico at the Juan Wesley Seminary, I was called to return home, share the gospel, transform lives, and lead others in becoming disciple-makers for the kingdom. Through the United Methodist Church and over 30 years of service as an elder, I come to you with joy and anticipation.
My hobbies are travel, music, foodie, techie, sailing, photography, forging, and just above caddy at golf. For the past ten years I have shared my sermons online and other writings at www.clergy.pro You will find that I love to be creative. I fully appreciate great traditions and find stability in them. From that comfort, we can grow and experiment in learning new things and fresh ways.
Locally there are over 5000 people who live within 2.5 miles of the EFUMC and over 30,000 in Gilmer county. Central to our task is to make a home for as many of our neighbors to share in ministry and fellowship. I have founded two ministries particularly help that I call “Pizza with the Pastor” and “Talk on Tap” as personal avenues of reaching new people who are not part of traditional church life. Part of my calling to ministry began in a mission context, and so, I have been blessed to lead teams in Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Moscow, and Culebra Puerto Rico. Together we will make disciples that transform the world and at home, through Jesus Christ.
Our family is spread about; Susanna is doing her post-doc research at Duke University Hospital; Luke, is a captain, and analyst in the Air Force recently, married Liz, a physicians assistant, working on her dermatology certification, and Frances, is our high school senior, has just this week decided to attend UGA to study international studies and Chinese. Wendy is my best friend and wife. She has been a leader in marketing and advertising in the Southeast, she devoted full time to care for both of her parents in our home, and now works in insurance, and will soon be starting on her master’s in history with her love of the WWII era. She is currently completing a book about her journey in the care of her parents.
I bring my passion and commitment to equip and challenge EFUMC to continue to grow and be the very best witness it can be in Gilmer county and the world. We look forward to building strong relationships and doing great work for the kingdom.
We have shared a great long-tenure of ministry with the congregation at Rock Spring.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [NRSA]
You are witnesses of these things.
This is a helpful story of repetition to strengthen our faith. This is yet another time that Jesus appears after the resurrection. And his purpose is the same as before.
He greets them with the breath of the Holy Spirit and the presence of a Holy Peace. And again they were terrified.
Why are you still frightened? Why are you still afraid? Why do you continue to have fear and doubts?
It is here that we can join with those disciples as disciples today and Jesus asks the very same of us!
Again Jesus offers the signs of his crucifixion, his side, his hands and his feet.
The next verse nails the point we know too well: “While in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering.”
We gather in the good news of the power and truth of the resurrection. We celebrate, we sing, we rejoice, we find comfort in our gathering to worship and praise, and in 30 mins we will hesitate in making a faithful choice or decision. We will ignore someone we should have reached out to help. We will have talked through when we should have listened. When challenged we will justify our thoughts and behaviors are just, kind, and righteousness, and not listen to our neighbors.
To further prove Jesus was not a ghost, a vision, or the collective fruit of their imaginations and hopes, he asks for something to eat.
Those who have died have no need to eat.
Those who are spirit only do not hunger or thirst. Here. Jesus is spiritually filled AND yet hungry. And asks for food!
David Brennet, The good Jewish, Italian, or even Southern mother we force anyone who comes in the house to eat, even if they have eaten, say they are not hungry, get a plate of food, if you say you are hungry get a feast.
Jesus says he is hungry.
Proof that he is alive and in full human/Divine form. This is the foundation of the covered dish dinner Jesus asks for food and the bring what they know best, fish.
This appearance Jesus not only gives assurance and proof he reminds us of the
Then he said to them,
1. Let’s knit the lessons of the Old Testament and the promises of prophets and laws of Moses to see the fulfillment of God’s word and messengers.
2. He opened their minds to the scriptures, this is not our understanding of being “open minded” as much as it is to read and heard Gods work with both fresh ear and deep faith, to see Gods new message is not actually new,
3. Hear the Good News in the Hard Truth. Explaining the cross and the debt for sinus’s been paid.
4. Go call for repentance and forgiveness in Christ name.
5. To all nations, starting at home.
What verses of the Bible do you turn to when you are teaching someone who is becoming a disciple they explain who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for us, and what God is expecting us to do as the living presence of Christ?
Shout them out loud! What are you shy or don’t know where to start? We have one job and we have clouded it with what entertains and pleases us in worship? We worry about light bills and building maintenance. We focus on what time we ga5er at the church…. none of which in itself teaches discipleship, none of it completes the assignment.
Church is calling a sinful world what it is and inviting us all to become what God has intended from the beginning. What God makes possible when we have messed things up in our lives, when we have handed authority of life anywhere other than to God…
We start in the closest circle and head for the ends of the earth.
Where to start
Below are ten passage I invite you to study, learn, memorize them or memorize where to find them when you need them. Feel free to add more, but start here as a set of tools for the work of disciplining
Dad bought me a socket set to work on my first car. A car that I paid $300, drove 100,000 miles and sold for $300. I’d love to have that Impala back for $300. 8 miles to the gallon, no air, and ugliest green you have ever seen. But I could work on it. I had the tools, now my Tahoe is in the shop 9 days and has a team of folks stumped.
I need someone with the right tools and experience. When it come to discipleship we have the tools, and we have the presence of The Holy Spirit, the power of Christ, and all it take is making the experience possible for our neighbors, and then the rest of the world. It won’t happen sitting in worship. We’ve got to get busy, cause Jesus is coming and what are we going to show when he gets back.
Key verses for Discipling
John 8:31–38: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Matthew 28:16-20: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2 Timothy 2:1-2: You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Luke 9:23-24: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
John 13:34-35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. [NRSA: John 20:19-31]
- Show Me You Hands
- Breathe On Me Your Peace
- Help My Unbelief
- SO, that I have life in Christ!
If you are a card player you know that one of the basic rules is that you never show your hand to the other players so that they do not have an advantage. Part of the strategy is to hold your cards closely. Many people do that with their thoughts and feelings. It is typically a good business idea to wait and see what your customer wants or what your competition is doing.
Before the fearful disciples asked, Jesus, reveals his hands. He shows them the marks of the nails from the cross. He shows them the proof and evidence that the person standing before them is the same person who was crucified and sealed in a tomb three days prior.
What does it mean that Jesus shows us to reveal God’s hand. Not only his physical hands, but he reveals God’s heart, God’s plan, and God’s expectations.
In the midst of their fear, Jesus breathes the breath of peace. One of the best ways to reduce our blood pressure or to deal with a stressful situation is the be attentive to our breathing. Thankful breathing is one of the basic motor skills we do not have to think about all the time, but in our fight or flight times of fear, we breathless or the quality of our breathing is shallow and hurried.
Jesus steps in the room.
- Breathes peace into the room and shows his hands.
- What would it look or feel like if in a time of frustration, anger, fear, doubt, or grief… we had someone interrupt our normal and automated actions and call us to faith and peace?
- Here are two gifts that Jesus gives to the disciples that we as Resurrection People must give to one another and to the world.
It is clear we are living in this season of fear in our health, fear in political uncertainties, fear of global economies, and in the unknown of what these larger fears make on our family’s security, mobility, happiness, and unity. Part of Jesus’s witness is to become those who speak and breathe the Holy Spirit into our daily lives.
Speaking the Holy Spirit
- Is a prayer,
- An invitation,
- Framing the context,
- Reminding the faith
- Singing the chorus
- Causes us to focus on where we find our strength,
Returning to the pace and rhythm of being in fellowship and union when we know God is present.
Exercise of Breathing:
- Inhale for four counts and exhale with five long with the last stretched out.
Blood oxygen measurement… take your pulse before and after,
- Step it up but slowing down and Adding to the physical shifting intentional breathing, the prayers of request and release.
Breathing are prayers for peace going in
Breathing out and prayers for forgiveness going out
- Place your hand in someone else and pray and breath aloud, taking turns one speaking and one listening and then swap roles. (Now some have stress about what to say if you don’t know repeat either Jesus Loves Us or Lord have mercy.)
You can show God’s hand by breathing and prayer with someone.
You have seen mothers and fathers in baby deliver classes breathing together and talking through pain and suffering.
Jesus shows his hands… There are appropriate and inappropriate touches, and we are more and less comfortable with touching people we trust or not, but offering to show our hand, is a gift of trust for someone else.
Jesus knows what the disciples need and offers his breath, prayer, hands, and touch. Did you know that the only time some people have positive physical contact with someone else is when they see their family/friends, visit the doctor, AND when they come to church and fellowship?
Even more than praying and breathing it is becoming vulnerable for the world, to find the peace, faith, and relationship we already know.
Jesus could have come in a said to the disciples I am so disappointed that you are hiding just when I need you to be out bolding sharing the Good News.
He, Instead, comforts the fears, fills them with the Spirit, and THEN calls them to faithfulness. We must be able and willing to reach out as recovering sinners, into a world of sin, and join with others to share the faith, proof, breath, power, word, guidance, and strength that we find in Christ, in the Spirit, for God.
The big picture is that we are living in Christ…
We are living in Christ when we are showing the world and one another the love God in midst of our fears and failures.
Part of the message Jesus is giving to the disciples is handing over the reins of the church, we are now the body of Christ, God’s work is now being entrusted to our hands, our words, our prayers, our breath, our song, our witness because the world continue to run after sin, darkness, greed, fear, power, wealth, and self.
Remember the old VBS song, He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands. Not everyone had taken the offer of our guidance and grace. We are all called to believe and guide one another to trust God to Handle our lives and the universe.
- Take a breath,
- Remember the peace
- And reveal what Christ has shown you by faith
- That the world might know life in Christ, salvation, love, joy, and peace!
When is the last time you finger painted, played in the dirt, modeled some clay, use your hands to share faith, peace, and the Spirit… that they may come to trust and believe in Jesus Christ.
Remember the challenge to mentor and disciple at least one person this year… now is the time to get your hands dirty.
Read: Genesis 8.6 (NRSV)
We come back to Noah. His first task was to build and fill the ark as an agent of salvation. They endure the forty days and nights of rain on the ark. The second task begins after they get out of the boat. At that moment begins the new work of rebuilding our lives in Christ every day. We are a people who are defined by the Easter message of life and love. It is our message of salvation and our message to share.
Action Plan: Take some action every day to be accountable for building your life in Jesus Christ filled with the Holy Spirit and surrounded by the love of God.
Prayer: God be with us until we meet again. Amen.
Read: Acts 1.3 (NRSV)
After the resurrection, Jesus presented himself to them in many ways for forty days. Speaking and teaching about the kingdom of God. Some of us are all like “doubting Thomas” and we are cautious to be the first to believe much less follow. Every step of our journey is different – some are baby steps, and some are giant leaps of faith.
Get to Work! But remember it is the journey of our life that God has died to claim and risen to share. Roll the stone away and let us go together!
Prayer: Thank you for loving me and loving us, loving us all, so very much. Let the joy of Easter shine through us all. Amen.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. [NRSA: John 20:1-18]
The response of Disciples
- All we afraid and experiencing grief.
- Some went focused on the matters of the burial.
- Some telling unbelievable stories.
- Some running toward belief
- Some looking for proof
- Some not understanding the scriptures.
- Some returned to their homes.
- Some weeping and waiting.
the perfect time for salvation is in the moment of being most aware we are broken, unbelieving, afraid, dead, running, seeking, not understanding, at home, hiding, and weeping, for then we were MOST AWARE of our weakness, brokenness, and inability to bring order to the chaos.
What are you doing this Easter?
In celebration of the greatest event of faith in human history since creation itself, what we doing right now?
Most of the world are not gathered to worship and celebrate the Resurrection. Not only because we have not all thawed from the precautions of pandemic, while the world is connected in communications as never before, most are not celebration a living God, with the power to order chaos, fix and redeem all that is broken, heal and restore life to the dead. Billions are devoted to other ideas, faiths, rationalized explanation, or simple apathy and a lack of concern or fear of acknowledging the emptiness they experience in their own world perspectives.
As a nation, we have taken for granted the opportunity of being a nation, that seeks God’s heart and have become an adolescent majority that believe they know more than any God, have answers for every questions without the need for faith, mystery, and believe their own understanding of “Love” can be derived from a self-determined moral ascent of thought for some lowest common denominator of goodness.
My rambling point is that the world continues to settle for emptiness, grief, proof, weeping, waring, and the dismissive returning home in retreat.
The state of the News of Resurrection and Worldview are very similar, then and now. If someone tells you the Post Easter experience is different now, 2000 years after the stone was first rolled away and God’s divine work of restoring a broken creation is so modern, different, and detached… the truth is, we are extremely near to the same response.
Where is the Hope?
The home comes when Jesus speaks to those who are waiting and searching.
The 12 were not at the tomb ready to celebrate and sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” They were at home. For those who were willing to search and listen for the voice of witnesses, angels, and the voice of Christ, find the power, truth, and life the risen Lord have given us.
- For Mary who goes to tell others,
- For Peter and John who run to see,
- For Mary who remains to see and hear, Jesus speaks to her, by name,
- Her response is identifying with Jesus as teacher.
We are the students
- Students know they have more to learn.
- Student have respect to know where to seek answers and direction.
- Students listen, follow, and trust the Teacher’s instruction.
These are what we are modeled this Easter, and every day.
- Confess we do not know it all,
- we do not have all the answers,
- But, We know who to trust
- We know who to follow,
- What know what to model,
- We know we are to also tell, lead, and share with others,
- We know the world needs what God has done and is doing through Jesus, the Risen Lord!
The simple task for Easter Sunday 2021 is to
- Affirm or reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ, risen for us personally, and for the world, the broken sin filled self-absorbed world, and
- To Claim the task of being the messengers
- Sent and empowered by Christ.
- To witness what we have seen, heard,
- To share what we believe and trust,
- To live the eternal life of love and peace that has been given to us.
- Until every knee bow and every tongue join our praise and celebration.
Let’s get busy!!
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid. [NRSA: MK 16:1-8]
The oldest copies of Mark’s gospel end at this point in the story of Jesus. It is important that we have read all of Mark’s gospel to fully appreciate why the stories stops with fear, instead of joy and celebration. In quick summary, in Mark’s account, Jesus repeatedly tells the disciples to not tell anyone when they experience a divine revealing of God at work.
- Mark 1:34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.
- Mark 1:44 and He *said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
- Mark 3:12 And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was.
- Mark 5:43 And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that something should be given her to eat.
- Mark 7:24 Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice.
- Mark 7:36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it.
- Mark 8:26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
- Mark 8:30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him.
- Mark 9:9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus expressly order them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
- Mark 9:30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it.
- Mark 11:33 Answering Jesus, they *said, “We do not know.” And Jesus *said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
11 times Jesus said:
- Don’t speak,
- say nothing,
- do not tell,
- no one is to know,
- no escape,
- do not tell anyone,
- Do not enter,
- tell no one,
- do not tell anyone,
- he did not want anyone to know,
- nor will I tell you.
Until the Resurrection:
Until Mark 16, Until Mary stands before him Risen from the Dead
NOW Go Tell! Go tell the Disciples. Go tell the world.
They said nothing.
The single most significant news to tell the world and once hearing it, they went home filled with terror and fear.
And they said nothing.
Now we know from history and the fact that we have gathered yet again for as many years as we are old on the anniversary of this morning, but the question of the year is this:
- Who have you specifically told about news of Jesus’s gift of salvation?
- Who have told, that has not already heard, about the eternity part of our life that is not over at the point our heart stops beating, our spirit, our soul, the true person that we are will continue to live, just as Jesus is alive.
- Who have your individually told about the news that even if we have sinned, messed up, screwed up all the plans, God so loves us that Jesus has died for those sins, and has over-come the barrier that seizes the world with fear and terror.
Death has gone out of business because of Easter and the Resurrection, for those who claim the life Christ has died to give us.
More important in 2021, is who will you tell?
- Who will you tell today?
- Who will you tell tomorrow,
- who will you tell as long as you have breathe to tell?
- This is reason we have gathered, to hear the story once again and to respond to today’s call to GO TELL,
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is Risen!
Read: Jonah 3.4 (NRSV)
Jonah shows us that God can change an entire city in forty days. God can change an entire nation and God can change just one heart. Wearing sackcloth and ashes on our face reminds us, and the community, of our act of repentance and the inward cleansing of our spirits and clearing the way for the Lord to work through us.
The sackcloth was scratchy and uncomfortable. The ashes were from the sacrifice of burnt offerings. Both were signs of a real change. We hear people say they are sorry or that they have changed. We want to measure the words by a change in the actions that follow.
Action Plan: What might you wear in public that would communicate that you are a work in progress for God? Try it and be ready to explain to those who ask why you are wearing your “ashes and sackcloth.”
Prayer: God help me show the world how you are at work changing my life. Amen.