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.
Read: Ezekiel 4.6 (NRSV)
What is a just punishment for a crime? If it were up to us would we punish someone one day for every year of suffering? This is what God says will be the punishment of the house of Judah. If God can make right in one day what it takes a year to do wrong, then why can’t we try when we feel that there is no point?
You have the power to set people free from guilt, fear, and pain. One day of forgiveness can add years to someone’s life. One day of love can open doors of trust for generations to come. One day of honesty before God can set your heart right for eternity.
There is never a time to say, “there is no use in trying to repair that relationship,” to undo that injustice. And just because it may take forty years to help promote a change in society or one single heart, we should not be discouraged from taking that first step.
Action Plan: Identify a need no matter how great or small in our local community that you have been concerned about. Pray about how God can use you to bring about a change in the matter.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see what I can do every day that will make a difference for you in years to come. Amen.
Read: Psalm 95.10 (NRSV)
Does God want us to despise an entire generation? Are we to be a witness of grace? Does he want us to hate anyone? Some of us hold onto hurt and hate for a lifetime. We think we are holding harm over them or protecting ourselves.
Think of the energy and personal resources that are required to maintain prejudice, pride, blame, and leverage over others. The psalm writer beckons us to look in the mirror and do more than talk about what we don’t like. It is time to return to God’s ways for our daily living.
When we keep the fires of discontent and hatred burning long after the perceived wrong, we are hurt far more than anyone. Blame is neither a cure nor an answer. We carve out a place in our hearts to carry this burden. Why not fill our hearts with mercy?
Action Plan: Pray about a wrong you have suffered that no matter how much time passes continues to fester like a wound in your spirit. Practice true forgiveness.
Prayer: Teach me forgiveness and let me repent that I may start this day new in your will. Amen.
Read: Nehemiah 5.15 (NRSV)
As a prophet, Nehemiah helps the king hear the cry of the people. Can you imagine a king raising taxes in a time of famine in the land? People were losing their homes, farms, and vineyards in exchange for food on the table today. We have had a glimpse of this firsthand in the pandemic.
The king has a change of heart, after thinking it over, he found people to blame and charge with the injustice. He had people who were sold into slavery returned and he established lending without interest.
A leader that loses sight of the needs of the people should fear what justice God will bring upon them. Reform to help the king is different from reform that helps the people.
Action Plan: Write letters to our local and national leaders so that they might hear the cries of the oppressed.
Prayer: Help me do more than talk about injustice. Let me be an agent of change and a prophetic voice for you. Amen.
Read: 2 Kings 8.9 (NRSV)
Hazael took forty camel loads of gifts to the prophet Elisha in hopes that he would foretell if King Aram would recover from his illness. Elisha reports that the king will recover but will surely die. Elisha also tells of the king’s unjust treatment of God’s people and weeps for the harm that will come under his leadership until the king’s death. Hazael goes home, reports the good news regarding his recovery. Hazael also suffocates the king and takes his place.
It is hard to see justice during such corruption. Sometimes evil must be stopped even through war and violence. People might be doing harm to themselves and others and not make the connection. We are called to live up to those who harm or act unjustly. (Do not go suffocating anyone, please.) Speak the truth that people may choose faith when given the opportunity.
Action Plan: They might be annoyed, but if you see someone smoking ask them if you can help them kick the habit. Pray for them and encourage them, as you are able.
Prayer: Lord, help me to hear the cries of the helpless and be their prophetic voice. Amen.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. [NRSA: Mark 11:1-11]
Generosity vs Gratitude
We had some car trouble. While we are blessed to have three options for transportation, two of them were in the shop. In a moment where the three of our household needed to travel in two opposing directions, our neighbor most generously offered to let us use one of theirs. My story of generous sharing is shared in culture and moment of abundance. The two of them also have three cars and did not need all three that day.
Jesus’ story is of different quality and purpose. It is not simply about the kindness of sharing in a time of need. It is about devoting and trusting Jesus in something that might prove difficult to us and others.
The fellow in town whose colt was being untied by one of the disciples could have had a rock and sling and begun to whirl stones to scare them away.
Jesus’s instruction, at first appearance, was the opposite of the 8th Commandment. Go and take the colt, and “IF” someone sees you or asks, tell them we need your ride for the Messiah. To which the person who owns the colt agreed with faithfulness, pride, curiosity, or neighborly trust.
The first lesson in the passage for us to see and hear is that God calls us to make practical preparations for God’s work. There is an implicit inclusion of “Things To Do” for the kingdom that Jesus is expecting us to be working on and about. And the first in this instance is transportation and celebration.
The entry into the city by Jesus as the Messiah would signal a parade of sorts. Just when we hear the parade is coming to town, we make our way to the sidewalk where we might get a view, little ones near the curb, in case candy or prizes are hurled at the crowd. Small ones sit atop parents’ shoulders. Police clearing traffic, waves of people form the way with flags, banners, streamers, and festive decorations.
We ought not to be too surprised that people would wave palm branches just as we might wave foam fingers, rally rags, and noisemakers to share in the festivities. For two to four hundred years of seriously awaiting the appearance of the Messiah to restore the fortunes of Zion were the hope of everyone in town.
No Limousines nor convertibles.
Jesus is making both a political and theological statement to the people by arriving as the new king on an animal of humility. Some leaders parade riding in tanks, some in bullet-proof limos, others on the back of a pickup truck, making different political statements. Jesus, in effect, arrived on a Walmart/Murry riding lawn mower, and not the Zero radius variety. Which would have raised some questions by those seeking power and approval by those who did basic labor from day today.
There was no horse, chariot, carriage, and not even a litter. (That little box with poles carried by 6, 8, or 10.)
The (1) first lesson, God has work for us to help reveal the kingdom, and Our (2) second lesson from this passage is a reminder that Jesus’s mission is not to prove that he was King, but rather what type of Kingdom God’s kingdom truly is.
God wants us to be clear about the kingdom.
Remember some of the kingdom Says:
- Matthew 13:31 NRSA – He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;
- Matthew 13:33 NRSA – He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
- Matthew 13:44 NRSA – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
- Matthew 13:45 NRSA – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;
- Matthew 13:47 NRSA – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;
- Matthew 13:52 NRSA – And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
- Matthew 18:4 NRSA – whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 20:1 NRSA — “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
The Kingdom of God is not a complicated thing.
King Jesus’ Theological Platform:
The tiny mustard seed, the expanding work of yeast, hidden to be found and treasured, for all people, for old and new, humble and includes our labors for the kingdom.
The (3) third lesson for this Palm Sunday looks beyond the festivities of praise and worship to the timing of Revelation, Truth, and Judgement.
For all the effort of the celebration, what does it look like after the parade? After the Christmas presents are opened? After the Thanksgiving table has been shared.
At the end of the pageantry is work of cleaning things up.
Who likes to do the dishes? Take down the tree? Clean the carpet, return the order of everyday and not just the holiday.
- Jesus prepared, enjoyed, and celebrated with the disciples and the city, but his work was not to be done at the end of the day, but at its beginning.
- His work was not to be done in darkness, even though others would do their evil work in the shadows.
- Jesus’s intent is to reveal for all to see, as we peek ahead, we know at the moment he breaths his last breath, the skies turn dark as night, another reversal of our expectation.
The central part of the coronation and crowning of Jesus as Messiah would not be done by public opinion, and the fickle power of political change, his kingship is revealed in God’s timing, for our benefit.
Jesus looks around at the celebration and knows we will follow when the crowd is behind us when the party is raging, but Jesus needs disciples who are faithful until the judgment.
This is where Palm Sunday begins to point to the rest of the week.
- Our spiritual journey of Lent has prepared us for this moment, or we are not. Jesus needs disciples will follow in when…
- Faithfulness is not popular. When…
- Truth is twisted, and when…
- Persecution is at the door.
Palm Sunday in 2021 begs us to answer.
- are we waving the banner of Christ to a sinful world that is ready to rewrite what it thinks is truth?
- When it chooses the evil of Barabbas just to shut Jesus up?
- When the culture believes it is the judge of humanity and turns to threaten the intentions, faith, and witness of Christ’s faith?
Just as on the first Palm Sunday, we gather to worship and lift high the name and praise of Jesus and tomorrow.
- we will be tempted to go along with the crowd,
- to redefined what is honorable, good, and true.
- Avoid persecution by following the threats and demands of the crowd.
Jesus looks around and says to the disciples… We need to step back and review before the final exam.
As our Students are working hard toward the end of another school year, teachers are preparing the exams that will not only reflect how well the students have learned but also how well the teachers have taught.
Jesus retreats to give the disciples a final word. We will see in the story that Jesus shares the Passover, time in teaching, and prayer, in the wake of the full unfolding of grace and glory.
We now live knowing who the story unfolds and we join now as disciples with a similar list of To-Dos in the face of culture ready to threaten, dismiss, and attempt to de-thrown the body of Christ. Palm Sunday is our final wake-up call to use these next six days of work, that when Christ comes, we are ready to say, I have fed, I have clothed, I have taught, I have carried, I have healed, I have blessed in your name…. and not just found another outfit for the annual Sunday tradition.
This is a sneak peek are we ready for Christ’s return?