April 2010

Read Luke 24:1-12

      But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.
      While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
       Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

from Rev. Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister:

       Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen, Indeed!

This ancient cry of the church is close on our lips this day as we celebrate the defining moment of the world and of our lives.  God has chosen to grant us life and life eternal through Jesus Christ who lives. 

This is no idle tale!  Run quickly towards this gift and be amazed.  Live and live joyously!  On this most holy of days, the church and the faithful have something important to say.  Darkness and pain will not carry the day.  God has declared and insured that light and life win.  So, today, let us sing with all of creation that Christ is Risen!  And may our lives be a reflection of this risen life. 

Almighty God, on this precious Easter morning,
we live with you and sing your praises.
May we unleash all the life that you have put within us, and may we live for you.
 We are yours, and we love you.

Read John 19:38-42

      After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.  Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.
       Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.  And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

from Rev. David Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister:

            For a gospel that focuses on the calling of Christ to live in broad daylight that which might only be dimly believed in the privacy of the heart, John tells a rather strange story of the burial of Jesus by two secretive disciples.  These two men, followers at a distance who had a certain stature in the community, have taken on the intimate work of caring for one whose death was that of a criminal – an act that made them ritually unclean among their people.

            Perhaps it’s helpful for us to ask ourselves how others who are “not one of us” might well be doing the good work of God in our midst, and lifting up their names as people of faith.  It may be no coincidence that these “hidden disciples” are well known in the near east and are honored by numerous monuments and chapels built in their memory.  God’s work is often done by those we would least suspect.

May my eyes be open to your work in our world,
even in the dim places – even in the grave.
Point us toward the resurrection truth of your Son our Savior.

Read Luke 23:33-49

      When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
       And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
       One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
        It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
       When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”  And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.  But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

from Rev. Joshua Patty, Central Christian Church, Fairmont:

In the end, Luke reminds us as he tells of Christ’s crucifixion, there were winners and losers.  The crowd witnessed the entire spectacle, then returned home “beating their breasts.”  The same people who had cried out for blood, who had embraced the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus, who demanded “Crucify him!” got their wish.  And they went home, proud of themselves.

            Standing “at a distance,” likely in silence and grief, were the losers, many of Jesus’ disciples and loved ones, who witnessed not only the brutal execution of their friend and teacher, but the violent self-satisfaction of the crowd.

            You and I watch this unfold at a greater distance across the centuries.  In that time, we’ve managed to neaten the scene into basic categories: Christ’s noble suffering and demeanor, the horror of sin and violence, the ultimate meaning of Christ’s death.  Brashly, the symbol of horror – the cross – has become the positive representation of our faith, in our art, our architecture, and even our fashion.

            Harder to admit, given nearly 2000 years since that awful Friday, is that we sometimes bear more in common with the smug chest-beaters who demanded, and then cheered, Jesus’ death.  We seek violence and call it justice; we blame our problems on others and scapegoat them.  In actions large and small, we have cried out for blood, “Crucify him!”  Proudly, we thump our chests.            Christ bore it then, and bears it still – the scorn, the condescension, the blood thirst, the sins.  He suffered, bled and died.  But he forgave them.  And he forgives us.

As we have seen the cross of Jesus once again, O God,
help us to receive your boundless mercy which it depicts,
and which it delivers to our lives and to our world.