March 27, 2016: EASTER DAY – 10:55 am

Posted on : Mar 24th, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

A number of years ago in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when almost everyone died of complications from the virus, a very sweet, kind, wonderful, loving, and well-loved member of our church died. During those years there was always a lot of heartache around here. Gay men were dying at an alarming rate. But this man’s death was even more heartbreaking than we were accustomed to, because he was truly one of the nicest, kindest, loving, caring, compassionate persons you’d ever meet. Collectively, there was both an unspoken question going around the congregation. It wasn’t “Why?” The question was, “How could God ever let someone so exceptionally good die?”

There really was no answer that could be given to that question because in reality, the question wasn’t about “How?,” the question wasn’t even about the question. What everyone was trying to process was the intense and deep sense of loss, hurt and grief we were all experiencing. That’s not a question. That’s a feeling. Though we often ask “Why?” or “How come?” those are not really what we are seeking. What we are seeking is solace, comfort, hope, healing, and peace.

A few days after his death, his family and friends arranged for visitation at Forest Lawn mortuary. Members of our church came in droves to say their goodbyes and gain whatever comfort they could from just being together. One member of our church pulled me over to the casket and quietly but firmly said, “He’s dead! There is no life in him! If there’s no life in him, I don’t believe in God or the resurrection.” He so wanted this man to be brought back to life. Nothing could bring any solace to this person.

At that moment I sensed that this member of our church had given up on God. And that was true. From that moment on, this person, who was a very active believer and leader in our congregation, ceased believing and gave up on God. Strange as it may sound, that was also the experience of many of those who experienced Jesus’ death.

The disciples – all except one, the beloved disciple – fled in fear. Peter, who was named by Jesus as “the Rock” on whom Christ’s church would be built, denied even knowing Jesus out of fear that he would be the next one nailed to a cross. Judas couldn’t live with his deceptive behavior in betraying Jesus for a good amount of money. He not only gave up on God, he gave up on himself. And Mary, and the other women who came to the tomb on Easter morning, certainly didn’t come expecting anything more than deep angst.

There is something that happens in these stories about the resurrection that changes one’s beliefs and one’s life. My hunch is all of us at some time in our life will either wrestle with giving up on God or actually do it – give up on God.

We’re free to make whatever faith decisions we want, but in making the decision to give up on God, there is one important thing we need to know. We’ll talk about that on Sunday.

Easter Blessings to You and those you love,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 20: 1-18

The risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene.

Now, on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away 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 body of Jesus out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter, reached the tomb first, and stooping to look in, saw the linen cloths lying there, but did not go in.

Then Simon Peter came, following after, and went into the tomb; Peter saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. The angels said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Jesus, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing Jesus to be the gardener, she answered, “Sir, if you have carried Jesus away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and responded in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to God; but go to my friends and say to them, I am ascending to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Christ”; and she told them that Jesus had said these things to her.

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