April 5, 2015: EASTER DAY – 10:55 am

Posted on : Apr 2nd, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

What a week of Joy and Sadness! The business community, the professional sports community, just about every community – except one – came out in full force against Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The response against this legislation that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on Thursday, March 26, was like a California wildfire fueled by Santa Ana winds. This legislation was a blatant attempt to allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. So profound was the reaction against this, that the Gov. of Alabama, who is known as one of the most socially conservative governors in one of the most socially conservative states in America, sent a similar bill back to his legislature for “refinement.”

All of us who have worked for LGBT equality are rejoicing. Ten years ago this would not have happened. The change that is taking place in our society is astounding. But, lest we get too lost in the euphoria, we need to keep in mind that equality always comes slowly and there will be other attempts to discriminate, no matter how subtly. Nonetheless, this is a time to rejoice!

However, I am also sad. I am sad because the one community whose voice I have not heard – except from the United Church of Christ – is the larger Christian Church. In fact this whole mess has been clothed in the name of religious freedom “to protect Christian values and beliefs.”

Did Jesus die so that we may hate? Did God remove the burial clothes that wrapped the body of Jesus so that we might take them and use them to constrict others? No! In the Gospel of John, there is one oddity in the story that speaks louder than words. John makes it clear that the death cloths that wrapped the body of Jesus were “rolled up in a place by themselves” in the tomb. They were left behind. The same image of resurrection is found earlier in the Gospel of John in the story of the raising of Lazarus. In that story, Jesus has the stone rolled away from the tomb of his beloved friend, Lazarus, and yells into the tomb: “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.

Then Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Those words of Jesus are for all of us in the community of faith. We are called to unbind one another and set all people free to live our and their lives fully and freely. Religion should never be used to oppress anyone; and certainly Christianity should not be used that way.

Thursday evening at our Maundy Thursday celebration I shared with you these words of reflection written by Emily Heath based on Jesus’ one last commandment about how to live after his death.

If you read a book or watch a movie about almost anyone else, you might think the lead character right about now would be saying something like “avenge my death” or “make sure there’s payback” or “don’t let them get away with this … strike back.”

But this isn’t any other story. This is a story that turns everything on its head. Instead, the mandate that Jesus gives is this:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Slightly over two thousand years ago there was another firestorm of reaction against the forces that tried to kill Jesus. The community of faith was at first saddened, thinking the liberating love of Jesus had been brought to an end. But then they found that power of love roiling over them. They were called out, raised up and empowered to unbind those who were bound, setting free everyone they could.

That is the kind of raising up I pray for this Easter in you and me!

Easter Blessings to You and those you love,


~ 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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