Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Message

[This is the message I gave during fifth-Sunday programmed worship at Freedom Friends Church yesterday.  In our programmed worship services, we have talked about some of the different ways of reading the Bible.  This worship was in the style of lectio divina: we read the scripture aloud three times―twice before the message and once after, followed by a time of open worship.  The worship began and ended with beautiful music by Seth Martin.  I highly recommend his new CD and, in particular, the song Fireweed Mountain, which he played at the end of open worship.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with 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; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 
Luke 24:1-11 (NIV).
As many of you know, I have a godson named Simon who is five.  Last year, something sad happened to Simon.  Simon would like to have a dog, but he can't because his mom is allergic. He got really attached to his aunt and uncle's dog, who was very elderly.  Last year, that dog passed away.  Simon was sad and had a lot of questions about death.  

One day, Simon went to his dad.  He was really excited.  He said, "Dad, I have a great idea!  Why don't we pray to Jesus to raise Max from the dead?"  And Simon's dad had to explain to him that, although we believe that Jesus could raise Max from the dead, he probably wouldn't.

And that is what usually happens when people die: we don't see them again.  

In the scripture we read today, Jesus has died and no one knows what is going to happen.  The women follow their tradition; this is what they do when someone dies, they prepare the spices and go to take care of the body.

This is one of the stories that we tell over and over.  We tell it every year around this time, and other times of the year as well.  I think one of the reasons that we tell this story so often is because it has to do with death, something we all experience.  We are all going to die, and we will all have people that we love die.

So I am going to tell the story of the first time I experienced death.  This happened when I was 19.  It was not the first time that someone I knew died, but it was the first time death really touched me.

In my family's neighborhood, there were two families with three children.  One had three sons and the other had three daughters.  The kids were about the same ages as the kids in my family, and our families were close.

One Sunday, very early in the morning, my mom woke me up to tell me that there had been a car accident.  The middle son had been in a car that was hit by a bus, and it looked like he was not going to make it.  He didn't.  It was devastating for my family.

Then, less than a week later, we got a phone call, saying that there had been another car accident.  Two of the daughters in the other family had been in the car, and the oldest daughter was killed in the accident.

I think there is a special kind of grief when young people die unexpectedly.  No one knew what to do.  Our church's youth pastor came to my family's house to talk to us, but I don't remember what he said.  I didn't want to hear about God.  I was too angry.

What I do remember from that time is my mom.  Every day for two weeks, she made muffins for the families.  She would wrap the muffins up in a basket and leave them on the doorstep for the families.  During that time, I would wake up in the mornings and watch my mom make muffins, and that is where I saw God.

At North Seattle Friends Church, they have a practice on Sundays of sharing what they call "God stories"―stories of how they see God at work in their lives.  This is one of those stories.

In this Bible story, when the women come to the tomb, they find the stone rolled away and encounter two men who look like light.  These men say to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

I always used to read that as the men chastising the women, but now I read it as true.  We find the living among the dead.  God is especially present in times of death.

These men who look like light say to the women, "He is not here; he has risen!  Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"  

Jesus had said those things to the women, but when he said them, they didn't understand.  It seemed like nonsense to them.  But when the women heard them again, they understood.  

These women―Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others―went back to tell the Eleven and the others what they had seen and heard, but those men did not believe them because they had not experienced it yet.  To them, it seemed like nonsense.

My message this morning is this:  Tell the stories of how God is present in your life, however you see God in your life.  Even if, to others, it seems like nonsense. 

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