Sunday, April 21, 2019
Easter ... ready ... set ... go!
About three years ago I committed to the Narrative Lectionary. It is a four-year cycle that takes the congregation through each gospel writer in the winter and spring months, basically from Christmas to Easter. I am a self-confessed lover of Luke’s gospel. Last year we were in John and I approached his gospel with a little hesitancy but came to fall in love with his gospel. This year we have been in Matthew and have had the same reaction I had with John’s gospel. Matthew is chock full of simple amazingness. From boundary crossing, to proclaiming that God is out there among those we don’t even know, to surprising us with his account of the resurrection. His Easter story is breathtaking and unique and so powerful for the church in the United States today. How did I not see it before?
I’m not sure many have. I did my usually internet search to get inspired for the children’s moment in worship only to find that so many of them combine the gospel narratives. Yet they each had their own unique audience and were called to write their own account of how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has brought them closer to God and has opened them to the movement of the Spirit.
In Matthew’s account, the two Mary’s arrive empty handed and I have to wonder why? Did they not expect to find a body? Did they already believe in resurrection? Or were they sure the stone would be immoveable? So why bother bringing spices and oils to anoint their Lord’s body and finish up the funeral preparations that were paused for Sabbath rest? When they arrive, they experience an earthquake, see the stone rolled away and converse with an angle. While the guards shake in fear and are like dead men, they look inside the empty tomb and then they are off. There is no lingering, no weeping, no hesitating, no leaving only in fear, not to mention there are no disciples running or coming up after them. Not a single disciple shows up. Allow that to sink in.
It is just the women who come, looking for something they had lost (as the Greek implies) and they find it! Into their fear they find joy! Unexplainable joy that has them off, like a marathon runner, to the disciples and then onto Galilee. The bold, courageous Mary’s are the first in Matthew’s gospel to be entrusted with the Good News!
What Matthew is telling us is that God isn’t in the grave tending business. Rather God is in the resurrection business. Providing us with ways around impossible, fear-filled situations. Breathing life among the dead parts of our lives and our communities, including our churches. Matthew seems to want to offer us something beyond grief, a quickened response. There is no time to grieve what had been, only time to rush forward to see the new thing God is about to do.
How might this empower our congregations to move in new directions? To look forward, expectant? To know that God is out ahead of us, leading the way forward?
Today is Easter. May you be open to the new thing God is doing in your neighborhood! May you quicken your pace as you push past fear and allow joy to enter in.
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