SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18
TEXT: John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
THEME: Easter Message
On Friday, after the death of Jesus on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate to let him take Jesus’ the body. Nicodemus also came and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 100 lbs. They took the body of Jesus
and wrapped it with the spices in linen clothes according to the burial custom of the Jews. They laid Jesus in a new tomb as Sabbath began. John is the only Gospel that has the body of Jesus prepared as it is placed in
the tomb, so on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene wasn’t there to prepare Jesus’ body as in the other gospels.
Sunday morning Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark. Why was she there? The events of the past week happened tremendously fast. The palms from the triumphal entry have wilted but it wasn’t that long ago. The celebration of the
passover lead to an arrest in the garden, then a trial and execution. There was a lot to process. Her emotions have been on a roller coster of highs and lows.
Being as close to Jesus as she could might bring some comfort. So she goes to the grave. Having time to run the events of the past week through her mind might give her a sense of why things lead to such a disastrous end. Maybe she just
needed to be alone. Who else would be there so early in the morning? But when she gets there the stone was removed from the tomb. That is all that she needed to go and fetch Peter and the other disciple - yeah you know which
one, the one that Jesus loved. And told them her worst fear, “ They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…and we do not know where they have laid him.” She must have had several case scenarios running through her head of what she might have found when she got to the tomb; the grave site silent and cold. Vandalism. Armed guards preventing entrance or the result of grave robbers. It was the later. It is not quite certain whether the disciples believed her or not. It was dark, she
is distraught, maybe she wasn’t at the right place. So Peter and John set out towards the tomb and eventually break out into a run, which turns into a race to get there. John gets there first and peers in and sees the wrapping there. When Peter
arrives he goes right into the tomb and sees the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head rolled up by itself. John goes in and finally believes what Mary has said about Jesus’ missing body. Peter and John go back home but Mary stays at the grave site. Why? Her deepest suspicions have been confirmed. There really wasn’t anything more to do. In fact it could have been dangerous for her once word got out and the authorities came to investigate what happened. She might even become a
suspect of a hoax.
She didn’t care. Weeping, she stood outside of the tomb. Still sorrowful about the missing body of Jesus she bent to look into the tomb. Maybe to look for evidence. Maybe because she had to do something, Maybe because she had a sense that she needed to be there. Maybe she knew the only explanation of Jesus’ body been taken away was not the real answer. This only made the grief worst. Looking into the tomb she saw two angels. They asked why she was crying and when she explained, she turned about there was another figure who addressed her by name, “Mary”. She recognized him to be Jesus. Stuck in grief Jesus calls her to the reality of the resurrection. What she experienced at Jesus’ death was real. Her grief unconsolable. This is not Jesus revived, but resurrected. No longer Rabbouni, but as the risen Lord. As she goes to the disciples once more she tells them, “I have seen the Lord.”
Mary was looking for some kind of relief from the grief she was experiencing from the death of Jesus. She couldn’t help but stay by the grave of Jesus. Some how being close to the remains of Jesus brought some connection and comfort.
In death, what are we looking for and what is God showing us? Recently I went to a funeral of a buddhist relative. The service left me with three impressions; the impermanence of life, the lost of identity in the renaming of the life and those there, seeking consolation from the wisdom of the Buddha. Each family was called to burn incense for the departed life. It connected us in our familial bonds and gathered us to commemorate our common loss, but it left me empty and unsatisfied. Mary must have felt that there must be something more to the life of this remarkable teacher, healer, and prophet, as she lingered at Jesus’ tomb. Her instincts were correct. At the resurrection every soul is precious to God.
Resurrection life takes precedence over death. We are a soul, loved, celebrated and embraced by God and gifted with a resurrected body that ascends to heaven to be with God when we die. We have relationships of permanence beyond the holding onto of this world. We can live beyond what we can see and have confidence in what we believe in Jesus.
This is what Mary was looking for. This is why she kept on being drawn to the tomb, when she thought Jesus was there, when she discovered it was open, when she knew it was empty, and when there were angels in it, and a gardener who interrupted her grief with the resurrection. She now has a new way to understand death that changes the way she grieves. She may not be able to hold on to Jesus as she had, but if that is the price she has to pay to have a resurrected Jesus, it is more than worth it. Death has now become a passage way and not an end.
Mary is persistent in discovering something more in the death of Jesus. Her unsettledness leads her to discover the empty tomb. She knew Jesus’ missing body was more than the work of thieves. And through her grief she was able to recognize the risen Lord. It is true that what God has done for Lazarus, God has done for Jesus in an even greater way and now we have confidence, that God wills for us in death, is resurrection. Resurrection changes our grief to hope. Resurrection changes our fears to love. And Resurrection transforms our relationships from ending to continuing. Resurrection has changed grief from something we are suppose to get over to hope beyond the grave. That is the something Mary was looking for, that is the something we have to look forward to. This is the something that brings consolation to our grief like nothing else can. The promise of death ending in resurrection.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
TEXT: 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
THEME: Maundy Thursday Service
“My feet stink, I can smell them from here. If I had known that Jesus was going to wash my feet, I would have washed my feet before I came. I don’t want him to see how dirty my feet are. I didn’t cut my toe nails.” I wonder how they cut their toe nails in those days. Did they have pedicures in those days? According to Wikipedia people have been pedicuring their nails for more than 4,000 years. In southern Babylonia, noblemen used solid gold tools to give themselves manicures and pedicures. In ancient Rome, military commanders also painted their nails to match their lips before they went off to battle. “I should have used the pumice stone in the shower.”
Jesus caught Peter off guard. There is no cover up for his feet. What eternal consequence would there be for what his feet revealed? Jesus was just about to see everything about his feet. It wouldn’t have been a problem if this were a household servant whose job it was to wash feet. There might be some implied confidentiality clause that prevented them from talking about what they discovered about your feet. But Jesus was not some humble servant, He was his superior, his teacher, the object of his need for approval. “Then not just my feet but all of me.” Relationship with God is not about what our feet look or smell like. It is not something we can merit, or achieve, or earn or make ourselves look good enough. Relationship with God is about our relationship with Christ and how Jesus makes it possible for us to reunite with God as parent, Creator, and sovereign. Being in relationship with God is about our relationship with Jesus. The washing of our feet is something Jesus wants to do for us as part of his relationship with us. We have to humbly present ourselves, as we are, stinky feet and all, to allow Jesus to serve us.
When we stop trying to earn our way into heaven, when we stop fussing with our own self-righteousness, when we stop obsessing about keeping the law, when we stop rationalizing our behavior to justify our sin, when we stop comparing ourselves to others (because that guy’s feet are really ugly) just to make us look better, then we can instead concentrate on our relationship with Jesus, which allows us to live in relationship with God. How does having Jesus
wash our feet bring transformation in our lives? Our relationship with Jesus, gives us an identity as the people of God. This is a Lamb of God moment, where Jesus marks the door post of our lives to signal for the spirit of death to Passover. We are a people who are focused in living, not on how to escape death. We are in relationship with the source of life, whose ways form community, whose dreams are for equity and whose desire is for peace. We are in a relationship with a God who liberates, frees and creates. To be loved so profoundly enables us to be changed and be more loving towards others. To extend forgiveness to others as God has forgiven us, to be patient as God has been patient with us, to have grace as God have been gracious with us. To serve others as Jesus has washed our feet. What Jesus does transforms our
relationship and draws us closer to God. The examples of Jesus are not about more rules, to wash people’s feet or to
do more one-another-ing. But is it is about being renewed, it is about being given life, it is about being in a supportive and caring relationships with Jesus, that draw us closer to God and express itself in relationships of acceptance,
forgiveness and love.
The washing of feet is about our relationship with Jesus. There are always times in a relationship when we are vulnerable. There are times in a relationship when we have to allow the other person do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. There are times in a relationship when we need to let someone love us allow that love to shape our lives and by doing so, we are able touch the lives of our neighbor with love.
We would over look Jesus’ stinky feet, Jesus over looks ours because this is
not about being judgmental, Jesus’ relationship with us is about love and
fostering loving relationships, stinky feet and all.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:1-11
TEXT: Matthew 21:9 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
THEME: Palm Sunday
Just in the same way that Jesus is a different kind of Messiah than we expected, Jesus is a different kind of sovereign than what we might expect.
They stop right out side of Jerusalem, almost as if staging for a parade, while a couple disciples go and get a donkey and it's colt. An intentional statement of who Jesus is, as a colt is what the king of Israel rides on for a coronation, and a donkey is a work animal used for farming and other creative endeavors in peaceful times. Paradoxical but we can hope for a peaceful sovereign who establish a rule in the midst of an oppressive Roman regime.
As the animals arrive the procession begins. Israelis patriotism rises up. Shouts of salvation, political and spiritual. Hosanna, to the son of David, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Momentum is building. There is an excitement of liberation in the air that doesn’t care who hears. We all love a little rebellion, to advocate in a safe way, to be a little radical for a good cause, to speak out for justice, to shout out for life, to make noise for freedom, to protest for God’s ways!
The crowd ran up ahead taking cloaks and laying them on the ground to create a carpeted road. Palm branches were cut and laid along the path in honor of their liberator, savior, and sovereign.
This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.
How does having Jesus as sovereign inform our relationship with God?
We benefit by being under the rule of Jesus. We have seen how his ministry has added to our anticipation of what is to come. A reign where the differently abled are welcomed. A reign where all are accepted to be apart of the community that is seeking and discovering what it means to live in relationship with God. A reign where there is hope even when our lives end with death.
When all that Jesus has done and taught was combined with the setting of the entrance to the holy city of Jerusalem the template of the king of Israel falls into place. Praise and worship befitting a king rises.
God’s rule prevail. When we advocate for justice, God is there, When we do the work for caring for the poor God’s resources are available, When we do the work of reconciliation God can orchestrate times of healing. When we participate in the activities of transformation, God is there with others to join the fight.
We are a nation within what ever nation we are in. It is an occupy movement for God.
The events this day turn. The recognition of Jesus as sovereign will lead to an arrest trial and death.
The crowds will turn and trade shouts of acclamation for shouts of condemnation.
Our hope will take a turn to despair as Jesus hangs on the cross and dies. God’s ways can be a mystery to us, but we have learned that God always has our best interest in mind and although we don’t understand, that God will bring about a result for our good that is beyond what we could imagine. There is more come, Jesus will be a different kind of sovereign over us.
There is a windsurfer who when he launched from the beach always went left, on this one occasion he had the inclination for no reason to launch from the right. Once he was out on the water he noticed another wind surfer who's mast was broken and he helped him in to the shore. This is part of being under the rule of God.
We tell the story of a faithful church who raised $41,000 for an organ without an organist, but just as the commitment is made to install the organ, a organist send a resume.
We all have these stories of God’s orchestration of events, of chance meetings, and of how when we follow God of things some how working out just by being under the rule of God.