Scripture Reading for April 24, 2011 Easter Sunday

Scripture:    Matthew 28:1-11

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.   Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’   So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened.

___________________________________________________________

Each of the four gospel writers gives us a different perspective on the story of the first Easter.   None of them actually give an account of the Resurrection, per se;  rather, they describe what happened just before and just after it.   In Matthew’s account, which we will read this Easter, there is an angel who sits upon the stone that had sealed the tomb.  The angel announces to the two Marys that Jesus is risen, and then he shows them the place where Jesus had been lain.   After this, the account says that the Marys “departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy . . .”

Questions:

1.  Can you recall experiences in your life where “fear and great joy” came at the same time? 

2.  Have you ever had a “resurrection” experience?   What happened?   What was it like? 

3.  Liberal churches often point out that the experience of resurrection can be known without suggesting that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead.   Does this theological latitude deepen your faith?   Make it more difficult?

    

Rev. Dr. James  Gertmenian 
Senior Minister

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6 Responses to Scripture Reading for April 24, 2011 Easter Sunday

  1. Charles Matson Lume says:

    I don’t care if there ever was a Christ, but it’s almost impossible for me to think of my life without Jesus.

    For me, the physicality of Jesus is necessary for so many things. Oh, there are many ideas in the world, but the body is not to be underestimated. In an age of information, the physicality of our being cannot be dismissed. I don’t mean glamours bodies either.

    As a husband, father, artist, teacher I believe my physical presence is equal to my thoughts. For example, I don’t make art to illustrate my ideas. I make art to expand creation, however, small that might be. It is an ontological question as much as it is an epistemological one. I don’t want to live in a culture or go to a church that is wed to a kind of gnosticism. Jesus, his physicality, his presence, matters. It shows me that the made world is worthy of our attention, care, and curiosity.

    Addressing the resurrection of Jesus, I leave that to faith, to mystery. I believe the made world is glorious and terrible. I believe his body –our bodies– are just that.

    • Hazel Lutz says:

      I really like what you wrote:
      “It shows me that the made world is worthy of our attention, care, and curiosity. . . . . I believe the made world is glorious and terrible. I believe his body[Jesus] –our bodies– are just that [glorious and terrible].” The world is beautiful, all of it, and sometimes it is a terrible beauty.

      Also about making art as an act of expanding creation, not an act of putting form to an idea. I agree with the wholism.

  2. Tom Anderson says:

    When Hazel and I were married in 1992 we went to Switzerland on our honeymoon. We had a wonderful time touring, hiking and enjoying the mountains and cities. One day we rode the local bus to the small town of Zillis to see an old church from the 12th century. The draw was the ceiling of the church which depicted the life of Christ in a series of painted wooden panels. It was quite a remarkable site, this little stone country church with this beautiful ceiling. The story the panels told was interesting also because they did a very nice job of telling the story of the life of Jesus right up to his being crowned with thorns. Here the panels stop the narrative and jump to another topic. So even in 1100AD the resurrection story was problematic. The resurrection story is tough when viewed as a newspaper account of the event, but then there are lots of New Testament stories which are hard to believe when read as newspaper accounts.
    I know people who have stopped going to church over this issue. For them they need to know the truth of what happened on Easter Sunday. I have decided that being associated with Plymouth and the rest of the church is more important than that. Knowing the details is not where I have chosen to put my energy.
    Have I had a resurrection experience? I suppose many years ago when my life was not going well I had an experience of great joy and fear as I started therapy. My first Sunday mornings at Plymouth were like that too. That warm August morning when I wandered in to the cool sanctuary to sit in the near dark hear some wonderful music and a wonderful sermon by Vivian Jones filled me with great joy and hope along with the fear of being very, very exposed to the world.

  3. Jane Thompson says:

    I, too, am so deeply moved by the events & images of Thursday. How powerful to think of Jesus that night, in fear, in resolve and in faith…praying to his father…”is there any way I can be spared this suffering?”, “will you remove this cup from me?” Remaining in the company of his fellow disciples, the ones whom he loved and had journeyed , yet knowing that it would be one of these very men who would betray him and yet, not fleeing. Sharing a meal and asking not to be forgotten. Humbly washing the feet of the others…and then praying when his fear and weariness must have filled every cell of his being.

    I do not forget and I do not cease to be invited to resist the abuses of power & follow Christ in his courage and values and to stay present to that which asks me to act in faith and bold resolve. I would feel, however, so uncomfortable reading only these parts of the lenten story and turn my back on the messages of hope and promise that follow on Sunday. They are not in conflict but, together help us weave an exquisite picture of the of a Divine who requires much and still, through this resurrection moves us beyond “empty suffering” and says to Jesus and each one of us, “I am with you always.” Healing, grace and promise forever uphold us and sustain us as we do the hard work.
    So, for me, I don’t want to ignore this part of the Bible and will likely sing all the verses!

  4. Hazel Lutz says:

    Here’s the short version of my comments:
    Easter celebrations should be a great outpouring of truths we speak to power. That’s how Jesus lived, and it’s the reason he was tortured and was executed. He risked all to resist the abuses of power. Let’s examine what we are willing as Christians to risk to follow Jesus. That’s how I read the story of Easter. Ressurection? Leave it alone with the rest of the parts of the Bible we don’t read.

    Here’s the longer version:
    I have never felt comfortable with the resurrection story. I really dislike singing hymns on Easter Sunday with words like “He lives! He lives!” and “Christ the Lord is risen today” but do like the “alleluiahs” but it’s hard to put my whole heart and voice into when I’m still cringing inside from the opening lines of the hymn. I wonder what the exact translation of alleluiah is. Like “hosanna” which I assumed in my youth is a shout of praise but later learned means “Save us!” I might find that alleluiah means something different than what I think. Anyway I do like singing it. Ignorance can feel good sometimes.

    I dread another sermon encouraging us to use the resurrection story as a metaphor for something in our own lives. I don’t want to use anyone’s pain, suffering and death—alll necessary ingredients before a resurrection can occur–as a metaphor for anything else. Pain and suffering and death is pain and suffering and death.

    Let’s consider just ignoring that part of the Bible, the way we ignore other parts we don’t find useful. Let’s focus on the parts of the story of Jesus life that we do believe in, that we do find useful for ordering our spiritual lives today.

    Aside from my discomfort with “He is risen!” I don’t like the religious pattern that we have inherited from the ancients—the pattern of making blood sacrifice to make right the individual’s relation with the divine power. I do not live in that kind of world, so the old religious pattern doesn’t fit my spiritual life.

    In fact, I am very angry at the way Christianity is using Jesus’s suffering and death as the icon (in the form of the cross) and the core story of our religion. It belittles his suffering and death. I’m glad we don’t have a cross on the alter at Plymouth. It would be interesting to know exactly how the earlier Plymouthites decided to forego the alter cross. (Jim, please tell us sometime.)

    I think the core story of Jesus’s life is that he was willing to take great risks to speak truth to power on behalf of the powerless. I think the question we should ask ourselves as Christians at this holiday season is “What risks am I willing to take to speak truth to power and resist it’s abuses?” Jesus risked all. That’s the amazing thing. He didn’t recant under torture. He could have. It might have saved his life.

    I think the central Easter celebration occurs on Thursday and Friday when Jesus is being tortured and executed. I think mourning and appreciation of the sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of the little person are the key emotions that should be elicted by an unromantic appreciation Jesus’s life and death. I think Easter is a time to remember the other people in history, and people that we personally know or know of who are taking great risks on behalf of the powerless to speak truth to power. It’s a time to celebrate them, and thank them for their sacrifices.

    Easter celebrations should be a great outpouring of truths we speak to power. That’s how I read the story of Easter.

    I’m going to look at the services at Plymouth on Thursday and Friday, and make one or both of those my Easter celebration. You’ll still see me in church on Sunday, too, sitting beside my mother and Tom. My mind will probably wander if the sermon focuses too much on resurrection. I enjoy singing the Halleluiah Chorus—“And He shall reign.” It’s good to work towards the reign of a person who has the little person’s welfare at the top of his mind.

    Resurrection? I’ll let that go. Let it be a mystery that others can appreciate. I don’t.

  5. Jane Thompson says:

    I rather suspect that we all come through countless experiences knowing great fear and great joy as “next door neighbors”, almost wed in the midst of a particular moment. Many years ago, I was in a near fatal auto accident, was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. Hours passed as a team of medical personnel ministered to me. After so very many hours, I was finally transported to my hospital room, placed on the bed, head on a soft pillow feeling immense joy to find rest and enormous fear about what would follow. It was very early morning and now, almost 40 years later I recall so clearly seeing a beautiful pink shadow on the wall…the rising sun…resurrection!

    Coming out on the other side of great losses, changes and uncertainties at various points in my life, I have tried to remind myself that resurrection will come….it will come not with trumpets or Easter baskets…but it will come through the kindness of others, through the passage of time…it will come through God’s pure grace.

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