April 12, 2020, What We've Been Hungry For, by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Matthew 28: 1-10 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move. The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed. “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.” The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the joy of this day - even in the midst of the pain of the world, We reflect on the truth of new life and hope in the midst of death and fear.
April 12: 2020. Easter What We’ve Been Hungry For! St. Luke
“Don’t be afraid kids, but I have something to tell you.” Those are words that would spike fear in any child. “Why are you telling me not to be afraid? What do you mean, ‘but’ - ‘but I have something to tell you?’” Somebody telling you not to be afraid usually grabs your attention and makes you really ready to be afraid.
I was 9 years old when they told us not to be afraid about the Russians bringing weapons into Cuba - and had us practice drills in school in case we would get attacked. “Do not be afraid, they told us, because we have everything under control.”
I know that parents during this time are working hard to tamp down fears of Covid-19, to help children feel safe and know that everything is going to be alright. We just have to stay inside for a week or two - alright maybe a month or two, and everybody will be ok. Well, maybe not everybody, but we’ll keep you safe. Don’t be afraid. As I said on Holy Thursday, I’ve been experiencing more unconscious fear than I want my conscious self to know about. I think it’s healthy to make our fears conscious - our fears of getting sick, our fears of loved ones getting sick, our fears of being alone, our fears of dying.
When we can talk about our fears with other people, when we uncover our fears and acknowledge them, those fears cause less damage than when they are suppressed and effect us in other ways - keeping us from sleeping,, making us tense and impatient with loved ones, making us more susceptible to become sick.
So yeah, ’Do not be afraid,’ can be a contradictory thing to say to someone - causing the fear that you want to alleviate. It can be like asking people to deny a feeling that we already have. Still, what we mean when we say do not be afraid, is that it’s ok, things are going to be alright, no matter how you feel.
During this pandemic we may have a lot of fears grab us, fears of illness, fears of isolation, fears of death - those are baseline fears that can trigger all kinds of other fears. When the angel appears to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on that first morning, the first thing the angel says is “Do not be afraid.” The guards at the tomb were so scared they couldn’t even move. They couldn’t even say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” And the Marys’ fear must have spiked as well with those words. “What do you mean, ‘don’t be afraid?’ How could we not be afraid? We came to take care of the body. Who are you?”
And the angel says, “You are looking for Jesus, the one who was nailed to the cross. He is not here.” And the angel shows them the empty tomb.
This Sunday churches all over the world are empty. Wherever people are being smart and protecting each other, sanctuaries are empty of people. We could put a sign out front of the church that says, “He is not here. The tomb is empty. Do not be afraid.” People might be confused by such a sign, because we often go to church to try to find the Living God in Christ.
In this season, though we are like the other disciples, who stayed in their homes, for one reason or another, each one with their own fears to deal with. They receive the message from the angel through the women who come back from the tomb to tell them breathlessly the news that the tomb where they expected to find Christ was empty, the place we usually expect to find the living God is empty. We have to find the Living Christ a different way. The angel told the women to let disciples know that Jesus is going on ahead of you to Galilee.
Galilee - not only the place where Jesus had promised to meet the disciples again. It is also the place where his ministry had been lived out - where he called disciples, taught the crowds, healed the sick, appointed the Twelve, showed compassion on the suffering, offered the weary rest, spoke in parables, fed the multitudes, bless the children, challenged a rich man, and taught about a Messiah who would suffer.
So don’t be afraid, Jesus will find you wherever you are - wherever you are isolating yourself, wherever you are suffering, wherever you are protecting yourself. Jesus will find you in Galilee Jesus will find you in your home. Jesus will find you if you are in prison. Jesus will find you if you are in the hospital. Jesus will find you wherever you find yourself during this pandemic.
And we will find each other in Jesus’ name. We will find people who need something to eat. We will find people who need bail to get out of jail. We will find people who have been laid off from restaurants and stores. We will find people who work in the stadiums for sports that are no longer being played. The community of the Living God will find people in those situations and say, “Do not be afraid. I know it’s a scary time, but the risen Christ in and through God’s community will offer some help you find a way through.”
Because Christ is risen. God’s love is stronger than the Covid 19 coronavirus. Christ is risen. God’s love is stronger than death itself. Christ is risen. God’s love is stronger than any and all of our fears. Christ is risen. We give our fears to God and support each other through those fears. Christ is risen. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia. This is the outrageous, almost terrifying, wondrous, lovely, amazing good news of the Living, Loving, Easter God of Life. Amen.
Responsive hymn 3088 Easter Alleluia