September 27, 2020, Spirituality of the River, 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. 5-6 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. 7 “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.” 8-10 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.”
We take a moment to reflect on this Easter scripture on the first Sunday of fall. May we hear the voice of the angel saying “Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.”
September 27, 2020 Spirituality of the River St. Luke UMC
Cathy and I took a walk down by the Delaware River week before last. We went out on a pier and looked up at the Ben Franklin bridge and at the churning water of the river. I was impressed once again about how big that river is. how powerful the forces are moving around beneath its surface. It did not make me feel like going for a swim. But I was in awe at the beauty of the river.
That river collects water from here to New York State. We live in the Delaware River Watershed. You may have noticed the signs on the highway at times: “leaving the Delaware watershed” or “entering the Chesapeake Watershed.” Those signs on a ridge indicate the places demarcating which way rainwaters flow - toward the Delaware Bay or the Chesapeake Bay. Jon and Lauri like to go down and sail in the Chesapeake Bay, so they know how beautiful and how big that is. The Delaware basin may not be quite as grand, but it is also quite beautiful and life-giving.
We are rarely aware of the water in our watershed - beneath our feet and in our rivers. About the only time I notice the water coming from the sky, trying to get to the ground is when it’s going through my house because of a leak in my roof, or trying to go through the church because a sump pump is broken. But this watershed nurtures our lives in ways that we take for granted. If you think about it for just a moment, you can think of many examples - our drinking water, the water we bathe in, and wash things with, the water that nurtures the plants we eat and the animals who give us milk, meat, and clothing. The more you think about it, the more basic and foundational the watershed is.
Sometimes I think we could put up a sign saying “You are living in the Watershed of God’s Grace.” The watershed of God’s grace and love is deeper and more extensive than the Delaware and Chesapeake and every other water basin combined. God created all of those watersheds and sustains the Creation through all of those watersheds. They are all connected through the Watershed of the Creator, the watershed of love and creativity and grace.
I tell you what would be really interesting though, is we had a sign that helped us that said, “you are now leaving the Watershed of God’s grace.” or the watershed of God’s approval, since there is no way to leave the watershed of God’s grace. It is everywhere. It’s just when we don’t know it or respect the gift of that grace and of God’s leading that we get into trouble.
Let me talk about the leading for just a bit, in reference to our reading for the morning. You may have scratched your head a bit about this reading, wondering if we’re reverting to Eastertide. Of course, you know that every Sunday is Easter. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every Sunday. So it’s appropriate to read about the Resurrection any Sunday.
I want to point out something interesting about this Easter story from Matthew that I learned as I studied it. In Matthew’s version the angel says to the women, “‘Jesus is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ Matthew is like Mark in emphasizing that Christ is with the people, that Jesus will meet them in Galilee, where he fed the 5,000, where he spoke the Beatitudes, where he instructed people to love their neighbor and their enemy.
This is not about Jesus going away. It’s about Jesus being with us all of the time - to the end of the age. The Greek verb for “going ahead” has the sense of “leading.” It is the same word used to talk about the star “going ahead” of the Magi, leading them to the Christ child. It’s the same word Jesus used before his death, saying “I am going ahead of you” to Galilee. [p. 120, Season of Creation]
“Jesus is going ahead, not going away.” says Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza. The empty tomb, she adds, “does not signify absence but presence. It announces the. Resurrected One’s presence on the road ahead, in a particular place of struggle and recognition.” Jesus goes ahead of us to lead us into the world - into a transformative way of life that testifies to the power of resurrection on Earth.
My point is that we get mixed up when we think about Jesus’ resurrection as going somewhere else, saving us for somewhere else. There may not have been an understanding of the concept of a watershed in Jesus time and place, but Jesus knew about the watershed of God’s love and grace, the source of life and the Creator and Sustainer of the Earth. He promised to lead us in the transformation of our world, to bring about the renewal and restoration of God’s creation in our midst.
This is what Christ’s salvation is about. Saving us to be part of God’s will and work and Creation, part of saving God’s watershed in a very real way.
We are called to follow Christ’s lead, to accept the saving grace of God’s watershed, to become part of the sustaining energy, to preserve the physical watersheds, to live in ways that help the Earth to thrive, to recognize the river of life that flows through the City of God, through our sanctuary, through our very lives.
Accept the grace and love of the Living God this day, give yourself to the Living God for the work of Creation. May we remember our baptism in this river of God’s love the day and rededicate ourselves to caring for our watershed home. This is God’s good news.
Responsive Hymn: 2025 As the Deer