Easter Sunday (A)Ever wonder what happened next?? It's very early that morning in Jerusalem. The sun hasn't even risen yet. The sky is turning a pearly shade of pinkish gray promising a magnificent sunrise. But, most of the disciples are gathered in an upper room. They haven't slept or eaten properly for three days. They've been afraid to venture out. People know who they are, and they need to figure some things out. All their hopes, all the assumptions they made have turned out terribly wrong. Their optimistic joy has been replaced by the most despairing sorrow and FEAR. Matthew is wondering if he'll ever find work that pays as well as his job with the Romans did after his stint with this one THEY'VE labeled a "criminal." James and John are talking about returning to their father Zebedee's fishing fleet. Peter is arguing with Andrew about what could have happened to Jesus' body. Simon the Zealot is brooding in his anger and sorrow. They are a dark and despairing lot! Suddenly the door is thrown open and in bursts Mary Magdalene AGAIN. Every person in the room jumps right out of their seats! "THE TOMB IS EMPTY!" she shouts. "Yes, we know," Peter replies. Breathlessly, she continues, with her words tumbling one over the other, "No. You don't understand! I've seen Jesus! I've heard him call me by name, just as if it were the first time!" The disciples are shaking their heads and everyone starts talking at once. "What is she babbling about?" "Is she possessed again? After all, this IS Mary, the one the Master healed." "Can we accept the crazy things she's saying?" "This is a cruel joke to play on us." "She's hysterical!" "She's been scared by her own shadow or something," they say. They roll their eyes at each other. "Good grief, Mary, sit down!" Peter hands her a cup of water and looks at her with pity. But, Mary won't sit down. And then John lays his big fisherman hand on her shoulder and asks her, "What did Jesus say, Mary?" Now everyone in the room became quiet. Could they believe her? They wanted to. But, what proof did she have? Could they trust the word of someone who hadn't always been the most reliable witness? But, Mary was used to this skepticism about her and the life she had led. She went on and told them the rest of the story. "I know that Jesus being alive again is a lot to take in," she said, "but just wait. It gets better! I have SEEN our Lord himself! After Peter and John left the tomb this morning I looked in again. I wondered who might have taken Jesus' body. This time when I looked in, I saw two what-must've-been angels in white, sitting where Jesus had lain. They asked me who I was seeking." "Well shouldn't angels have known who you were looking for?" someone snickered from the back of the room. Still, undaunted, Mary went on. "I really don't remember what else they might have said because I wasn't really thinking clearly at that point. But what happened next really knocked me off my feet! Really!" "Okay, Mary, calm down. Take another drink of water. We don't want you getting hysterical on us,"Peter said somewhat kindly. Mary continued, "You're really not going to believe it. I still have to pinch myself to make sense of it. I turned around from the miraculous scene before me and just about ran straight into a man I THOUGHT might have been one of Joseph's gardeners, hired to take care of his burial chamber and the surrounding plants and urns and such. You know how those rich people like to make quite a show of their final resting places." "Yeah, sure, Mary. Still, Joseph of Arimathea IS a friend of Jesus." Impatient Peter urged, "Just get on with your story!" "So, as I said, I turned around and just about ran into this man. He looked kinda familiar, but I was crying and my eyes were filled with tears, so I couldn't quite make out his face. But, when he spoke my name, called my 'Mary' in that loving tone of voice he uses for all of us, I knew it was the Teacher!" "And, Jesus sent me, ME!, to tell all of you that he lives again! What he foretold is true! He really has risen from the dead!" "Oh, boy. I'll bet the Romans are gonna HATE this news. But, it sure holds promise for us!" Thomas added. "I don't know why Jesus chose me to be the bearer of such good news. Yes, I helped finance his preaching journeys in the area, and you've all been guests at my house, but you all know my past. Those demons had a solid grip on my soul until Jesus taught me how much God loves me," Mary wept joyfully. "Oh, and one more thing," she added. "Jesus wants you to know that he will be ascending to his Father, our Creator. Just like he taught us to pray, he reminded us that his Father is our source of life, too. Isn't it amazing!?! Imagine all Jesus will have to tell God about the way things really are around here." "Speaking of the way things really are, Thomas you'd better go out and buy a few more days' supplies for us. We're going to have to keep these doors locked so we'll be safe. We need to stay hidden if we're going to survive the anger of the Church and the government!" "I'm not sure that's what Jesus had in mind," Mary said quietly. "I'm pretty sure Jesus wants us all to tell each one we meet how much God loves us and everything that has happened today." "Maybe so," Peter said, "but for now, let's figure out just how we're going to do that when everything is known." Well, how about it? Everything HAS become known, at least to us. We have not only Mary Magdalene's testimony but that of another Mary, Peter and John, Thomas and other disciples, the traveling preacher Paul, centuries of Church tradition and our own encounters with the peace of the Lord. So, what are we going to do about that? Are you going to lock that good news away in your heart, hoard it for yourself and those you love most? Are you going to limit who can come into places of worship like this to see and hear the good news being lived? Are you going to decide who "deserves" to hear and proclaim this good news and who "deserves" to be left out? Are you going to hold tightly to the financial blessings God has given you so others won't be able to have fresh drinking water, warm blankets, immunizations, Bibles in their own language and caring missionaries to tell them the good news? What are YOU going to do with the news that Christ is your life, your strength for today and the promise of eternity? You and I have wonderful good news to share. During these next seven Sundays of Easter, come back again and again to the table of the Lord. Remember your baptism. Praise and pray and offer yourself and all you have to the Lord. After all, he gave his LIFE for YOU. Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed. Alleluia!) Amen
March 27, 2005
An Unfinished Story
by Linda KraftPrayers for WorshipLet us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, for all people according to their needs: Lord of all nations, you sent your Son as judge of the living and the dead. Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Yet, WE often take judgment as our OWN privilege, deciding whom you should love and whom you should reject. Help us to overcome our prejudice and fear and to live together with all people, each one redeemed by the death and resurrection of your Son. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Acts 10:34-43) Glorious Lord God, you have raised us to seek your intentions for our lives. You bountifully gifted us with more than we could ever need. Help us to focus on your generosity so that it inspires us to share what we call our own with those who need it more. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Colossians 3:1-4) Lord of early morning and deep, dark nights, you alone can replace fear with calm, grief with hope, sadness with joy. You are the way, the truth and the life. Each day we struggle to believe what the world tells us is an impossible tale. You loved us and all creation so much that you redeemed us all through the resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Help us to overcome doubt, to push away fear, to cling to your message of eternal love with our whole being. Strengthen our faith and keep us in your grace, and like Mary Magdalene, give us courage to share your good news with each one we meet. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (John 20:1-18) Steadfast Lord, your love endures forever. You are our strength and our might. You provide everlasting life. Yet, in this life, your children suffer pain in body, mind, and spirit. We lift in prayer your hurting children: Are there others we should include in our prayers? Help us all to live our lives in thanks for your precious gift of life and to rejoice in each new day you give us, even into eternity. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Ps 118:1-2, 14-24) Into your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy; through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen * Alternate petitions: Lord our God, you call us to worship you and you alone. Remove from our temptation those things that we allow to become godlike to us. Help us to use our time, talent and financial abundance according to your will. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Jeremiah 31:1-6) Lord of dawn and sunset, you tell us never to fear, for you will not forsake us or abandon us to our own desires. Teach us, again, of your compassion so that we can share your mercy with each on we meet. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Matthew 28:1-10)Prayers for Worship 2
Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, for all people according to their needs.
Eternal God of all creation, judge of the living and the dead, forgive us for our warring madness. You created this world to be good, and we have divided it into nations and peoples that compete and ovepower each other. We pray for an end to all violence -- in homes, in neighborhoods, and among nations. Bring peace where we sow prejudice, hatred and anger. Bring consolation where there is loss. Bring hope to all your people, those who do not know you personally and those who daily seek your loving guidance for their lives. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Acts 10: 34-43)
Steadfast Lord God, help us to know death as the gateway to eternal life, your loving gift to all believers. You provided salvation to all creation through Jesus Christ, you dear son. Help us to celebrate your gift by telling others of our joy in your constant presence. Raise up faithful preachers, teachers and volunteers for your Church. Let us rejoice and be glad in each day that you have made. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Ps 118: 1-2, 14-24)
Glorious Lord God, you have called us to be your servants, to proclaim your good news to all through our actions as well as our words. Encourage us to share from the abundance we call our own, to be bold in our proclamation of your love, to embrace those society shuns, to speak out for the oppressed -- keeping our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Our lives are yours; reveal your glory through us. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (Colossians 3: 1-4)
Compassionate Lord God, send your holy angels to console those who mourn... to comfort those whose health is failing and to those who care for them, to bring hope to all who seek wholeness in their daily lives. We especially lift in prayer: Are there others we should include in our prayers? As your angels brought good news of resurrection to Mary, bring good news to all who seek your will for their lives. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. (John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10)
Into your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy; through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Comments to Linda at Linda_Kraft@Ecunet.org.)
Linda Kraft, Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Stafford Springs, CT
Secretary, Slovak Zion Synod, ELCA
Board Member: ELCA Division for Higher Education and Schools