Not Just a Day

Easter egg hunt 2017We celebrated Resurrection Sunday recently through a morning filled with special times — a shared breakfast, prayer and fellowship time, Easter worship service, and an egg hunt for the kids. After church, some enjoyed rest, others spent time with family or friends, still others went out to appreciate the beauty of nature. It was a lovely Easter Sunday.

And it’s not over yet! In the traditional Christian calendar, Easter is not just a day, nor even a week, but an entire season that starts on Resurrection Sunday and continues for fifty days until Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. So it can be said that today is not simply the Sunday after Easter, but the second Sunday of Easter.

One of the lectionary texts for today is John 20:19-31.  At this point in the story, Jesus had been crucified and then was raised to life again after three days. Mary Magdalene encountered him at the tomb and was very surprised to find him alive, and she went to tell the disciples. And yet, just a few verses later we find the disciples together in a room, with the doors locked because of their fear. And yet again, Jesus shows up.

Why were they hiding? I’d like to say they were being foolish in hiding away, but I imagine I’d have been right there with them. Imagine the emotional roller coaster they’d been on — the excitement of entering Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!”, the anger of an unfair trial, the despair of the crucifixion, the uncertainty about the empty tomb, the fear of those who had orchestrated the death of their leader. But then Jesus shows up, as Jesus does, and their hope is resurrected.

Except for Thomas, who was not with the rest of them, and proclaimed, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” And I love Jesus’ response. He met Thomas where he was, and offered himself — not an idea or an argument, but himself in person — as evidence. Interestingly, after Thomas’s earlier declaration, we don’t see him taking Jesus up on the offer of his nail-scarred hands. He simply responded to the person of Jesus, the One he knew: “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus isn’t afraid of our questions. He provides enough to meet our needs, then makes space for us to step toward him in faith.

Happy Easter!

— Pastor Debi

Resurrection Sunday

John 20 was read in many churches around the world on this Easter Sunday. It tells of Mary Magdalene finding the stone removed from the tomb where the dead body of Jesus had been laid, then running to tell Simon Peter and (probably) John. Those two explored the situation, then left again, with Mary still crying outside the tomb.

That’s when the story becomes intensely interesting, because that is where Mary encountered Jesus. She didn’t know it was him, though, until he spoke her name. After all, who would have expected Jesus — the one whose death she had watched a few days before — to show up, fully alive and conversational?

What captures my heart is Jesus’ response: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (emphasis mine).

What a statement of connection!

Take a look at these words from the Apostle Paul: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:1, 15-17).

Easter is central to the Christian faith because through the death of Christ we have forgiveness of sin, and through the resurrection of Christ we have amazing hope. These are available to all people — absolutely everyone! — who believe Jesus, confess their need for him, and invite him into their lives.

If you have reason to celebrate this hope, then celebrate like crazy today. And if you don’t yet know Christ, take this opportunity to meet him. If you’re not sure, and would like to talk more about what this means, I’d love to talk with you.

Happy Easter!

–Pastor Debi