Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! On Easter this year, we heard the story of the Markan resurrection in which everyone fled the tomb “in terror and amazement, saying nothing to anyone.” It is a curious ending, so curious in fact, that a later transcriber of the gospel added an alternative ending with a much more elaborate and comfortable ending.
But all of us who have lived through this past year of tumult (and the many other harsh realities of life: loss, death, life changes, bigotry, racism, and/or other hardships) know well that days and weeks rarely have neat and orderly endings. And Jesus, who walked in our shoes and suffered a violent death for his challenging of the status quo, shows us that our God is not a God of easy answers either. Our God is instead the kind of God who yearns for us all to take part in bearing witness to the promises that life always overcomes death and that God is consistently trying to make good out of hard situations.
The Resurrection was not a singular event that we celebrate once a year, but is instead a universal reality that calls us to the empty tombs of our own lives to look for the living, to seek how God is alive and well even when we feel lonely or afraid or troubled. The Resurrection and the ending that Mark provides reminds us that we are characters in the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We now get to bear witness, or as the book of Acts shows again and again through the stories of the early apostles and church planters, we get to stand up and share how we have changed because of Christ’s actions in our world and life.
One tangible way we want you all to do that is to send your “revelations” to Pastor Sara. Let us know who you are, “chipotle lady.” Tell us who you are, person who left awesome Easter tree stuff, etc. And if you have a wondering about the source of any of your shenanigans, let us know. In addition, we would love your thoughts, ponderings, and understanding of how the joyful shenanigans of Lent added to your Easter amazement. You can send emails, texts, pictures revealing who you are. Email Pastor Sara or comment on our Facebook page.
In addition, as not all of us were part of the shenanigans, we would also love to hear how this year of pandemic life has brought you to new life or new understanding.
We’ll be working these ideas and “testimonies” into our worship throughout the Easter season. When we next meet in person for worship we’ll utilize this theme as well. It is our hope that by sharing how Christ has revealed Christ’s self to us that we might grow in our Easter faith and Easter hope.
They fled with terror and amazement.
They fell down and worshiped him.
They said nothing to no one
Mary stood there and wept.
These are paraphrases of the 4 initial responses to the empty tomb--one from each of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As you look over the responses it is obvious that the first Resurrection was not the instantaneous party that it is in these days. There was hesitancy, uncertainty, confusion, and terror. Oh, and lots of running.
It seems to me that we are having similar responses to the good news of vaccinations and a hopeful end to this pandemic. Some of us are running as fast as we can to hug our loved ones. Some of us are cautiously tiptoeing back into the world, some of us are still waiting to get a vaccine, and some of us are unsure if this is real.
In our culture of instant gratification---superfast delivery, answers at our fingertips, and products designed to meet our every need--we can forget that not everything is instant. The Resurrection morning of so long ago left those who loved Jesus with more questions than answers. And, it took numerous appearances of the Crucified Christ for it to begin to sink in just what the ramifications were of that empty tomb. It took decades for the gospels to be written, years for Paul’s witness and teachings to take root and become the mass movement that we call Christianity. Resurrection takes time. True transformation usually requires a certain amount of patience and discipline.
Likewise, as a faith community, while we may be eager to hug one another, sing loudly together inside, and linger over coffee while catching up on the past year of one another’s lives, We know that we must take the “slow emergence route”. Over the next weeks and months we will continue to offer hybrid community options, gathering outdoors when safe, worshiping on the lawn regularly, and providing space for fellowship opportunities that welcome all. We long for normalcy in human interactions, but even more so, we long for a safe and welcoming church that honors all of the reactions to this pandemic.
I wish we were celebrating with huge fanfare this Easter…but I take heart that perhaps this Easter is more like the first Easter than any I have been part of. No matter what, we can shout “He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed”…and trust that God is weaving, working and bringing us together through the wonder of screens, social distancing, serving our neighbors, and phone calls.
Prince of Peace, you have been doing amazing things this season and hasn’t it been fun doing it?
You’ve taken our traditional narratives around Lent, and turned it upside down by focusing on caring for each other with creative and sometimes downright sneaky acts of kindness and love, and, in doing so, you have probably changed how we will observe Lent at PoP for a long time.
I mean, can you imagine Lent without sneaking around and dropping off gifts and questionable puns? I know I can’t.
In that same spirit, Pr. Sara and I want to invite and challenge us all to expand the circles loving creativity beyond the community of Prince of Peace and into your circles of friends and neighbors as we celebrate this Holy Week.
And, before you say it, this is more than a cheap ploy to encourage folks to engage at church. I mean it's not, not a cheap ploy, but it’s also more. ;)
Haven’t you noticed lately how much better life has been, than what it had been before? Hasn’t it been wonderful to be a source of joy for someone you love, and see how someone loves you with creative surprise?
It’s stuff like this that makes our faith, a faith of hope, joy, love, kindness, wonder, and generosity, that thinks of others with as much care as we have for ourselves, a radical political philosophy. And it’s communally reinforcing. By committing to a life of loving service, you change your outlook on the world, and you can change others outlook by changing their experiences too.
As we prepare to celebrate how God raised Jesus to new life, let us also take part in that renewal of life for the world by making somebody’s else day just a little bit better - and let’s have some sneaky fun doing it.
“Spreading Joy and Connections” has been a tagline for Lent this year. Over the past weeks, you all have cared for one another, made one another laugh, and been incredibly thoughtful in lifting one another up.
As we continue to spread joy and connections, my heart is also saddened and grieved for the shootings in Atlanta and what has been described and catalogued in the Bay Area for the past year as a rise in hate crimes against our community members who are of Asian descent.
We are a church of welcome and we proclaim that welcome loudly every Sunday, on our signage, and our website. And also, friends, it is in times like these where loving communities need to stand up, show up, and speak out against hatred and racism with even more powerful acts of love.
Depending on how you identify or relate to this situation, whether you have been a victim of racist violence, hatred, stereo-typing, exclusion, off-handed or pointed comments, whether you know well the feeling of being targeted because of who you are or who you love, please know that this congregation wants to be a place where people are supported, cared for, where you have space to grieve, be left alone, or be angry.
So, I encourage us all to reach out with love, check especially on those who are of Asian descent in our congregation, in our neighborhoods, in our families. Asians are not a monoculture, and no one is being asked to speak for everyone, but I am instead encouraging us simply to be more aware, to listen to one another and learn. I know I have been ignorant to the struggles of my dear friends and congregation members this past year who are of Asian descent, and I am eager to learn how to be a better pastor and friend.
1 John 4 says: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear… Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their siblings, are liars; for those who do not love a sibling whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. “
These verses from 1 John are both a powerful encouragement and a powerful reminder that self-reflection and action, being willing to care for one another, is at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. So let us continue to grow in our love and respect for one another; for those of us who are hurting, we pray for others to come alongside and be present. For those of us who are unaware, we pray for learning and personal growth. And, we pray that we may be empowered by the witness of those amongst us to be a congregation and church that embodies diversity and inclusion.