Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
I don’t like surprises very much – that probably speaks to my deep desire to control my environment and have things make sense as they happen. But there isn’t a whole lot about the Easter story that makes sense from the human perspective.
Jesus was killed. Murdered. Innocent of any crime and yet still sentenced to a very cruel and violent death. By us. Because you know you would have demanded his death right along with the crowd that day; I know I would have been swept up in the moment and in the energy of the masses and would have joined in the shouting of condemnation. I also would have regretted it once the dust settled and darkness covered the land. If I was a close follower of Jesus, then I may have gone and sat at the tomb to mourn as well and would have stood in disbelief to find Jesus gone on Sunday morning, my mouth standing open in that awkward, non-understanding way that I stand when I am utterly perplexed. I would have been a complete mess of emotions from Friday through Sunday and most likely even beyond into Monday.
I have the benefit of thousands of years of Easters. Being raised in faith, Easter has always been a big deal in our family – not the spiral ham and chocolate bunny big deal, but the glorious resurrection of our Lord big deal. Although I wasn’t in the crowd to yell, “Crucify Hiim!!!!” that fateful day and then mourn my mistakes and his death, the emotions I experience from the end of Maundy Thursday to the beauty and splendor of the Halleluiahs on Easter Day are just as varied. Friday feels dark and hopeless; Sunday feels like a fresh start and completely full of joy and wonder at the miracle.
Mary, Peter, the other disciple, Mary Magdelene – all experienced first hand the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. But sometimes – and most certainly THIS time – the news seems just TOO good. How can this be? Where does the body of their Jesus go? How can he appear to Mary and she doesn’t even recognize him until he calls her name? Our human brain just can’t comprehend the incomprehensible without time and thinking it through – but this is really good news and we want to believe it, right?
Today is that day. Today we choose to be Resurrection People – covered in grace and mercy for no other reason than unrelenting love. God’s love. I don’t believe that God condemns people to death – not my God. That means that Jesus died because God knew we would do that to him. And he loves us enough to do something beyond amazing – Jesus was raised from the dead to prove that the good news is really an understatement – it is Super, Awesome, Fantastic, Unbelievable News!!!! Jesus Christ is Risen Today – Halleluiah! This is more than we could have every dreamed, so let’s keep our faith focused, our practices loyal, our conversations filled with love and our words and our works spent on furthering God’s kingdom. It’s the least we can do when in the face of this REALLY Good News!
We are Resurrection People!
Risen Lord, be known to us as we work, watch, pray and love. We believe that you were risen from the dead to save us from ourselves. We give you thanks for the gift of life and the end of death. We worship you and we adore you. AMEN.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
We moved into our home in 2001. It was the third move in our then 9 year marriage, so I didn’t look much beyond a few years. So now as we start our thirteenth year in the same home, I am struck by how much stuff we have. When you move frequently, and if you are like me and just detest the chores of packing and unpacking, you tend to purge. When you can tuck stuff in a closet for 13 years and forget about it, you realize at some point that you are one cool whip container short of being invited to film an episode of “Hoarders!’
So how do we find ourselves with too much stuff? I think our American society is rife with messages of excess and enticements of the next best thing. My drawer full of awesome hair products is evidence of that (and I’m not even having a good hair day as I type this). In addition to our visual and audio bombardment of reminders of how incomplete our life is now without (fill in the blank here), we measure our life’s successes through the eyes of currency. As our daughter is ending her high school career, everyone has advice about what she should choose as her college major so she can graduate and make $xx,xxx salary right away. We look with envy on those who have “more” than we have – more money, more square footage in their home, more vacations, more fun = better life! Heck, we are even envious about people’s faith!
Greed is not a nice word – it just doesn’t invoke a warm and fuzzy feeling when we think about the concept. But Jesus is pretty clear in his parable in this passage of Luke’s Gospel. What are we doing with all this stuff in our lives???? If we spent a third of the energy/money/time on our relationship with and service to our Lord, we would have lives that were richer in ways that “things” cannot make us. Oh, and don’t we already know that, yet still fall in the stuff trap anyway?
And we always seem to feel like what we have is just never enough. Americans in particular have terms like “rainy day fund” and “back up plan” in our everyday vocabulary, making us feel like we need more than we have, even though we may have all that we need. Last week’s post discussed the Lord’s Prayer as our format for communicating with God (https://paigehanks.wordpress.com/2013/07/) and Jesus teaches us specifically to say, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” as if we should live for what God provides us today, knowing that he will provide for us again tomorrow and the next day after that. Since we are such control freaks (ok, maybe it’s just me here) we think we better have a contingency plan just in case.
Although I am not a collector of any one thing, I do find that my stuff can pile up around me. It can interfere with my ability to think clearly and focus on the task at hand when I am at work and my desk is cluttered with papers. When things are organized and every item is in its place, I find a sense of calm and ability to focus. Having what we need and not more than we can ever want or use is not what God calls us to do. As Christians, we are commanded to serve others, feed the hungry, take care of the sick and meek among us, and our stuff usually prevents us from doing that in any systematic way.
I find that I can give when I see a need, but mostly just up to the point where I think that giving more may hurt me. That is hard to say outloud and type in this space, as I am ashamed and embarassed to think that at all. I am sure I could give away my time, talent and treasure far more than I do today and I wouldn’t even notice a difference in my own needs – that is my insecurity talking, not my reality. So this week’s Gospel from Luke is just what I needed. I am reminded that I have really greedy tendencies and I want what is mine – I want my fair share. In my mind, my actual fair share is far smaller than the piles and piles of my fair share that I actually have, whether it’s money, space or stuff. And all that excess interferes with my true calling as a child of God. If I am to love and serve God with all my heart, mind, body, soul and will, then I need to get down to the nitty gritty with my stuff. It will be a process with ups and downs I’m sure, but I don’t want my time left in life to be spent hoarding more than I need of anything. If today were the day for perfect healing through death and eternal life, I wouldn’t need a thing I have now besides my uncluttered faith in my Lord and Savior.
Generous Father, you are worthy of all the glory and honor. Help me clear my heart, mind, body and soul and let my will be your will in all I do and say. I commit to loving and serving you through generosity of spirit and with a heart to serve, sharing your many gifts with all I meet. Thank you for loving me enough to give me enough, even though I never deserve it at all. To you be praised. AMEN.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Lord’s Prayer
11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
Perseverance in Prayer
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Two of my favorite memories from my personal faith journey converge today in this Gospel reading – the giving to God’s people the Lord’s Prayer and a reminder of my favorite hymn “Seek Ye First.”
I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but as a camper at Camp Weed in Live Oak, FL (check it out and send your kids there! http://www.campweed.org/), I remember one of our spiritual advisors (read: clergy) giving us instruction on the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t remember ever “learning” to say this prayer; it has always been the foundation of my prayer life. But I just went through the motions of saying it because – let’s face it – the word “trespass” isn’t really in a child’s daily vocabulary. I wish I could give credit to that priest, because that day of learning changed the way I have prayed that prayer for the rest of my life. We broke the prayer down into parts:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
This opening line is about adoration, honor and a reminder to give praise to God. We were encouraged to think about every single word and its meaning, and I began to emphasize the word “THY.” Thy is not a word kids use either, but to give it extra value helped me focus on my true north of following God.
Give us this day our daily bread.
The next part asks God to provide for our needs. I remember a great discussion about the difference between needs and wants – the first time I really ever thought about that as a kid. A reminder that God provides us our needs – and we should be much more grateful than we usually are.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
This forgiveness line was easy at first – I knew how to say I was sorry and I really meant it! But there was another new concept for the kid version of myself – I had to forgive others???? Whoa…and if I don’t do that, then I may not be able to get forgiveness myself? I think this is a very complex issue and because of God’s grace we get far more forgiveness than we could ever deserve. I am a work in progress on forgiving others…two steps forward and one step back on my good days. Still working hard on this one.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
I can get to temptation all by myself, but this part of the prayer is where I really ask God to save me from myself. I am always my own worst impediment to success, but with help from God, I can turn away with a greater success rate than when I just rely on myself.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. AMEN
Again – “thine” isn’t in my every day vocabulary, but putting an emphasis (picture the word in bold and underlined!) on thine puts the focus where it should be; on living in God’s kingdom and giving him all the power and glory. This prayer Jesus gives to his followers is so comprehensive that it can truly be a “square meal” when praying. It has all the parts that God needs from us in our conversation with him.
Then the bonus part of today’s reading comes as the final punch when discussing the value and importance of our prayers and conversations with God – a reminder of that awesome song, “Seek Ye First.” Ask and it shall be given, seek and we will find, knock and the door will open. Matthew’s Gospel also has a similar phrase, which I interpret as the not so scholarly phrase, “Keep it simple.” Ask for our needs, look for God and how we can serve him and take the steps we need to go out in the world. I see this as God emphasizing our need to be relentless in prayer and service. He gives us the words to use – a roadmap for our prayer life. Then tells us to be singularly focused as we pray…ask, seek and go. Simple for sure, but not easy with all life’s distractions. Stay focused on the prayers and the service, and the rest will come with our faith in God.
Lord, thank you for teaching us how to pray. You are full of mercy and deserving of our glory. We praise you, we have faith in your love and care for us and we know you will lead us through all adversity we encounter. Our faith is in you and you alone. Your will is ours to follow. In your glorious name we pray, AMEN.