404 Don’t Be Afraid; Be Sent!

Don’t Be Afraid; Be Sent!

Revised Common Lectionary Reflection for the Resurrection of our Lord, Year A

Lessons:  Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24,  Colossians 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10

Theme: God’s faithful and generous people not only celebrate the joy of the resurrection but also go with gladness to be good stewards of this amazing and life-changing story.

 Key Scripture: So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  Matthew 28: 8-10

Preaching/Teaching Reflection

Easter equals victory in the Christian tradition. This day, this celebration, and this story form the pinnacle of our church year and constitute the bedrock of our faith. We shout it in the sanctuary: “Alleluia, Christ is risen! MaryConstance.ccChrist is risen indeed! Alleluia!” As we gather for the meal we proclaim the mystery of the faith: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Yes, upon the resurrection hook we hang our hopeful hat.

But hats aren’t meant to be hung forever, and sandals are meant to be worn, not stashed away in a closet. As people of resurrection faith, we are sent. Jesus’ words to his first evangelists–the women–and his first disciples are equally applicable to us today. We are not to hide our light under a basket. We are not to lock our faith away in fear. We are to go. We are to tell. We are to be Christ’s witnesses sent out of our sanctuaries and comfort zones into the hustle of the marketplace and bustle of the world. How else can Jesus be seen in our time-bound, gravity-laden workaday world?

Today is not just for hearty alleluias and the heady scent of spring flowers. Nor is it a day for only finery and fanfare. This is the dawn of a new reality that transcends time, reason, and rationale. Our story is groundbreaking and earthshaking. It is raw and fresh and ever-new. We believe that the God we cannot see nor fully comprehend loved us enough to enter our small world of flesh and bone, to walk the dirt roads and recesses of our narrow minds and barren lands, to die the worst possible public death, and then to shrug it all off and walk headlong into eternity dragging the whole ragtag bunch of us along for the ride.

Easter is a celebration about time–sort of. It’s a festival reminder that God’s time is not our time. It’s a vivid example of how God’s “kairos” time always supersedes our rather desperate attempts to keep “chronos” time. The resurrection story exemplifies how God’s radical and abundant mercy, grace, and love shatter the limits of time and fill these cracked vessels we call humankind with eternal hope and possibility. In the mystery of faith past, present, and future, we experience and live into the endless circle of salvation. So this Easter day, put the lavish liturgy aside for at least a few minutes and make space for something different, something ancient yet timeless. Place yourselves in the upper room with the fearful disciples. Ask what fears bind your community Beatrice Murch cctoday. Then, hear the women and their bold witness to Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

If we do not go and tell our sisters and brothers, how will they see Jesus? How will they experience the Holy One who transcends the limits of our time, sight, and reality if we do not tell the story? We are the witnesses to Christ’s presence in Word, water, wine, and bread. We live in him within his body, the church, and as the epistle lesson reminds us, “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Col 3:4). Isn’t it about time we go and tell so that all may see and know? What better time than Easter to be sent anew as stewards of the Good News?

In Worship
Jesus told the women to “go” and “tell” the disciples so that they would “see” him. How can we practice these instructions once we leave the Easter liturgy? Consider inviting people to look for Jesus moving and breathing in the world during the week. If you have a Facebook page for your congregation, invite worshipers to post brief reflections or images of “God” sightings in this first week post-resurrection. Have a Twitter account? Invite interaction there, too. Come up with a particular hashtag to use for this spiritual practice of looking for God in the world.

With Youth
If you have time with your youth, plant a mystery garden today. Find a flower bed on your church property that needs beautifying. Prepare it in advance and purchase a large variety package of seeds designed to produce throughout the season. Maybe find a butterfly or wildflower mixture. Have the youth sow the seeds today. Consider that great beauty can emerge from seemingly dead and insignificant looking seeds. Reinforce that the seeds of faith were sown in us at our baptism, and others have tended and nourished our faith gardens for many years to this point.

Be sure to arrange for feeding and watering the bed. Take pictures throughout the season of your “resurrection garden.” If you have one, consider putting a cross or other symbol in the garden.

With Children
Because the Easter liturgy is likely to be longer than the usual service, keep the children’s time as concise as possible. One of my favorite ideas is the story of Mary of Magdala’s red egg. You can find it here. Consider using beets or onion skins to dye your eggs. If you use regular egg dyes, give each child an egg in a container. Small, warm hands holding dyed eggs can lead to a messy situation–especially where white or pastel colored clothes are involved. This story of faith is a nice counterpart to all the candy eggs and commercial hype surrounding Easter.

Another idea is to have two women dress as Mary Magdala and the “other” Mary to come and share Matthew’s gospel account as “eye-witnesses.” They can hastily depart to Galilee to share the news with the disciples, challenging the children to go and tell, too.

Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
The story of Easter is the bedrock of our faith, yet too often we fail to take this amazing message with us into the world. This year let’s follow the example of the women who experienced the empty tomb and be good stewards of this life-changing message. Don’t leave the Easter message in the pew. This week let’s go and tell the world about Jesus and how your life is changed because of him.

Stewardship at Home
The 50 days of Easter is a great season to look for signs of resurrection all around us. Use a calendar or make a chart and spend five or ten minutes each day reporting on and recording where you saw God at work in the world. In what person did you see the face of Christ? Share where and/or how you experienced new growth or fresh hope. Pray daily for open eyes, hands, and hearts to see Christ at work in the world. Don’t be surprised when God responds with new vision and perhaps even opportunities to share your faith and experiences with others.

Photos: TED, Mary Constance, and Beatrice Murch, Creative Commons. Thanks!

Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2017, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: thewritelife@hotmail.com.

 

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