Narrative Lectionary Reflection for Easter Sunday, Year Three
Lessons: Luke 24:1-12, Psalm 118:17, 21-24 (or 118:22)
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are sent into the world to tell the Easter story and share the Good News without fear or worry for Jesus is with us.
Key Scripture: But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. – Luke 24:11
Easter is the ultimate festival celebration of Christianity. We pull out all the stops on this day. From triumphant music (horns, organ swell, and enough “alleluias” to make up for all of Lent) and sufficient flowers to open a floral outlet to inspired preaching (hopefully!) and Holy Eucharist, our worship on this day is truly fit for the King of Kings. We reason that this day may be our best opportunity to share the Good News and encourage those who rarely come through the church doors to come back often. Easter is a bold and optimistic day.
This day is a vitally important one in the life of the church–a fact few would dispute. Yet, I wonder how it really plays in the lives of those not connected to a faith community. The commercial marketplace co-opts the holiday, just like Christmas, to sell chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, and Easter ham, basically anything to fill a cheap basket and increase sales of consumable goods. Is it just another holiday rather than a Holy Day?
Like the women at the tomb, the faithful gather to experience the story afresh, but the wider community often offers resistance to our “idle tale.” Folks have trouble truly believing a resurrection story. After all, when you’re gone you’re gone, right? Shouldn’t we live for the present day and be rational about life? Isn’t religion simply “the opium of the people” ala Karl Marx?
Of course the answer to this, at least from the Christian perspective, is a resounding “NO,” but how can we convince ourselves so that we can show others that Jesus lives and is active in the world? Sometimes I feel like our houses of worship might be better likened to the empty tomb. We invite people in to “see Jesus” when Jesus has already left the building for ministry in the world. Yes, Jesus is present whenever two or more gather in his name, whenever wine is poured and bread is broken, and in the waters of baptism, but Jesus doesn’t hang out in our hallowed human shrines 24/7.
Take a look at the account in Luke’s gospel again. The women go expecting to find the corpse of their beloved teacher. Instead they find two guys in dazzling get-ups, and they are understandably terrified and fall on their faces. The strange men ask “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He’s not here. He is risen.” The disciples don’t believe their story, considering it an “idle tale.” Only Peter goes to check things out.
How often do we discount the faith stories of others, particularly those whom we do not consider to be reliable witnesses? Like those first disciples, what might we be missing in the process? Jesus has this thing about hanging out with and appearing to the marginalized and powerless, those proper folk deem unreliable. Is it any wonder that the world outside our church doors may consider us to be unreliable witnesses to such an audacious and hopeful story? Is it possible that we allow our Christianity to obscure Christ?
Funny thing about this Easter story—the point is to go and share the story. It’s about faithfully stewarding the Good News of Jesus to a world that desperately needs to hear it. Sure folks may not believe it at first, but some will come to see and experience Jesus for themselves. The two dazzling men at the tomb don’t instruct the women to go back and create members or giving units in the congregation. There is nothing in this passage about who can be included and who should be excluded. This Easter message of triumph over sin and death is for everyone.
How will they know unless we believe? How will they respond unless we tell and invite? How will the world see and experience the risen Christ unless we, through the witness of our lives and our corporate life together, are His presence in the world?
The tomb is empty! Go and tell the world that Jesus Christ is risen and has left the building. Go and be the hands and feet of Jesus to your neighbor. Look around you. This is no idle tale. Jesus is at work in the ministries of your congregation through the hands of hopeful, helpful people. The Spirit’s breathe is equipping new generations of leaders. God is calling us to new vision and new ways of being church. You don’t have to look far to see God in action, but you should look in places where you might not expect to experience the holy. When you start to really look around, you might be surprised at what you see. Share the wonder, the grace, and the love–here, there, and everywhere. This is indeed amazing news!
How can you help people “think outside the box” about looking for Jesus beyond the empty tomb? Maybe you pull out a pair of movie theatre 3-D glasses or some of those comic lenses that distort the look of your eyes. Remind folks that maybe we need to use some different lenses in order to see the holy movement of God in the world.
We also need to stop looking for the living among the dead things of this world, be they decaying traditions, tiresome exclusions, or worn excuses. Jesus is risen! Jesus lives and is active in this world. Invite people to consider how they can go forth to share this Good News, not worrying about how they will be received but rather trusting that Jesus is ahead of them, paving the way and saving all of creation.
How do youth experience the Easter story? Do they believe it? Does the world’s view of an “idle tale” make faith falter? Can they embrace the wonder and mystery of resurrection? Consider showing this short video (about four minutes) from Rob Bell entitled “Resurrection.” Click here to watch it on Vimeo. You’ll find a lot of food for thought and discussion in Bell’s words and presentation.
During Lent many congregations collect and “bury” the “Alleluias,” storing them in a special box. On Easter Sunday, it is time to let the “alleluias’ out of the box and celebrate their return. Today have your children’s time as close to the beginning of the service as possible. Give each child a small flag on which “Alleluia” is printed (or have them write the word themselves and color their own flag if there is time before the worship service). Challenge the children to listen for the word “Alleluia” in worship today and wave their flags whenever they hear it.
Remind them that we don’t leave our “Alleluias” in the church building. Today we take them out into the world to celebrate Jesus and all that he has done. Encourage them to be part of the recessional waving their flags for all to see. Finish with a simple prayer that encourages the children to respond to each petition with “Alleluia! Thank you, Jesus!”
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
What does Easter have to do with stewardship? Plenty! The women who witnessed to Jesus’ resurrection faithfully stewarded the good news about Jesus that they had experienced, telling it to the other disciples and apostles. Even though their witness was perceived by most folks as an “idle tale,” Peter went to check the story out and was amazed. We never know what fruit will flourish from the seeds of faith we sow, so go and tell the world what Jesus has done for you.
Stewardship at Home
It’s always good to grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables—to participate in the ongoing work of creation and the stewarding of God’s good earth. This Easter, gather some small clay pots, decorate them with Easter themes, and plant flower bulbs or vegetable seeds. Spend some time marveling at how the seemingly dead seed or bulb will soon bring forth new life that will yield beautiful and/or edible “fruit.” Give thanks to God for the gift of creation, for the plants that grow and provide food, and for the flowers that brighten our lives with their natural beauty.
Photos: Britt-Selvitelle, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.