Easter Reflection 2021

by Sharon Marr

(Based on Mark 16:1-8)

With grateful thanks for excerpts from Debie Thomas – Journey with Jesus: Slow Easter.  I strongly recommend her wonderful sermon is read in its entirety.  

Friday’s gone and Sunday’s a-come! There is no greater story of God’s power and love than the story of Easter.   In this morning’s very exciting gospel reading, we find the three women disciples fleeing from the tomb in terror and amazement … The tomb was empty. 

Sometime in the predawn hours of a Sunday morning, two thousand years ago, a great mystery transpired in secret.  No sunlight illuminated the event.  No human being witnessed it.  And even now, centuries later, no human narrative can contain it.  The resurrection exceeds all of our attempts to pin it down, because it’s a mystery known only to God.

Whatever the raising was and is, its fullness lies in holy darkness, shielded from our eyes.  All we can know is that somehow, in an ancient tomb on a starry night, God worked in secret to bring life out of death.  Somehow, from the heart of loss and misery, God enacted salvation …. and thank goodness the truth of the resurrection doesn’t depend on us flailing human beings.  It doesn’t matter one bit if we believe on the spot or not.  The tomb is empty!  Death is vanquished.  Jesus lives.   We are not in charge of Easter: God is.  Sunday’s a-come!

We know from the four Gospels that the frightened silence of the women on Easter morning eventually gave way to proclamation.  Their alarm subsided, their courage deepened, their trauma healed, and their amazement grew. They learned how to choose hope.  They learned how to make the story their own, and as they did, the story blossomed and grew.  Joy came.  Faith came.  Peace came.  Love came.  And slowly, the glorious truth of a conquered grave and a risen Messiah made its way from their emboldened lips to every corner of the world.  The story didn’t depend on them.  But it changed them, and as they changed, the world around them changed, too.

God has, from all eternity, loved us so much he sent his son Jesus the Christ that we might have life.  We are anchored in that love; changed by that love. It does not protect us from harm, or from hard decisions, or from emotional ups and downs and profound grief, or anger at the pain of the world, or the frightening presence of Covid 19 . It simply assures us that there is … finally … no contest between God’s love, and the forces that bring loss of unity and turmoil, in the world and in the human spirit.

And that is the Good News for today: God’s great story. Easter love doesn’t end in defeat, sorrow or loss … or an empty tomb. It is full of hope, love and joy!  Christ is risen, the grave is empty, love is eternal, and death’s defeat is sure. Alleluia! Christ is risen.  Amen.

Do your own Research

The Coast FM presenter this morning drew me in when he announced he had done some research on Easter.  Oh, yes? I thought, let’s hear what you’ve discovered …
“Easter egg sales this year … ,” he began, and I thought, Oh, no.  Really?  Is that the best you could give us?  Easter research for you is about Easter eggs?

Josh McDowell was a law student who considered himself an agnostic, and who believed that Christianity was worthless.  He challenged some Christians on campus; they in turn challenged him – to make rigorous, intellectual examinations of the claims of Jesus Christ.  And McDowell decided to do a research paper that would examine the historical evidence of the Christian faith in order to disprove it. Especially the claimed yet improbable resurrection.
“Either a great fact of history, or a great lie forced upon us,” he has since written.  “There’s no in-between.  You want to refute Christianity?  Refute the resurrection!  Not many things in life come down to one thing for its proof …  The principles for evidence used [against] Christ’s resurrection are the same ‘laws of legal evidence’ that Courts of Justice use.”
Instead, McDowell found evidence for the resurrection, not against it, and converted to Christianity.  He has since written numerous books, including Evidence That Demands a Verdict and The Resurrection Factor.  Begin researching them for yourself at https://www.josh.org/.

Lee Strobel received a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law from Yale Law School, before becoming a journalist for the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers for a number of years.
Strobel was an atheist when he began investigating the biblical claims about Christ (after his wife’s conversion).   With his training as a newspaper legal-affairs reporter, he spent nearly two years investigating the claims, concluding that it boiled down to one central question: Did Jesus, or did He not, return from the dead?  His resulting book The Case for Christ summarizes his research, through to his conclusion that the case for was irrefutable.  [Strobel’s personal experience while encountering various scholars and their beliefs was portrayed in a 2017 drama film of the same name.]

He concluded, “If this stuff is true, it has huge implications for my life.”
Further, “I realized it would take more faith for me to remain an atheist than to become a Christian … To be an atheist I would have to swim upstream against this torrent of evidence pointing toward the truth of Jesus Christ. And I couldn’t do that. I was trained … to respond to truth.”
Begin researching the issue for yourself at https://leestrobel.com/about.

Do your own research.  Not into easter bunnies and eggs and chocolate.  That’s not the essence of Easter.  Now, as we approach the ‘festival’, it’s as good a time as ever.
Channelling Strobel once more, “If God says He loves you, check it out … if you don’t yet believe in God, that is perfectly ok, as long as you check it out. You owe it to yourself to investigate the evidence.” 

Ken F

An Expanding, Inclusive Love

by Liz Young

(Based on John 12:20-33)

Today we celebrate Passion Sunday, and I want to discuss with you the reading from John 12, which starts with some Greeks asking Philip if they can see Jesus. A writing that is a symbol that Jesus’s message is for all of us, Jew and Gentile alike. They asked to see Jesus, and he greeted them with the words, “Now is the hour, now the moment has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

[The words of the hymns today remind us of what He gave us and why we glorify Him, honouring peace, valuing and practising self-sacrificing Love, and sharing joy.]

The words “the hour has come” emphasize that in this particular moment God has intervened to bring justice to the world. The parable of the seed falling to the ground and dying has been interpreted that the seed can only be transformed into a plant if it dies, and changes its form. We can only be transformed if we follow the teachings of Jesus whole heartedly:  if we do, we grow to love Him. The states of receiving and giving Love change over our lifetimes. A mother nurtures a baby with love, only to be able to let them go; she has to let her child achieve independence, by making their own mistakes along the way. Making mistakes is sometimes the only way we learn. Think what you’ve learnt from your mistakes (when you’ve stopped blaming yourself for them), when you’ve accepted God’s forgiveness; and having cleared out emotional self-blame we can move to repentance and create plans for restitution.

The words “those who love their life, lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” have provoked much thought and discussion. I feel that we can only serve God if we are prepared to relinquish those things that give us immediate gratification and offer instead Love and caring to others.

Jesus then goes on to say, “Now my soul is troubled.” I think that He is confirming he’s human. He is fully aware that he is about to suffer a horrible death, and fearful about his ability to cope; and to continue to love the human race throughout His coming pain and suffering. His knowledge that He will experience despair and feeling that He has been forsaken, even temporarily, from God, confirm to us that He is able to empathize with us when we go through our minor sufferings, because we know that He has experienced pain to a far greater extent Himself.

Permit me to quote from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations (from The Center for Action and Contemplation, cac.org), from this past week, entitled An Expanding Love:

Sunday: Peter himself began to recognize that God works with all people of goodwill—not just people in his group. But he had to be pushed there. Little by little, God leads him to universal love.
Monday: To move beyond our small-minded uniformity, we have to extend ourselves outward, which our egos always find a threat, because it means giving up our separation, superiority, and control.
Tuesday: Love grounds us by creating focus, direction, motivation, even joy—and if we don’t find these things in love, we usually will try to find them in hate.
Wednesday: “The ability to love yourself is intimately related to your capacity to love others. The challenge is creating a life that allows you to fulfil both needs.” Bishop Michael Curry
Thursday: “God has made it clear: if you love me you will work for liberation with the oppressed and marginalized in your midst, and you will share your home and food with those who have none.” Stephanie Spellers
Friday: “Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be ‘wholemakers’ of love in a world of change.” Ilia Delio

Today we appreciate that Jesus made a conscious decision to travel to Jerusalem, knowing what the future held. May we spend the last days of Lent appreciating Jesus’s knowledge of His future suffering, and ask for courage to share our faith with others; and be thankful for all He has given us.  Amen

Gems in the Water

I spent a cold, dark, mosquito-bitten, lonely couple of hours fishing (as opposed to fish-catching) the other night, and as I hauled in yet another empty hook, bereft of catch and bait, I wondered why on earth I was bothering.  I could have been watching The Bachelor.  Just when my line and my patience were tangled beyond hope, the overcast cleared, and not only did the Southern Cross appear, but it was reflected in a flat calm sea, and I saw it mirrored in wondrous symmetry above and below the horizon. 

It struck me that I wasn’t out here for the fish.  I was out here for the spectacle, and it reminded me of the times upon times that I have found myself in grey circumstances, only to see gems most unexpected and fair.

For example … (and obviously, in order to protect the innocent, and the not so much so, I won’t give specific details of time and place) … there was the dreary family 21st.  The MC is trying to encourage us to dance, we who would class dancing as slightly below dental surgery; Stephen (clearly not his real name) clearly came pre-loaded, is talking loudly and insists on swaying into my personal space; Uncle Stan won’t talk to Aunty Margaret or anyone else in her section of the family; cousin twice removed, who hadn’t been invited anyway, is swearing like an online troll; and one would rather be at home (watching the Bachelor) anyway.  (Or even the Chiefs.)  When you find yourself on the outside deck with a paper plate of dry crackers and lettuce stalks, talking to a fellow escapee, who turns out to have a fascinating persona inspired by an inspiring life story.  You find you have much in common with this charming person, who seems to enjoy your sense of humour, and you talk for an hour on enlightening topics punctuated by heady witticisms.

Joy unbounded.  Like stars in the night, reflected on the sea.  Like a bellbird in the back yard tree on a damp autumn afternoon.  Like a $5 petrol voucher at a high-priced petrol station.  Like a melody in the second movement, following a tuneless and cacophonous first movement.  Like a grandchild’s laughter on a day of sad thoughts and memories.  Like a kind word after a cruel rejection from someone else.  Like a smile from a stranger.  Like a … (add, here, your own simile).

Gems are always possible, no matter how grey the setting or the occasion.  Go into these inauspicious occasions with eyes open.  Expect gems.  You’ll find them if you know how to look.  Expect to be disappointed … you will be.  Expect to be surprised by joy … you will be.  Expect to hate the party … you will.  But look expectantly for the overcast to clear and the stars to emerge …

The fish might even come to play.

Ken F