Learning time for Easter Sunday, 2022

Audio File for the Learning Time. The video of the whole service, including the baptism, will be posted here as it becomes available.

video of worship service

Matthew 28:1-10

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

 The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

Learning Time: “In the light of day”

Isla is a beautiful, and beloved embodiment of new life, which is what we celebrate here today, on Easter morning. It is good we have blessed her and baptized her and welcomed her into this community of faith. It is good we have promised to continue to be a community of faith, and to offer her mom and dad, and her family our prayerful support.

Emily and Josh have so much ahead of them, and my sense is that they are both wise enough to know that they do not undertake this great loving work, the raising of a child, on their own. They need help, and they have it.

They have promised to raise their daughter in a faithful way, and we have promised to help them as we can.

I am speaking now especially to the members and leaders of this church. We cannot take lightly our promise to be there for this young family. They need us to be here, doing what we do, ready to help them as they do what they need to do.

Our world needs faith communities. Our world needs us to keep the faith alive.

Isla, thank God, doesn’t yet know yet, what we know, that life can be hard. She doesn’t yet know about mean people, or pandemics, or the invasion of Ukraine. She doesn’t yet know how complicated life is, or how it feels to face all the mysteries, all the challenges, all the scary parts.

Isla has good people in her life, to shelter and love her, and insulate her from the perils.

There are children born into this world, who do not have what Isla has. There are children who learn, at far too early an age, to be afraid, and to expect mostly terrible things from life.  There are little ones who do not have reliable, faithful, big people in their lives.

There are children born in situations, and places, where it is hard to have faith that life can be good, and that love is real. It is truly a miracle that children born into these situations survive to grow up. It can be so hard for them to develop faith and trust in life, because of what they have seen, and experienced, and been taught.

For many of these kids, born into difficulty, it may not be until they leave the place of hardship and find a safe and reliable community, that they will learn to trust that life is not all bad.

Isla has so much ahead of her. I hope and pray she falls in love with life, and has many good people in her life, and excessive amounts of joy. I pray this, and I also know that it won’t all be like that. I hope for Isla, as I hope for my own kids, now grown and busy in the world, that life is mostly about joy and happiness, and love.

As Isla connects with people, grows to know and love them, she will experience the hard parts of life. Things will not always go well. People will let her down. People she trusts and adores will die.

Isla will, one day, reach the stage of life at which it registers with her that nothing, not even the best things of this world last forever. She will have to find her way to come to terms with life in all its dimensions, including death.

As a parent, I have felt such a deep desire to shield my kids from having to know about the hard stuff. I have also felt the desire to equip them to navigate the mysteries of life and death.

I have wanted my children to have faith, and I have also recognized there is only so much a parent can do to nurture their kids faith. Kids also have to see it in other people.

The parents in this room know kids get the good lessons in life not only from us, but from other reliable folks.

We’ve heard the phrase “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”. It’s an Igbo and Yoruba proverb that speaks to the value, the necessity, and the responsibility of community.

I am grateful my daughter and son grew up with access to a community of faith, and have each developed a spiritually based view of life, that serves them in times of joy, and in times of sadness.

This morning we heard Matthew’s version of the story of the first Easter. Another day I will talk about how each Gospel writer puts their own spin on the tale.

Two women, both named Mary went to the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed. They left their dwellings before the sun was up, to keep vigil.

One of these women was Mary Magdalene. The other Mary might be Martha and Lazarus’ sister, the one who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious perfume, after washing his feet with her tears, and drying them with her hair. That tells you about the intimacy, the closeness they felt to Jesus.

These women are often described as having come from the wrong side of town. They were not respectable women. In Jesus’ time, respectable women stayed home and took care of things for their husband, or father, or their brother. They didn’t venture out in the dark, on their own.

Mary and Mary were part of Jesus’ inner circle. They were probably disciples, although the men who wrote down the stories hesitated to spell that out.

We can only imagine the hardships, indignities, discrimination and abuse these women suffered, that made it hard for them to love life. But they met Jesus, and had, when they were with him, experiences of love, of being valued, respected, known.

They found, when they were with Jesus, hearing his words, seeing him in action, just sitting in his presence, that they were part of something bigger. They were aware of the presence, and the source of all the goodness and love in the universe. They felt close to and connected to God.

How devastating it must have been for them to see him die. They were losing, not only such an amazing friend, but their connection to all that is holy and good.

The story says that as the first light of the new week dawned, the Marys kept vigil at the tomb.

“Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

 The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

It’s like a scene from a movie, with all the special effects of an earthquake, blazing lightning, and first an angel, then Jesus himself appearing to the women. Matthew is the only gospel writer who gives us all these spectacular details, and his story was written at least a couple of generations, perhaps as late as 75-100 years after the first Easter. It’s hard to know what he may have heard, and what he added for effect.

We know that Matthew wasn’t there. I think he used words and images to try to describe the indescribable. In defiance of cruelty, and violence, and death, and despite the fact that they had been at the cross, and watched Jesus die, these two Marys had an experience that morning, that re-connected them with all the love, and hope, and possibility they had known with Jesus. They were connected to God, and it renewed their courage and strength.

It wasn’t long before Mary and Mary, and the other followers of Jesus were back out in the world, doing what Jesus had done for them. They taught others about God’s love, showed respect and care for suffering people, and they founded and supported communities in which love was lived out, and the connection to God was felt. They went out and kept the faith alive, as we must. Amen

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