My God, Your God/My Father, Your Father

Message – My God/Your God 04.04.21

Possibly two of the most holy moments that any human can experience is to watch a human life come into this world and to witness a human life leave this world.  The birth of a child is exciting but also such an exhausting moment that we miss the holiness.  Then at death, we can be  so consumed by the misery and grief that we fail to notice the holiness of the moment.  However, they are both still holy, holy does not evaporate when we miss it, it just wraps its arms around us and carries us through the exhaustion and grief.

I have come to the conclusion that we seldom grasp  these holy moment for ourself because we are exhausted, we are miserable, we are relieved, we are overwhelmed, we are fearful, we are jubilant, we are distracted – none of these are necessarily bad things, it is just our reality. I have begun intentionally noticing holy in these moments, as I have attended funerals of the parents of old friends, or in the occasions when I am conducting the memorial and being invited into the holiness as I meet with the family or accompany them to see body of the loved one just minutes before the service. I have begun to recognize the holy in the comments made at their first time to see the body since preparation, dressing, and make up.  ‘He looks so peaceful,’or, ‘She loved this dress, she really looks good in it, definitely her colors.’  I think years ago these just seemed to be hollow words meant to hide the pain of the loss, now however, I have begun to recognize the genuine place the words come from.  I get to watch as the have these holy moments, moments when they get to see this loved one as they remembered, the face that they see when they tell their stories, the face they will always keep in their heart.  It is a holy moment, it is an unprecedented moment when holiness carries them through.

After Jesus was confirmed to be dead, his body was taken down from the cross and carried to a tomb donated by a religious leader named Joseph.   There had been a group of female followers watching the crucifixion of Jesus along with John the disciple, they all witnessed the holy and painful moment from a safe distance. A smaller subset of that group stealthily followed the body to the grave and witnessed the stone rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.  Then an even small subset journeyed to the grave as early as possible after the Sabbath. Among this group was Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most faithful followers and possibly one of Jesus most dedicated devotees. Jesus had delivered Mary from seven demons who had taken up residence within her. She followed not just because she felt she had a debt, she also was a true seeker of truth.  Mary sought understanding in all the words and actions of Jesus. Mary have see the power of Jesus, she had seen the compassion and mercy of Jesus, and she had personally experience his deliverance and rescue in her own life.

Mary didn’t go to the tomb expecting to see Jesus, Mary went to the tomb because that was what needed to be done. She didn’t go seeking another Holy moment. It was so early that the sun was not yet fully above the horizon, identification as a Jesus follower was dangerous, and then there was the issue of the huge stone.  Nobody had any expectations except for the expectations they put on themselves.  All the women wanted to do was give Jesus’ body a proper and respectful anointing and burial preparation. This moment was holy as soon as she made her first step to the cemetery, as she journeyed to do what you do for a body recently buried, especially what you do for a friend that has been hurriedly  laid in the grave. Even though this was a practical and rational, action, it was a holy action, an action of respect, she went to the do the most holy, The entire endeavor was to be done without any acclaim, it was not about them. God’s holiness carried Mary and the others through their fear to the tomb which was opened, and inside as they took the steps to see Jesus. Her journey, her intended common purpose, her diligent and faithful act of respect were holy, to her though, it was just what needed to be done. But, once there, she saw Jesus, he was there, in human form, not dead but alive, a human form that she grabbed ahold of and embraced for as long as possible.  Jesus peeled her hands from his neck and arm, he told her that there was much to be done, she surely shook her head in agreement, she wiped away her tears of joy and waited for Jesus to speak. 

‘“Go and tell the disciples, and tell Peter,” Remembering Peter was huge, after his recent blatant and repeated rejection of Jesus, Peter could have easily been dismissed, but Jesus made a point to make sure everyone knew he was still included, he made an obvious notice that God was still Peter’s Father and he was still  Peter’s God. 

This was the first lesson about resurrection.  Resurrection heals and erases the scars of the pain and the hurt of rejection.  It was forgotten, Jesus had released it in death, there was no trace of it in the heart of the resurrected Jesus. 

“Go and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus said.

Mary began to shiver, a tingling, she surely recognized that Jesus was back on his path, the green light his back was now to the cross and even to the empty grave, now he was continuing on his journey to save the world.  Jesus didn’t need to talk about cross, he didn’t need to explain the theological significance of his resurrection, he just needed back on his path. He didn’t need to say any of that because he knew Mary’s holy moment was going to be communicated to his disciples and followers clear and concise, and strangely, Mary did not need to ask any questions because seeing Jesus was the answer to all her questions. 

As she ripped into the room where the disciples were hiding, she could hardly wait for the door to even close. “I’ve seen him! I’ve seen him! I’ve seen the Lord, I’ve seen Jesus!”

The eyes of the disciples revealed everything, some were opened as wide as could be, some were all wrinkled together, their words expressed a myriad of perspectives.

“She has already been to the tomb? Is it wise to go to the tomb, isn’t it risky?”

“This has all been too much for her, she is being hysterical.”

Still others looked at each other with a hint of hope, “Is it possible? Wouldn’t he have told us this would happen? Wait a minute, did he tell us this would happen?”

May was bent over with her hands supporting her on her knees, she was catching her breath, shaking her head up and down, her actions were affirming this was real, she had seen the resurrected Jesus! 

“Are you sure it was him,?’ One of the disciples surely asked.

The room was abuzz with the chattering of the men gathered before Mary.  As she caught her breath, she said, “Oh, and he told me to tell you that he is ascending to God.” 

Here is the second lesson of the resurrection. A proclamation of seeing is always going to trump the message sent, even the message comes from Jesus.  All she could think to say was to testify that she had seen him, she had seen Jesus. Mary, without  even thinking about it, without any regard to the cultural expectations and restrictions on female, blurted out, “and, YES, it was him, don’t you think I, of all people, would recognize Jesus?!”

Jesus knew that she would proclaim everything in this manner, Jesus understood human nature. Months before, had told the Samaritan woman to “Go, call your husband, and come back.” But she too arrived back in the city and just proclaimed, “Come and see a man who told me everything! This man I have seen.”  Then, after all the city ran out to see Jesus, they proclaimed, “It is no longer because of what she said that we believe, for we have now seen for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” It was a holy moment that could have been missed but it was not because they had now seen.

Seeing and experiencing, changes everything, even in the most mundane of times and activities.  It is in our daily actions, taking the boring steps on our path, that we walk in holy moments.  Moments that change our life, moments that can be a part of Jesus’ path to save the world. Moment where our eyes are open, moments when we see the hand of God.

The cross and the empty grave were now behind Mary and the other followers. Death and Resurrection had been essential detours but now the victory was complete.  The followers were now living in the holy – in the midst of the most unholy.  It was a natural time of fear and chaos, but Jesus was now inviting them all to join him in the pool of peace. There was a lot ahead but it was holy, it didn’t actually seem to be holy and  peaceful, but still Mary could not help but burst into the room yelling “I’ve seen him, he is alive!”

Then there is a third lesson in the resurrection, – Jesus had scars.

This is a most intriguing aspect of Jesus in his resurrected state. This body was no longer the same body that hung on the cross, the body that had been suffocated by the pull of gravity, no  longer did his heart fail to beat nor did his lungs refuse to take a breath.  Now, Jesus embodied what he was meant to be, only now he was in a body that was impervious to the pains inflicted by an unholy world, now in a body that would never again feel the tug of death.  Now his body was perfect, however, he still had the nail prints in this hands and feet, he still bore the scar on his side from the sword that had pierced him.  

Giving Thomas a moment of holiness, Jesus held out his hands for Thomas to see and touch, Jesus carried the scars for the world to know, to know and understand Holy, that he is Holy, that this is God.  See, these scars were not just an earthly manifestation of what he had done, they were eternal scars marking the pivotal moment on the cross and the proof of the moment at the tomb. Scars to carry to be seen by those who were now freed from their own disobedience, cleansing  us of our rejection because we had chosen him, the scars continue to be a invitation to all peoples, to a world to whom were rescued by the same God, the same  Father.

Scars that call us all to recognize and to call upon the God who created all, who loves all, who reaches out to all, who desperately desires to save all. The God who bears our scars. 

Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

I Corinthians 15:20-22

This is Easter, this day, this life, this moment is Holy. May we all recognize this truth today, may we all remember this holiness this week, may we all chose to live in this peace forever. May we also remember the message of the scars engraved into Jesus’ skin, scars that forever remind us of the why, the pain, the release, and the full burden of the cross. 

Today we stand looking up at an empty cross today, we stand outside the empty tomb, today we run with Mary who is exhausted but canot with to tell and proclaim, we stand with Jesus, we experience the holy Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who death could not hold.  Today we stand on hope because of that which will never need to be experienced again. Today is holy, this is Holy, this is our Holy moment.

Let us pray

Presence

 Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together. First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind us together 

Today, we continue looking at that first day after the Sabbath, after the crucifixion –  the day the followers of Christ began to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he would rise again.  That first day – that first day of good overcame evil, that hope was victorious over hopelessness, that peace triumphed over turmoil, that love proved greater than hatred.  It was a huge day.

The day had actually begun long before the women arrived at the tomb, or the men hiding in their room, long before creation, long before chaos, long before pride, long before arrogance, long before insecurity, long before self centeredness – It was a day that began before death.  

Is it possible for us to understand that the resurrection coming before the death – before any death?

It was Jesus who, before his death, said, ‘I AM the resurrection.’

 Regardless of our understanding, the truth is that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen.  The eyewitness were now to see so they can tell. 

First Lesson – Peace

The women took the road from the tomb to go back and tell the men about the empty grave and the angel’s proclamation, then, on the road, Jesus appeared to the women. Jesus told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he told them to have peace not fear, to go on in an unabashed joy.

Then, still on that same day, there were the men. The men could have been on the road to and from the tomb, or on the road to Galilee where Jesus had interacted them to go.  Instead, understandably, they were hiding in the house, but there was plenty of reasons for the men to afraid. 

They were afraid when Jesus appeared in the room, and as he had done with the women, Jesus said, ‘Peace’ – not ‘Fear’ but ‘Peace’.  Peace when their gut instinct said to be afraid, to be ashamed, to be humiliated, to be defeated, to be hopeless.  

Later, in the midst of his doubts, even Thomas was given this word, ‘Peace’.

Now, on that same day, Sunday, Jesus appears again.  And again, he appears on a road – and again he brings peace, actually this time he brought peace in the midst of despair long before the hearers even were aware they were talking to Jesus.  Sometimes, Peace itself can be very aggressive.

On this day, again on a road, we have lesson two – Presence 

A Road

Roads are an interesting thing.  They are an avenue to getting to a place or to getting away from a place.  The prodigal son took a road to reject his father and then to return and be embraced by his father.  Today’s road went from from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which was also the road to Jerusalem from Emmaus. 

On this day, on this road, two men were traveling from Jerusalem, they were heading in the direction of Emmaus.  They were heading in the opposite direction of Jerusalem.  They were walking and talking as they headed south on that road – talking about their sadness, their disillusionment, how their hope was gone, how they felt abandoned, how they thought they understood – and, now how they understood nothing.  

They were talking about the cross, they were talking about Jesus.

These men were followers of Jesus but now felt that everything was over, Jesus was dead.  It didn’t make any sense, they were so sure Jesus was the one they had been looking forward to coming to deliver the people.  They had been convinced he was the promise of blessings, the promise given to Abraham.

Had they been mistaken, or worse, had the promise been broken?

It was here, here on the road, here as the sun grew closer to the horizon, that Jesus appeared on the road. In the midst of this grief laden conversation between these two south bound travelers, Jesus joined their journey and their discussion.  

These two men needed to be on the road with Jesus at this moment, they needed to see Jesus, they needed to experience Jesus’ presence at this moment. 

Everyone that experienced Jesus on this first day needed to have that moment, they needed to be eyewitness – Jesus met them exactly where they needed and in the manner they most needed.

‘What are you talking about?’ Jesus asked.

The two men explained that they were talking about, and despondent by,  everything that had taken place in Jerusalem during the recent days.

They were shocked when Jesus asked them, ‘What has happened in Jerusalem?’

‘Are you the only person on the face of the earth who is actually unaware of what took place last week?’ the two men said in unison, both with looks of shock on their faces.

Jesus stuck with the two as they continued to walk away from Jerusalem.  On the way, Jesus – starting with Moses going through the prophets, explained what had been promised, and prophesied, about the coming Messiah, about himself,  about Jesus.

Seeing

Oddly, the men did not identify their new travel companion as Jesus.  Seeing things we truly need to see is sometimes a challenge.  As he wrote this account, Luke used the greek words that, in our English, are ‘they were kept from seeing.’  A very vague statement that means little to us today, or probably even when he wrote these words.  Were they blind to recognizing Jesus because God confused something in their retina connection to the brain, causing them to not realize they were with Jesus – that God was waiting until they were ready to see and recognize.  Or, maybe it was the men’s grief created by their unrealized hopes and dreams they had attached to Jesus as well as their understandings, and possibly agenda about Jesus’ mission.  Maybe, they were just so caught up in their emotions and anguish, along with forgetting to look for Jesus, that the metaphorical tears made their vision fuzzy.

Regardless of the why and how, the men were talking with, and listening to, Jesus without knowing it.

It must have been somewhat funny to Jesus, funny that they didn’t recognize him even though he had walked with them before.  I wonder if it was exhausting to Jesus that they needed an explanation and clarification of the prophets words.  I am sure it had to be precious to Jesus that they invited him to stay with them and asked him to join them at the table for a meal.

Jesus, whose death was the source of these men’s pain, was alive and with the men, Jesus was present in their grief.  They didn’t even see that he was present as they invited him to stay the night with them, their eyes were still kept from seeing Jesus when they invited him to the table.

Present and Presence at the Table 

If you think about it, there is something very radical about the table.

The table is where you break bread, it is where you pass and receive food, it is where you you sit, sometimes where you feel captive, you are possibly with another person who lacks table manners, it is where the real and vulnerable ‘you’ often shows up.  It is where we have all shared great conversation and awkward silence, where we have experienced exhilaration and desperation.  You never really know what you are going to experience at the table – it can be a very intimate experience.

The table is a frequent occurrence in the life of Jesus.  It was a a table of 5,000 people, and again at a table of 4,000 people that Jesus first challenged his disciples to care for those people by feeding them.  It was at the table of a despised tax collector where Jesus radically chose to invite himself to sit and a shocking transformation took place.  It was at the table of his closest friends that he was scandalously anointed with a most expensive perfume. It was a short time after this moment with the men on the road that Jesus would again appear to his disciples and ask to sit at their table by asking ‘Is there anything to eat?’  It was at a beach table where Jesus sat waiting on the disciples to haul in their abundant catch and join him to eat – after asking them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal.  It was at a table where he sat with his intimate group of followers for a passover meal just before his arrest and crucifixion.  As they ate at he told them to use this, and future, occasions at the table to remember how he lived, what he taught, and especially what he accomplished for them.

Eat and Remember, Drink and remember.

It would at that last table that Jesus said he would not eat or drink with them again until his purpose and mission was complete.

Now, he sat with these two men, heading away from Jerusalem and Galilee, at their table.  A table at which they had invited him to sit.

As the two men began to recognize the inexplicable unknown abundance at the table, an abundance which was not about food but something much larger, something huge, they began to put aside their grief, fear, and disillusionment.  Without the weight of the pain, the men began to see, soon they realized that the abundance at their table was the presence of Jesus.

Jesus had been present with them all along.

Jesus was, and is, present.  Even when the men could not see him, Jesus was still present.

This was the second lesson- presence.  Jesus taught this lesson on presence while he, himself, was present.

Now, the men took the same road they had walked on before.  Last time they took the road away from Jerusalem, but now that same road was taking them back to Jerusalem.

Ill: Churches insisting on ‘trusting God’ and meeting during virus quarantine endangering everyone that attends and anyone who comes in contacting those individuals. Confusing the Presence with Arrogance.

Closing Story – Personal thinking about presence (on zoom). Being present  to recognize the presence.

Our Call

Look for (His) presence 

Be present

Enjoy presence

Sticking Around

On the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene headed to the grave to anoint the body of Jesus.  She could not get there quick enough; she was beyond grateful for the impact He had made on her life.  He delivered her from demons and the extensive mental and emotional baggage accompanying such a traumatic experience.  He brought peace to a life that had been consistently and constantly at war.  He restored joy and hope, and brought the stability to face the struggles and demons that life would throw at her.  Jesus had delivered Mary, and she was beyond grateful. She was committed.

She arrived at the tomb determined to see Jesus and was shocked to find nothing.  The tomb was empty.

While the disciples witnessed the empty grave and headed home, Mary stuck around.  She was not leaving until she saw Jesus.  She kept looking.  Even though the men had left after seeing all they needed to see, or not see, she stuck around.  Peter and John saw that the grave was empty and therefore they believed that the grave was empty.  That was all they thought there was to see and to believe.  The left satisfied, and somewhat amazed, even though they saw nothing.  Mary needed to see something; Mary had a purpose, a mission.  She needed to see Jesus.  Mary stuck around.

Although he did not realize this truth, John needed to see Jesus.  Jesus had become his closest friend.  Peter was also unaware of his need to see Jesus.  He desperately needed to experience release and forgiveness for the guilt and shame of his triple denial of Christ.  However, both of these men were satisfied with seeing nothing.  They went home.

Not Mary, she was sticking around.

She remained at the tomb.

Even though Mary had also seen nothing, and all hope seemed to be gone, she stuck around.

Eventually Mary saw two angels.  Then she saw Jesus. She didn’t recognize him until he said her name, then she saw what she came to see.  She knew that voice due to the fact that she had been a constant seeker of that voice.  She had experienced the full scope of what it meant to depend upon and know Jesus.  She knew that this was Jesus.  She grabbed hold of him and was not about to let go.

She was sticking around.

Later, when the men finally saw Jesus, He told them to stick around.  To wait until God sent their needed helper, the Holy Spirit.

This time they stuck around.

Paying Attention,

Rick