April 17, 2022 – Easter

Prayer of the Day

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Acts 10:34-43

34Peter began to speak to [the people]: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1Give thanks to the Lord, for the | Lord is good;
  God’s mercy en- | dures forever.
2Let Israel | now declare,
  “God’s mercy en- | dures forever.”
14The Lord is my strength | and my song,
  and has become | my salvation.
15Shouts of rejoicing and salvation echo in the tents | of the righteous:
  “The right hand of the | Lord acts valiantly!
16The right hand of the Lord| is exalted!
  The right hand of the | Lord acts valiantly!”
17I shall not | die, but live,
  and declare the works | of the Lord. 
18The Lord indeed pun- | ished me sorely,
  but did not hand me o- | ver to death.
19Open for me the | gates of righteousness;
  I will enter them and give thanks | to the Lord.
20“This is the gate | of the Lord;
  here the righ- | teous may enter.”
21I give thanks to you, for you have | answered me
  and you have become | my salvation. 
22The stone that the build- | ers rejected
  has become the chief | cornerstone.
23By the Lord has | this been done;
  it is marvelous | in our eyes.
24This is the day that the | Lord has made;
  let us rejoice and be | glad in it.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Luke 24:1-12

1On the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The Women at the Tomb – The miniature of the Women at the Tomb introduces the Mass for Easter in the Stammheim Missal, probably 1170s

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The most noticeable thing about the story this morning is that Jesus makes no appearance. To me, this makes the story very relatable to our own experiences. We rely on witnesses and the activity of remembering. How much have we all needed that reminder the last two years, either because of the pandemic or because of all the other losses and grief we have born. When did you need to hear from the witnesses, “He is not here, but has risen”?

The story this morning begins with the obvious. Jesus is dead and his followers assume the he remains dead. The women come to the tomb because that is where they saw the body of Jesus placed after his crucifixion. They bring the spices along to anoint the body of Jesus. They want to show proper respect for the dead. The discovery of the empty tomb does not lead to an easy change of perspective. Instead it brings confusion, not clarity. Bodies that are dead presumably stay dead. The best we can do is to treat them with respect.

We too assume that death is death. The proper response should be to enshrine the dead Jesus in the tomb of memory. We might recall that he was an insightful teacher, a fiery prophet, and a compassionate healer. But he died. So, we might imagine ourselves called to hallow his memory with praise for his legacy. We might think that is enough.

The women receive a word that runs counter to what they know to be true. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” What a thing to hear. What a word. What a question. The women at the tomb encounter the resurrection through a message, this message. They are told that Jesus has been raised, but they do not see the risen Jesus himself. What they have is a word, a message.

This is what we have—the word of the resurrection. One would think God would work differently. It would seem so much easier to have the women come to the tomb and watch Jesus walk out into the light of a new day. And it would seem much easier for Jesus simply to appear in dazzling glory to us, who gather on this Easter morning. Like the women on the first Easter, we are all given a message of resurrection, which flies in the face of what we know to be true. We, like them, are also asked to remember.

The only logical response to such a message is unbelief. Experience teaches that death wins. The Easter message says that Jesus lives. When such contradictory claims collide, it only makes sense to continue affirming what we already know. The women bring the message of resurrection to the others, and the hearers respond as thinking people regularly respond. They thought the message was garbage and they did not believe the women.

Unbelief does not mean that people believe nothing. Instead, it means that they believe something else. People say “I don’t believe it” because there is something else that they believe more strongly. But here is where the Easter message begins its work, by challenging our certainties. Experience teaches that death wins and that even the strongest succumb to it. Experience teaches that life is what you make it. The Easter message says, “Really? How can you be so sure?” Death is real. But it is not final. In Jesus, life gets the last word. 

The Easter message calls us from our old belief in death to a new belief in life. The claim that the tomb could not hold Jesus; the idea that the one who died by crucifixion has been raised is so outrageous that it might make you wonder whether it might be true. 

Those of us who gather on Easter morning, I think we must have some wonder in us. What if death is real, but not final? What if Jesus is not merely past but present? What if Jesus were to meet us here? What would life be then?

It is perfectly fine to tell God you believe that death gets the final word. God has heard it before but refused to believe it. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” God wonders. Through the living Jesus I give you the gift of life. Why would you think that I would offer you anything else?”

I find myself longing for signs of resurrection right now. Sometimes it’s with a view of the pandemic, covid deaths, isolation, the toll on mental illness. Sometimes it is in light of what is being called the great resignation but is perhaps more accurately a realignment of life and work for so many. 

Resurrection smells and tastes like gathering again with friends around a meal. Resurrection sounds like laughter and joy in the voice of someone who has just found a new job. Resurrection looks like a smile on someone who is coming out of depression. Resurrection feels like my soul is just a bit more whole and right than it was a year ago. All of that resonates with us this Easter, which is well and good.

And yet, I also know that we witnessed resurrection the last two Easters. I know that God is always bringing life out of death, even when I can’t feel it. God is feeding the hungry in body and soul, making peace between enemies, healing communities, and reconciling people to one another. 

A professor told the story about having the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land with a church group. Her husband told their eldest son about the trip. “Why?” he asked. The husband was a bit confused. His response was, “Well, you know, Jesus.” The teacher has long recalled her son’s response because she is sure he understood the angels’ admonition. He told his father, “Tell her he’s not there.”

Jesus is not there; he is risen. He has burst the bonds of time and space, yet we continue to focus on the unexplainable empty tomb, looking for him among the dead. The tale of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection can seem like an idle tale. It is the story of a “king” born in a stable, an innocent man arrested and executed, and a tomb that is empty, astounding from beginning to end. He is not there—he is risen. 

Yesterday morning at a the 4T Sports Bar in downtown Nampa, I presided at a memorial service for a 45-year-old Zimbabwean man who died of a lung infection in June 2021. Eric had come to the United States first in 2001 to study at Idaho State University. He had been baptized Lutheran in Zimbabwe and so his two sisters had asked his ex-wife, arranging the memorial from the Tri-cities, to find a Lutheran minister. The low covid numbers finally allowed the sisters to make the journey from Africa for this memorial. Also gathered with us were four of Eric’s friends and co-workers, all also originally from Zimbabwe. They attended ISU together and then worked for Simplot. There we were, the ex-wife, the teenage son, the two sisters, and the groups of friends. Each friend talked about Eric, and they all said that he was the glue who had held them together. They were all a bit lost, and their friendship was floundering. But they each named, in that space, their commitment to one another, to deep friendship, to love in action. 

Could all of that have happened outside of a memorial service in which Jesus’ resurrection was simultaneously proclaimed? Of course. The Holy Spirit does not need our prayers, words, rituals. But I for one am grateful to have spaces and times for such gatherings again. The men in dazzling white said, “remember.” It is different to remember has a community than it is to remember on my own, whether we are remembering the life of a friend or relative or the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. 

God is always doing a new thing, every day. For the past two years and on into the future. We who have met the risen Christ are to join the women in telling “all of this” today and every day. Remember. Witness resurrection. Bear witness to the hope that is now ours. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

On this day of resurrection joy, let us offer our prayers for ourselves, our neighbors, and our world.

A brief silence.

Renewing God, the good news of your resurrection changed the world. Give church leaders and all the baptized the same excitement as the women at the tomb, and inspire us to share your abundant life. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Sustaining God, your creation abounds with signs of new life in budding trees and newborn creatures. Provide fertile soil, ample sunlight, and nourishing rain for the growth of plants, and provide farmers with a plentiful harvest. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Sheltering God, strengthen and sustain all who support vulnerable people across the world (especially). Empower government agencies and international organizations that provide for refugees and migrants forced to leave their homelands. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Encouraging God, you do a new thing among us. We pray for those gripped by fear and anxiety or who suffer in any way (especially). Send us as your healing presence to places of hunger, pain, illness, or overwhelming sorrow. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Surprising God, you offer endless ways for us to delight in your grace. Give this community of faith a sense of joy and wonder in exploring new avenues of faith formation, worship, and discipleship. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Resurrecting God, you make us alive in Christ. Thank you for blessing us with faithful witnesses who now rest in you (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We offer to you these petitions and those we carry in our hearts, trusting in your abundant and ever-present mercy.

Amen.

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