This week we continue the story of the risen Jesus’ appearances to the disciples on Easter Eve and then a week later. This story is found in John 20:24-31. This passage is usually viewed through the lens of ‘doubting Thomas’, but this Sunday we will focus on what it means that the risen Christ still has wounds, and shows them to the disciples. What does it mean that we have a wounded Savior? What does it say about our own wounds and scars?
On the evening of the first Easter, the disciples of Jesus were still afraid. That morning some of them had seen the empty tomb. And Mary Magdalene had told them that she had seen the risen Lord in the garden. But it was not until Jesus appeared to them (see John 20:19-25) that they were able to let go of their fears. Jesus blessed them with the gift of peace and his Holy Spirit. They were able to let go of their fears and “face everything and rise!”
p.s. It is great to be back worshipping in the sanctuary on Sundays. Our attendance was 45 on Palm Sunday (3/28) and 60 on Easter (4/4)
After a year of this pandemic, what a joy it is that we can gather this Easter Sunday for in-person worship in our beautiful sanctuary to celebrate God’s victory over the powers of evil and death. Due to some continuing pandemic health restrictions, it won’t be our typical Easter musical extravaganza. But still we will sing, celebrate, pray and fellowship together, rejoicing in our risen Lord and the new life he brings.
Monday Update: For those of you who weren’t able to be with us in person, here is the video of our Easter service:
Our scripture passage for this Palm Sunday, March 28, is John 12:12-36. This is the gospel of John’s version of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem that we celebrate each year on Palm Sunday. Holy Week begins with cheers that later turn to jeers, arrest and death. Jesus interprets the meaning of these events for us, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit . . . And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (v. 24, 32) The cross of Christ reveals God’s great love for us. May we allow that love to change us.
Our scripture passage for the 5th Sunday of Lent is Matthew 8:18-27. This story addresses our fears when faced by the storms of life. In today’s texts, after responding to two potential followers, Jesus leads his disciples to the “other side” of the lake and into a terrible storm. When they find him sleeping while the storm rages, they wake him up and cry out for help. “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” he asks them before he calms the storm. Jesus is able to calm our storms. Faith is trusting that because Jesus is with us, we need not fear.
p.s. Good News! Now that Contra Costa County is in the covid red tier, we are able to resume in-person, indoor worship on Sunday, March 28.
On this fourth Sunday in Lent, we read the intertwined stories of Jesus healing two “daughters”, one a woman with a physically draining and socially isolating 12 year flow of blood, and the other a 12 year old girl. (Matthew 9:18-26) With their differing social situations, these two women are not in the same boat, but they are in the same storm of illness and mortality. As we emerge from this long pandemic, may we look to Jesus for healing, inspiration and new life.
We continue our Lenten “season of recovery” as we focus on health as essential to our spiritual lives. Today we focus on seeing and hearing clearly, and speaking our truth with courage. In Matthew 9:27-34 we read about three more people who found healing when they came to Jesus – two blind men, and then a man who was demon possessed and mute. These folks came to Jesus with their limitations, abilities, and need, and came away with a story of God’s grace to tell. This pandemic has been hard on most of us, but grievously hard on some. May God grant us relief from such suffering. With declining covid cases and increased vaccinations, we hope to be cleared to resume in-person indoor worship on Palm Sunday, March 28. Stay tuned.
In last week’s healing story, Jesus healed someone from the margins of his culture and society, a leper whose feared disease exiled and isolated him from his social and religious community. In the story that follows in Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus surprisingly heals someone completely outside his Jewish community. He heals the slave of a Roman Centurion, a Gentile officer who commanded a group of 100 soldiers of a feared foreign occupying army. Then Jesus holds up this outsider as an exemplar of faith! And he envisions a day when “many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus intends to heal the divisions that separate us from one another, and from God. Will we get on board with his program?
Our theme for our worship services during Lent this year is Holy Vessels: a Lenten Season of Recovery. Our scripture passages will come from the healing stories found in Matthew, chapters 8-10. The main metaphor for this series is shards of beach glass. “Each of us is created a holy vessel of embodied love. Our sense of wholeness has been shattered. And so this Lent will be a ‘season of recovery’ after the toxicity of the past year. We will witness Jesus’ solidarity with those who suffer, and seek healing practices for body, mind, and spirit, personal and communal, creating beauty from that which feels broken.”
We began our Lenten Season of Recovery last night with an online Ash Wednesday service on the theme “Shattered.” You can view the video of that service below. . This Sunday our theme will be “Treasure” as we ponder Jesus’ healing of a leper in Matthew 8:1—4. “Beach glass begins as something whole and yet discarded. As it is tumbled by the sea, it is broken and polished until it becomes a treasured “mineral gem.” We do not embrace that suffering is necessary or God-given, but that suffering is a part of life. When pain comes and brokenness enters our lives, Jesus reaches out to touch and remind us of the Treasure that we all are–worthy of new life in the midst of hopelessness. In a year when pandemic has wreaked havoc on our world, we begin by affirming our journey to physical health.” May we be open to the healing that Jesus offers us.
This week we end our Epiphany study of The Light that Shines in the Darkness with a vision of the new heaven and the new earth found in the book of Revelation, in chapters 21 and 22. This wondrous vision of the city of God shows God’s intention to bring the divine light and life of heaven down into our world. It gives us a glimpse of our ultimate future and our true home. And this gives us strength and courage for living.