Our worship service for Easter 2021 will be virtual on Sunday, April 4 at 11:00 AM EDT. Please join us!
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Meeting ID: 920 44
This day we hear from Isaiah, Hebrews, and the Gospel of Mark. In this Easter Sunday gospel reading, may we remember focusing our worship on Christ. As we walk the path with Jesus on Easter Sunday, we join crowds of pilgrims from millennia before preparing for festivals remembering God’s salvation.
Having celebrated the angel’s announcement for over two millennia, we Christians struggle to appreciate the disorientation and panic of this moment. Even if we had heard Jesus’ own prophecies about his suffering and resurrection, would our stepping into his empty tomb, and hearing this announcement from a mysterious figure, automatically bring everything into clear perspective?
"When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here."
Readings and Psalm
If anything, belief in Jesus’ resurrection should get us to see things differently. Based on what he says in Acts 10:34-43, what does Peter, a chosen witness to Jesus’ resurrection (verses 40-41), see differently? What does his proclamation challenge us believers in Jesus’ resurrection to see differently? At Easter, Christians celebrate Jesus’ all-encompassing lordship and the new life and salvation offered to all through the resurrection. Preachers might prod the congregation to consider whether their affirmation of the same faith claim encapsulated in Acts 10:34-43 leads them to think differently. Does it make a real impact—as it did for Peter—on how we relate to others, including those who belong to different ethnic, socio-economic, political, or even religious groups? If so, do we relate to them in ways that are as life-affirming for them as we claim Jesus’ resurrection is life-affirming for us and for the world at large? Does our faith affect how we relate to power structures in our society?
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Perhaps the most vexing question about Psalm 118 is, who is the individual who speaks? Whose voice recalls past trouble and celebrates God’s salvation? Specifically, who professes “the lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation” (verse 14), declares “I shall not die, but I shall live” (verse 17), and says “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (verse 21)? Some scholars believe the king of Judah was the original voice who prayed in Psalm 118. The psalm does not identify the speaker, however, and that leaves the psalm open to interpretation and to apply its words to new situations. The early church naturally connected the psalms prayer and claims of faith to the resurrected Jesus. The messianic reading drew from numerous part of the psalm.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
In many ways 1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s closing argument for this letter. After a series of reminders of his previous teachings and addressing various issues that had arisen in the community, here, Paul reminds them of the what is “first importance.” If Paul is indeed saving the most important topic for the end his letter, then he is ensuring that the community has a complete understanding of his most basic teaching, the gospel or the good news. To hear this message on Easter Sunday is to bear witness to God’s resurrection power; Christ was dead but now he is arisen. He lives! While we wait for what shall be (the resurrection), we must live in what is (death). However, we do so with the knowledge and fully convinced of what the future holds. It is our faith that gives us sight beyond what we can physically see.
The Sabbath now complete, three of Jesus’ women disciples approach his tomb with the intention of anointing his body (in deference to certain Jewish funerary customs). With this final act of devotion, they will close the curtain on a once promising but now tragic story. Only the curtain will not close. The women discover the tomb not only already open but empty —or rather occupied by the wrong figure. The ending of Mark thus leaves us in a paradox. It invites us to break the silence with proclamation, and to redirect our flight instinct to a ministry of human healing. But it also makes clear that, without the sustaining and empowering presence of Jesus himself, we will never make it back to Galilee. After all, this has never been our story to finish. This has always been God’s story. It is Jesus’ story. Mark may have composed a Gospel with a surprisingly open ending, but Jesus is the steadfast one who pulls us into that opening.
Compiled by Deacon in Waiting Stephen using https://www.workingpreacher.org/