Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
I wonder do we really understand resurrection. Have we in our modern society made it into a movie special effect? Do we really understand the resurrection and its significance? For many it is just wishing away death. But for many is not resurrection a lot more than this? The resurrection is not something that means we suddenly wake up in a new life, it is so much more. It may very well mean that we awake or find ourselves in our real life, in our real existence.
Does Jesus resurrection not change the whole way to look at our brief lives. As I have watched both of my mother and now my greatly beloved Mother in Law slip away, I certainly have been focused on death and dying. But in the middle of that focus Jesus actions take on all new meanings.
Christmas is about joy and anticipation. It is a lot of joy all wrapped up in stress. But Easter is totally different. It is sudden loss wrapped up in joy. Easter is seeing beyond the pettiness and limited aspects of this life and seeing beyond it. It gives us a glimpse of joy as we watch those we love being lowered into the ground or cremated and turned to ashes. Easter changes life so much that we often are afraid to think about what it really means.
Now it was the first day of the week. This first line in what we now know as the Easter story places it in another time, another culture, and another religion. Sabbath was still Saturday. It had not become the Christian Sabbath yet. The women who went to the tomb were Jews. They were observing Jewish customs. Not only were they being Jewish, in a Jewish calendar, they were experiencing the absolute transition of these days. Sunday would be different once the full magnitude of what was happening was realized. The calendar would shift, as the earth shifted, as the stone rolled away. Setting the scene helps preaching this text. "Dawn." "Right before First Light." "Early." "An Ordinary Day" "Two women."
The two women feature of the story will want special attention this year in the time of the runaway best seller "The Da Vinci Code " and this was when a fictionalized Mary Magdalene showed up on the cover of Newsweek and Time. How do we show that less was "hidden" about the sacred feminine than we think? We point out that in the key moments of Jesus' life - his birth, his death and the first communion - that a Mary was present. We don't have to go too deeply down the hidden line on Easter! Instead, we can show the mighty trust of God in women as they stand at the empty tomb. The Mary’s show us the way not in terms of a fantasy called the sacred feminine but in terms of ordinary people seeing clearly the truth of God’s power in our lives.
Luke gives us the story slowly: "…the first day of the week." It was also a special time of day. It was dawn. If resurrection has a favorite time of day, surely it is dawn. We rise. Of course, our discovery of resurrection happens at dawn. But then what?
The sun rises. Things are light after great dark. Indeed, the women arrive at early dawn, in that threshold time where night evaporates to allow day to arrive. These very common matters, of dawn and calendar and custom, all set a very common scene for the Resurrection. We are not at a great festival. We are not on a great holiday. We are not in the land of miracles so much as we are in the land of ordinary time and ordinary experience. Even night people respond positively to dawn: it is a time of great beauty. The preacher does well to evoke its pinkness.
The women have brought ordinary spices in an ordinary dawn on an ordinary day to anoint and touch an extraordinary body. They knew how "special" Jesus was and is. They were aware. Still their awareness of the extraordinary death of an extraordinary man did not penetrate the commonplace nature of their visit. They arrived at the earliest opportunity. They brought the kind of spices that women - who then served as undertakers and midwives - used when they pursue their role of being first at the cradle and last at the grave. Women do these "folk" things in the time before professionalism. They do them together. They don't pay for these services; they perform these services. While the preacher will want to preach to the women exclusively, there is nothing wrong with taking their presence as a sign from God about the excluded and the neglected. The outsiders handle the big news. God is magnificent for many reasons, including this persistent raising up of the lowly and the low parts of each of us.
All these elements create a kind of calm in the dramatic scene. Ordinary time, ordinary custom, ordinary people - all this calm and commonplace is changed when the women get to the tomb and find the stone rolled away. In ordinary dawns stones don't roll away from tombs. That doesn't happen. In the Jewish religion it doesn't happen either. Deepening the sense of calm is very important as parishioners come to the tomb themselves. It is simultaneously quiet and terrifying at the dawn's tomb.
Before they had a chance to be truly perplexed by what had happened with the stone, before they fully marked that the tomb they entered was empty and that they would not need their spices, two men appeared. They were dressed in dazzling clothes. Before joy had a chance to arrive, fear took over. The women were "terrified." They assumed a non-violent posture they bowed to the ground. Then the men spoke to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" The women could have answered wryly, "We were looking for the dead in the place of the dead, namely a tomb!" Humor is hard to achieve on Easter, especially with that joke ringing in our ear, "What did you expect, the Easter bunny?" But evoking what the women must have felt when the men questioned their integrity is important. It draws dramatic attention to the story.
The men in dazzling clothes tell the women that Jesus has risen. The resurrection is presented as though it were always calmly plotted and always assumed. The men act as though the women should not be surprised, even though their calm and commonplace world has just experienced an earthquake. The men then teach the women the prophecies that he would be handed over, that he would be crucified and that he would rise. It is possible that the women knew all these prophesies but unlikely. They couldn't have been that common place. Still the women say their memories have been activated and return to the 11 and to all the rest. There is a journey and some movement here that can be evoked in the sermon.
Why only 11? Why not 12? Why all the rest? We won't be privileged to know. That the women return to unnamed disciples and that the women are named is an interesting sideline of the story. They women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James. This combination of specificity and lack of specificity is interesting. Real people join a crowd of people in hearing the first news of Jesus'' resurrection. Verse 11 sums it up: "These words seemed to be an idle tale, and they did not believe them." We should not be surprised. This tension between belief and experience and disbelief and lack of experience is also central to our contemporary experience of the resurrection. We are not the women! We are the 11.
To conclude this version of the story, Peter is sent to confirm. He gets up, goes to the tomb, stoops and looks in, sees the linen cloths by themselves. He returns home, amazed at what had happened. OR was he just amazed at what he had seen?
The story goes from terror to amazement, through the calm and common to the uncommon, involves the crowd in different roles. The women lead the way. The story is best preached as a page-turner, a thriller, a mystery.
There are two possible intertwining themes for this Easter Sunday. One is to start to contrast Christmas with Easter. That is a good way to show how special Easter is for each Christian. We are fortunate in many ways that the secular world has not stolen this holiday and turned it into something else. Christmas tends to be hidden behind too much tinsel, but Easter is very much a Christian holiday.
The second theme is about the sudden realization of the power of resurrection by the women of the story. The disciples all men followed Jesus around. They and his other male followers got to be taught while Jesus was with us. But God was plotting a resurrection all the time and that resurrection was being taught first to the women in Jesus’ life. The power of resurrection was taught to us by the women surrounding Jesus. Women led the way. The biggest moment in theological history was led by women.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
As we prepare our hearts for worship during Passion Week, may we consider the profound differences between celebrating Christmas and celebrating Easter.
With his incarnation, we proclaim the good news to all people that a Savior is born.
With his crucifixion, we confess the sobering truth that God’s Messiah died as payment for our sins.
The cast of his birth includes joyful parents, obedient wise men, a cruel king, as well as astounded shepherds looking down at a newborn babe.
The cast of his death includes a grieving mother, a disobedient assembly of wise men, a cruel governor, and an astounded centurion looking up at the crucified Christ.
At his birth, he leaves the splendor of heaven by himself to be delivered as a newborn.
At his death, he experiences the horror of hell to deliver everyone who receives him from their sins.
Christmas crescendos on that holy night in Bethlehem when Christ is born in a stable manger.
Easter erupts with an earthquake at dawn on the first day of the week in a garden tomb.
While Christmas is a gift from the heart of a loving father,
Easter is a ransom required by our rebellious hearts.
“Consider the wonder of it: God determined that he would rather go to hell on our behalf than live in heaven without us. He so much wants us not to go to hell that he paid a horrible price on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to.” (http://blog.discoverworship.com/articles/blog/view/279/the-difference-between-easter-and-christmas)
Easter is such a different holiday than Christmas – not only because of its general sense but also because of way of spending it and over it by people. It seems that Easter isn’t so popular like Christmas even if it shouldn’t be like this, because – for Christians – Easter is almost more important. We can observe this almost everywhere. When Christmas is coming windows display shining fairy lights, everywhere we see Christmas trees and Santa Clauses in galleries, asking children about their dream presents. Xmas has got some kind of commercial symbols, not only those obvious like gingerbreads, Santa Claus, Christmas tree etc., but also something like the song ‘Last Christmas’ or the advertisement of Coca-Cola… actually… trucks with Coca-Cola. Or the movie ‘Home alone’! Even if all of this is so trite it’s still some kind of symbol.
And Easter…? I’m trying find something like this and I really can’t! Easter bunny – no. Easter eggs – no, it’s obvious. The blessed baskets – no, it’s tradition. Even on TV it’s hard to find something more festive than chicks running through the screen. Great, indeed. Or maybe something with spring? No. Okay, we can associate Easter with spring so everything that grows up in spring – for example catkins – automatically associates with this holiday. But it’s still not like ‘Last Christmas’!.
But – why? Why doesn’t Easter have some commercial symbols? Maybe because Easter goes ahead actually in spring, time of first heats, time of last days in school, so time of hard work, time of thinking about holidays, putting aside money for this… Maybe those are the reasons why Easter isn’t as popular as Christmas? Like my mum said ‘During Christmas, in winter, when days are shorter and evenings come earlier, when we can’t spend our time outside we are almost bludgeon to sit at home, care about the adornment of the Christmas table and other things’. And I think it’s true. Christmas is almost the end of the year, so close to New Year’s Eve. Maybe it’s got any entanglement, too? It’s more winged and, especially, commoner. What do I mean? Christmas is a Christian holiday so, in fact, non-believers shouldn’t attend. Of course it’s not possible to do but it’s got some sense, because all of this is centered in the same time and in some way combines. Seems that in spring we’ve got less time for ourselves and nobody thinks about another holidays, other presents, another build-up can be just too tiring for us and not as important like our daily matters.
I don’t know if I’m right, or these arguments are true but I know one thing – Easter, even if it should be more important, is almost unsung. To boot, also because of reason of this holiday. Death. No, I didn’t forget about the Resurrection. But, in fact, for non-believers this is not attractive, this is not something from which they could make great money or something. Xmas – all right, but not the too serious Easter.
We of course can’t forget about one thing – even if something isn’t so attractive, for us it still is one of the most important things. (https://zssedu.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/differents-between-easter-and-christmas/)
According to Christian theology, the Christmas holiday commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whose teachings form the basis of the Christian faith. Christians didn’t begin celebrating Christ’s birth until the third century A.D., when Roman church officials settled on December 25 (the Bible doesn’t mention the exact date), probably to coincide with already existing pagan winter festivals. Today, Christmas is not the most important Christian holiday—in fact, it ranks fourth after Easter, Pentecost and Epiphany. Yet since the 19th century, when Americans began to celebrate Christmas in the way we think of today—including traditions such as decorating trees, sending holiday cards and giving gifts—it has grown into the biggest commercial holiday of the year and is now celebrated by the vast majority of Americans, Christian or not.
According to the Pew Research Center Survey, which polled 2,001 American adults earlier this month, fully eight out of every 10 non-Christians celebrate Christmas, with most viewing it as a cultural holiday rather than a religious occasion. And while 96 percent of Christians celebrate Christmas, only two-thirds of them view it as a religious holiday. In total, 51 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas see the holiday as religious, while one-third view it as more of a cultural holiday.
Younger adults were much less likely than older adults to view Christmas as a religious occasion, and to incorporate religious elements into their celebration of the holiday. Only 39 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed said they considered Christmas a religious occasion, compared with 66 percent of those 65 and older. Younger adults were also less likely to attend religious services and to believe in the story of the virgin birth. This data is consistent with other recent research showing that young people are helping to drive the rise of the religiously unaffiliated population of the United States, calculated at one-fifth in 2012 (the highest ever in Pew Research polling). At that time, fully one-third of those polled under the age of 30 said they were unaffiliated with any religion.
In an attempt to explore the changing nature of Christmas traditions, the Pew survey also asked its adult participants how they remember celebrating the holiday as children, compared to the way they celebrate it now. A whopping 86 percent said they plan to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, and the same percentage say they plan to give gifts to friends and family. Around nine in 10 adults (91 percent) said these activities were part of their holiday traditions when they were children. According to the survey, eight out of every 10 Americans (79 percent) plan to put up a Christmas tree this year, compared with 92 percent who said they typically put up a Christmas tree when they were children.
Other holiday traditions remembered from childhood didn’t fare as well, however. While 81 percent of those surveyed said their families typically sent holiday cards during their childhoods, only 65 percent said they planned to do so this year. Only 16 percent said they would go caroling (compared with 36 percent who said they caroled during their childhood).
The Pew survey found that religious and non-religious Americans are relatively similar in their celebrations of the Christmas holiday, and that both cultural and religious observers were just as likely to gather with family, exchange gifts and take part in another popular Christmas tradition—Santa Claus. Among those adults surveyed who have a child who believes in Santa Claus, 69 percent said they plan to pretend that Santa visits their house on Christmas Eve this year. Perhaps more surprisingly, 18 percent of parents whose children do not believe in Santa will still pretend to get a visit from the jolly bearded fellow this Christmas, and so will 22 percent of adults who are not parents or guardians of any children. ( Sarah Pruitt https://www.history.com/news/christmas-traditions-past-and-present)
E. B. White found his wife Katherine, in the last year of her life, dressed in her business suit, placing daffodils and tulips gently into the Maine ground in November. She was "calmly plotting the resurrection," according to White. We are in loving hands; there are wise and subtle forces that guide and protect us every moment. Wayne Muller
Most people are worried about the wrong things. Listen to these headlines from the magazines next to my bed,
"Gum Disease: The Silent Killer"
"The Perils of Throw Rugs"
"What you don't know about pate"
"Hepatitis: The Insidious Spread of a Killer Virus"
"If you don't take potassium supplements, you are only fooling yourself."
The reality is that we should worry about our relationship with God and not our relationship with Gum Disease and Hepatitis.
Each creative act leaves you humble. Gabriella Mistral.
"Work from the dream outwards" (Gabriella Mistral)
I have always run along the edges, like a sandpiper, looking for something. Eudora Welty
The most important thing for a writer is freedom from the reader. (Flannery O'Connor)
"Bloom in the noise of the whirlwind. (Eudora Welty)
"All we can control is what we hold in our arms, while we hold it." (Colette)
I hoped as we entered the new millennium for a time of relative peace and cooperation in the global community. Then came September 11, 2001. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center reminded me that suffering and strife are always with us. Things are they way they are. Only an inner resurrection of hope in Christ can give us the serenity to live in such a world.
Easter comes in the spring (at least in the northern hemisphere) for a good reason, just as Passover, to which it is linked. The rebirth of the earth's vegetation, the lengthening of the days, the fragrance of the lilies, the sight of so much green, is more than just a greeting card fantasy. The resurgence of life, against apparently great odds, is inevitable in the cycle of the seasons. When we are tempted toward hopelessness, we need the spring.
I worry best deep at night, when there is nothing to distract me from dark fantasies. I waste a lot of emotional energy spinning out the worst. Then the morning comes, and these ruminations lose their grip, in the face of sunlight, the smell of moisture in the air, the fresh opportunity to do things differently. I guess that's why I'm a morning person.
When the first Lord of the Rings films ends, we think that the great wizard Gandalf the Grey has died fighting a rear-guard action against the monster Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dum. While Frodo and Sam, and the other members of the Ring Fellowship escape to the surface, the wizard stays atop the crumbling Bridge, shouting at the advancing dragon-like creature "You shall not pass!" Locked in mortal combat, the two plummet into the fiery abyss,. But in the second Ring film The Two Towers, Gandalf appears to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, just when they need his aid. However, the wizard is no longer Gandalf the Grey. Attired in a dazzling white robe, he is now Gandalf the White. Having destroyed the underground monster, the wizard has been transformed, resurrection-like (though in the novel the Christian Tolkien does not use this word, choosing "resuscitated" instead) This new Gandalf is even more powerful in the struggle against evil the evil Sauron and his mighty forces.
The preacher who uses or refers to Gruenwald's great Isenheim Crucifixion would do well to bring the congregation's attention to the artist's glorious "Resurrection, originally painted on the back of one of the panels of "The Crucifixion." Amidst a fireball of energy the triumphant Christ bursts forth from his sarcophagus-like tomb as the two Roman guards, unable to endure the light, fall back onto the ground. One of the terror-stricken soldiers has drawn his sword, but it is useless now against the power of the Resurrected One. Holding aloft his hands in what was called the orans, or praying position, Christ displays the stigmata, visible not only in his hands but in his feet and side also. But gone are the ghastly tears and embedded thorns that so marred the rest of his body in the artist's version of the crucifixion. Gone, too, is the humiliating crown of thorns, Christ's head seemingly ablaze in resurrection light. Much of the rest of the painting is enveloped in the darkness of death and the night sky, but around Christ all is light from the great orb of the rising son. A richly colored robe has replaced the shredded loincloth, and his trailing shroud, once a white linen, is changing into the colors of the blue of the sky and the gold of royalty-and thus is fulfilled the words of the ancient prophecy:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.(Isaiah 53:10-12)
The epic film Cold Mountain ends on an Easter Day several years after the conclusion of the Civil War. The film chronicles the two odysseys of two residents of Cold Mountain-a man named Inman and a woman named Ada, separated when the man is conscripted into the Confederate Army. After much killing and being wounded, Inman heeds the plea contained in Ada's letter to "come home to me." He packs his haversack, leaves the military hospital, and heads west out of Richmond toward the mountains. The film, and novel, cut back and forth between the two lovers, each of whom endures countless hardships, all of which changes them a great deal. Indeed, Inman is so worried that he has killed so many people and seen such suffering that he will not be a fit companion for his Ada. When Ada's minister father dies, Ada is a helpless sophisticate with no life-skills until the mountain woman Ruby comes along to live with and teach her the secrets of living by the soil. Inman and Ada cling to their scarcely expressed love-the two had met just a few times before the War separated them-during the dark days of near starvation and bone-chilling winter weather. Inman meets some people who become instruments of grace, saving him from illness and starvation, whereas others, such as Home Guard patrols, would as soon kill him as take him to the authorities for transporting back to the Confederate Army. The two finally meet deep in the mountain forest, but they have but one night to be together. When their hopes and dreams are in effect "crucified," Ada experiences a renewal hope on an Easter Sunday a few years after the War when she, Ruby, Ruby's once estranged father, and a Georgia boy attracted to Ruby sit at table together for their Easter dinner. Spring is coming to the mountains, and Ada has a child that will carry on her beloved's line.
Each of us stands today because in the face of taunts Another whispered "Have Faith!" each of us sings today because in the presence of bad news Another spoke "All Will Be Well!" each of us walks this day, reborn from the tomb of our despair, because Another unbound our hearts and bid us "Rise!" Each of us is here today because Someone didn't believe the lie about us; each of us can touch another today because Someone washed us off when the world had done its worst to us; each of us breathes free today be-cause when terror took away our breath Someone spoke the word "Courage!" to our trembling heart.
The message was sparse: "Magnitude 4.5 - VIRGINIA 2003 December 9 15:56:14 ET 15 mi SE of Columbia, VA…28 mi W from Richmond, VA…104 mi SSW from Washington, DC…" But the event was not sparse. For some twenty seconds the earth shook. Some thought it was an overhead passenger jet, until they realized they were not on a flight path. Some thought a truck had hit their building, until they realized they weren't near a truck route. Some people rushed out of their office building, especially the folks in the Federal Reserve in downtown Richmond and City Hall. Others moved to the center of the room to watch their keepsakes shake. Resurrection is like this: at first we know only that something unique is taking place but as it continues we identify it and then mark all future dates from that point forward.
"The longest road in the world is the road to redemption," states an advertisement for General Motors. While the goal of the advertisement is to sell automobiles, the ad's copy gives us the story of how redemption comes as a fundamental change of direction plus learning to make new choices as one travels the road to redemption. Here's the rest of their story: "Ten years ago, we had a choice. We could keep looking in the rearview mirror, or out at the road ahead. It was the easiest decision we ever made. The hard part meant breaking out of our own bureaucratic gridlock. Learning some humbling lessons from our competitors. And instilling a true culture of quality in every division, in every department, in every corner of the company." General Motors concludes by reminding us, "The road to redemption has no finish line. But it does have a corner. And it's fair to say we've turned it." (People, June 23, 2003)
The story of the resurrection is one of the few times in the Bible where women are highlighted and even named. About 3,000 people who are identified by name in the Scriptures, but only about 10% of them are women.
"Maudlin" means "foolishly and tearfully or weakly sentimental." That word derives from "Magdalene." That is because Mary Magdalene was traditionally depicted in artwork with eyes that were red from weeping.
There are many who suggest that Mary Magdalene was the "Apostle to the Apostles," because of the fact that she was the first to discover the empty tomb and to announce that good news to them. Many in the history of Christianity, however, have been hesitant to assign lofty titles like that to Mary Magdalene or to any other woman named in the Bible. This tendency to downplay the role of women in the Bible was uncovered in the late 1970 by Bernadette Brooten as she was completing her graduate studies in theology at Harvard. Brooten, who is now a professor of Christian studies at Brandeis University, made the discovery that in the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, when Paul lists the various Christian apostles and church leaders, the name Junia, a feminine name, appeared in the listing. Across the centuries, though, that female named tended to be masculinized into "Junius." When the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible came out in 1989, Brooten's discovery was included, and the female disciple Junia was restored to her place in the Scriptures.
When the average person is asked to name something they know about Mary Magdalene, many will start off by saying that she was a prostitute. The Bible itself, though, does not make that claim. Scholars generally attribute the origin of that erroneous belief back to Pope Gregory the Great. In 591 A.D. he preached a sermon in which he apparently combined Mary Magdalene and the woman who anointed Jesus' feet into one person. Finally in 1969 the Vatican overruled Pope Gregory's interpretation, yet the image of her as a prostitute continues to be a widely held belief.
Although it was by no means an instance of resurrection, staff members at an Anaheim hospital discovered that death is not always as final as we might think. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times (11/12/03), a 20-month-old girl from Fullerton, California, was rushed to the hospital when she drowned in her family's swimming pool. After arriving in the emergency room, she was pronounced dead by emergency room doctors at Anaheim Memorial Hospital. About 40 minutes later, as a police officer was taking pictures of the child's body for the official report, he was startled to realize that the child's chest was moving. The emergency room staff rushed in and began to give the child additional attention and treatment. Apparently the hospital workers had mistakenly concluded that the child was dead because the child had gone into hypothermia. Since the water she fell in was so cold, that essentially caused her body's systems to significantly slow down to such a point where signs of life were not readily visible.
During Easter time, don't look for any chocolate bunnies if you're spending the holiday in Australia. According to National Geographic (April 2003), Australian candy makers produce chocolate bilbies instead. A bilby is a long-eared marsupial that is native to Australia. Although they once were common there, they are now bordering on extinction. Australians turn their noses up at bunnies, because when Europeans first introduced rabbits to the continent in the 1800s the rabbits did what rabbits tend to do-they reproduced with great rapidity. As a result, the original small number of rabbits quickly mushroomed into a large number, which proceeded to consume crop lands and to destroy the habitats of other animals, including that of the bilbies.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer displayed his belief in the resurrection as he prepared to meet his death at the Flossenburg extermination camp. Shortly before he was led away to the death chamber, he told his fellow prisoner, Payne Best, "This is the end-for me the beginning of life."
Ever since the beginning of the church, Christians have had questions about how the resurrection will happen. One area of doubt arose about the future of people who were devoured and killed by wild beasts. Christians wondered: will it be possible for a person who meets a fate like that to be resurrected, since no body any longer remains? A twelfth-century writing, titled the Book of Dun Cow addressed that question. The title of that text arose because the vellum on which it was written was supposedly taken from the hide of St. Ciaran's cow. The document advised that those who are eaten by wild animals and eventually dispersed to various locations will indeed be raised by the Lord. According to the author's conjecture, they will be raised at the site where they were initially eaten.
Some Christians across the ages have wondered if cremation is suitable for Christians. They have worried that if no body is left, will it be possible for Christ to resurrect the person? In A Brief History of Heaven, Alister McGrath notes that Billy Graham addressed that concern. Graham pointed out that the human body is just as surely consumed by the earth through burial as it is consumed by fire in a cremation. He points out that if you were to go to the graves of our ancient forbears, no bodies would be found. Graham reminds us that our present bodies are temporary tents, whereas our resurrected bodies will be our permanent homes. Although they are similar in appearance, they are different in substance. Therefore, Graham concluded, cremation is no impediment to resurrection.
According to the Venerable Bede, the name "Easter" derives from "Estre,"a Teutonic goddess of the dawn.
Over the centuries, there has not always been uniformity as to when Easter should be celebrated. In the early church, Rome and Alexandria declared that Easter should be observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. A problem, though, was that Rome recognized the equinox as taking place on March 25, while Alexandria set the date on March 21. In Antioch, Easter was kept on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover. In Gaul, apparently not wanting to enter into complicated Paschal computations, bishops there decided to use a fixed date for every year. They assigned March 25 to be the day they believed that Jesus was crucified, and therefore they set March 27 as the day for celebrating the resurrection. The Montanist sect in Asia Minor observed Easter on the Sunday after April 6. But in 325 A.D., the First Council of Nicea decreed that the Roman practice for determining Easter should be followed throughout the entire church. As a result, the Western Church continues to follow that practice, causing Easter to be a moveable date, falling any time between March 22 and April 25.
In northern parts of England, men parade through the streets on Easter Sunday and claim the privilege of lifting every woman from the ground three times. When the men do that, the women are obligated to pay them with a kiss or a silver sixpence. The following day, the practice reverses as women attempt to lift the men for a reward.
Following the long, severe disciplines of Lent, Greeks and Russians make Easter a day to enjoy popular sports. The cemetery of Pera in Constantinope becomes a large meeting place on Easter Day. Throughout Easter, the cemetery becomes the site of music, dancing, and all kinds of recreational activities. Many cities in Russia have a similar tradition. On Easter, anyone in Russia can enter the church belfries and ring the bells, a tradition that many of the people take part in.
Pope Leo I declared that Easter is the greatest feast of the church year. He stated that Christmas is celebrated only as a means of preparing for Easter.
"I'd believe in a resurrected Christ if I saw more resurrected Christians walking around" (Friedrich Nietzsche)
"Christ has turned all our sunsets into dawns" (Clement of Alexandria)
"The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection" (Phillips Brooks)
"The Gospels do not explain the resurrection; the resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith" (John S. Whale)
Why Women Can’t Lead in Your Church
As I have watched the scandal unfold at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over the past few weeks I have been struck by the underlying tone of men’s treatment of women, especially women leaders, in the church world. It is a world where often men lead and women follow, a patriarchy that feeds how women are often treated in churches, Bible colleges and seminaries across the country. Under this system the church is deprived of desperately needed leaders, and women are scarred for life. To understand how this feels, read this excellent post by Beth Moore describing how she has been treated by men in the church. Treating women leaders like second-class citizens in the church has to end.
I know what I’m talking about. For 36 years of ministry I have often sat around tables with men paying service to the value of women leaders while dismissing their opinions and undermining their leadership. I’ve also seen up close the damage this ubiquitous attitude does to the two most important women in my life; my wife and my daughter. Although my wife is an incredible leader and thinker, I’ve seen her struggle to overcome chauvinism in the church world again and again. (I am thankful she works for an organization, The ReThink Group, that considers gender irrelevant to leadership.) I have seen my daughter, who has amazing musical and technical gifts, struggle to break into the informal boys’ clubs at churches where she’s served. I also know what I’m talking about because I too have been guilty of not championing women leaders.
The women in our families and the mission of our churches are too important to continue to go along with the status quo. It is time to make significant strides to engage all of the gifts in our congregations, regardless of gender. To change a system as ingrained as patriarchy, however, will take courage and it will take work. To avoid the change that is needed we often hide behind time-worn excuses.
We hide behind theology
Some hide behind the theology of complementarianism, which says that women and men have different but complementary roles in life. The challenge is at times this stance can limit what leadership roles are available to women in the church. My goal isn’t to argue theology, but to challenge the idea that God limits leadership based on gender. I understand believing the Apostle Paul reserves certain roles for men, but I don’t see how you can read the list of women leaders in Romans 16 and not see that Paul believed women were qualified for most other roles in the church.
Others hide in their egalitarianism, the belief that men and women are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. While in these circles a woman theoretically can preach, hold the office of elder and be called a pastor, she is often still excluded from the table where decisions are made. I have found that chauvinism isn’t bound by theology.
We Hide Behind the Possibility Of Temptation
This argument says we have to build walls around the women we work with to avoid the temptation of sexual sin. The walls we build include never being alone in a room with a woman, never mentoring a woman and never discussing anything personal with a woman. Unfortunately, these walls have proved ineffective based on the number of men who followed this protocol and were still caught in an affair with a co-worker. What these walls are very effective at is limiting the leadership of women. Limiting access to other leaders is death to collaboration, growth and advancement.
Here’s what I wonder about walls; if they are effective at combating temptation, why don’t we build similar walls to prevent other sins? Shouldn’t I limit my access to men who tempt me to anger? Shouldn’t I refuse to meet alone with men who spark envy? Surely, I should never share anything personal with a man who may cause me to boast.
James says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed BY HIS OWN DESIRE” (James 1:14 ESV). If meeting in a room alone with a woman causes me to drop trou I’m pretty sure walls aren’t my answer. The answer to dealing with sexual temptation is a deep spiritual walk and honest accountability. Walls are just avoiding the real issue.
We Hide Behind Tradition
Some of us cower behind the flimsy excuse, “People in my church just aren’t ready for women leading.” I remember when people weren’t ready for drums in the church, pastors who didn’t wear suits and lyrics projected on screens rather than printed in hymnbooks. Its funny how willing we were to challenge those preconceived notions, but we aren’t ready to stand up for our sisters who are gifted and called to lead.
Changing the prevailing patriarchy in your church will be difficult and it will take courage. If you are up for the task here are five suggestions that I believe can make a significant difference:
Creating A Culture Where Women Can Lead
Seek input from women leaders on your staff and in your church
A group of men sitting around a table will not change the culture of your church when it comes to women in leadership. The first step is to seek to understand what it is like to be woman leader in your culture, and the only way to learn is to ask. I understand this is a scary proposition because you might not like what you hear, but “we are not as those who shrink back.” Here are three questions you should ask:
Does our church encourage and develop women leaders?
What is the most challenging part of being a woman and leading on our team?
What do we need to change to improve our culture for women leaders?( Geoff Surratt - June 7, 2018 https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/326863-women-leaders-in-the-church-why-women-cant-lead-in-your-church.html)
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
People: Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
Leader: Let those who fear the Lord say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
People: Open to me the gates of righteousness that we may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
Leader: Praise the Lord!
On this Day of Days, dear God, we are aware of our shortcomings, that we have trusted too often in the powers of darkness that led to our Lord's death, rather than the powers of light that burst forth with his resurrection. Forgive us for unkind thoughts and words which have led to even worse deeds-or at times, to our inaction, by which we turned our backs on those in need. Forgive us for those times when we used our faith or our church as an escape from the responsibilities that you lay on us to serve your world. Save us from identifying our wants and preferences with your will, rather than seeking to conform ourselves to your way. Help us to believe that in Jesus' resurrection all our fears and sins are overcome, and that all the evil madness of Good Friday is defeated by your Son's bursting forth from the tomb. We believe, O Lord, help thou our unbelief! Amen.
Thank you, Lord for the incredibly Good News that Christ is alive despite what happened on Good Friday. Because he lives, we know we will live, and it is because of this that our hearts are full of gratitude, as symbolized in this our offering. May it be used to bring Easter joy to many others. For the sake of Jesus and his kingdom we pray. Amen.
We have been told, O God, that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Thus the disbelieving disciples thought when the excited women came running to them with their mad tale of an empty grave. All of our reason, all of our sophisticated science, tell us that no one returns from the dead. And yet the very essence of our faith is built on this crazy, unlikely, even unprovable claim, proclaimed down through the ages: Christ is risen! Alleluia! We thank you that somehow this good news has been transmitted to us, so that we too can join in the songs of the faithful on this Resurrection Day.
Help us, O Lord, to live Easter lives in the midst of a people still stuck in Good Friday. May Easter love overcome Good Friday hatred! May Easter reconciliation overcome divisions and grudges! May Easter gentleness overcome Good Friday violence! May Easter light overcome the darkness of prejudice and selfishness!
Hear our prayers as we remember those who are sick, dispirited and despondent, that Easter joy might be theirs. Bless our homes and church, our families and nation, our warring world, that your will might be done. This we ask in Christ's holy name. Amen