"Easter People in a Good Friday World"
The Easter Sermon preached by Don Portwood on April 12, 2009 as Lyndale Church worshiped for the first time (without Salem Church) in our new meeting space at Intermedia Arts.
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.
And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the
entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But 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. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you
will see him, just as he told you.”
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The sun had risen, slowly like something was holding it back. The women had gathered even earlier with the spices they needed to anoint the body. Someone had to do it. The men had all fled or gone into hiding. But those women were already thinking ahead. Wondering how in heavens name they would move that stone from the entrance to the tomb. Could they do it together…would they need others…or a pole and lever to get it moved.
Perhaps it was the early rays of that sun crawling slowly above the eastern horizon that illuminated the tomb…and the stone…now rolled back. And inside - in the cool, dank, shadowed cave…not the body of the one they loved…not the body of the one they had learned from, followed, seen die a horrible death, removed from the cross…not Jesus…..but a young man in a white robe…sitting on the right side of the tomb.
“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his
disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you”.
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Happy Easter to you too. That’s how Mark’s gospel ends. That’s our Easter story for this morning. Why would Mark leave that ending in there? His gospel was written years
after that Easter morning. Was the end of the scroll worn off and lost…so that a second century writer added the ending that no one thinks is original.
Does verse 8 end or begin the story? Now what?
What a great bulletin cover.
No appearance in this story…just an announcement. Now What? What happens? What do we do? What should we think?
Based on what those women had experienced the week before, seeing Jesus betrayed, arrested…and killed by the religious and political powers dominating their land at the
time, they had every reason to fear for themselves, for what in heaven’s name was going on…and run…run in terror and run in wonder…and remain silent.
But our vantage point is 2000 years later…we know verse 8 begins the story or at least continues it. We’ve read and experienced…known intellectually and at a deep body level
what this story is trying to tell.
That it took a while for people to experience Jesus’ resurrection. We’ve been raised on this story…seen it happen in people around us, lived through crucifixion and resurrection
ourselves. Life over death. The tomb was empty…Jesus present with them in a way they could only explain through the metaphors of their day…resurrection. Jesus is risen!
And through the language of their day…Jesus is Lord..not Caesar, not the emperor or queen or president or governor. Jesus is Lord. That’s a radical political confession.
And love is stronger than death, justice stronger than injustice …the arc of history bends toward justice and we know whose finger is pressing on the arc. The good Friday crucifixion of Jesus, the domination powers of religion and government – all the crucifixions of oppression and disease, violence and injustice --all are now seen through new eyes…vindicated by the God of love and compassion…they are not the final word.
Those women, silent on that first day of the week, remained silent no longer and with that small band of followers of Jesus…transformed themselves and transformed their world – for over the next days and weeks and months, they discovered in a new way that Love is stronger than death.
That the one who was crucified, was still present with them, providing courage in the struggle for justice and peace…his presence in trial and rejoicing – and eternal life in his realm which has no end....alleluia!
What a great bulletin cover. How appropriate for us to. We’ve had a 5-6 year goal/dream/plan to be free of the building that had been our home for 85 years on 31st &
Aldrich. Lovely, but unsustainable. Beautiful, but always grabbing our energy..and sucking it into tuckpointing, replacing the roof, windows, boiler, parking lot, fuel.
Now what for Lyndale Church...our second Sunday in this building...our first Sunday worshiping by ourselves. Now What?
Yesterday I received an email – a poem really from Doug Malchow, who headed up the move out of the building. Joyce led the organization of our history materials. They spent the last 3 months almost living at old Lyndale. I didn’t ask for permission to read the email…because Joyce wanted a surprise on Easter..and this might be it.
9:44 Saturday morning--Doug and Joyce are sitting at the table eating hot-crossed buns and mango.
The car is still in the garage and not packed with boxes and tools.
The computer is not spitting out a new inventory list.
The cell phone is not turned on!
Joyce is calm!
Doug is calm!
Is it really done??
OK so what do we do
on a "free" Saturday.
And so we will - reprogram, rethink. Aware that at times of huge change like leaving that building - our tendency (like those women at the tomb in Mark’s story) - is to run away in fear and keep silent. But we also know that something bigger is moving us, calling us, challenging and loving us.
Moving us courageously into life and death…into the tomb and the injustice….into the Good
Friday worlds we all live in, worlds with death of loved ones and disease, injustice and inequality, homelessness and violence, war and inhumane immigration policies. Where life is not fair, hearts are broken and lives are shattered.
Reprogram and rethink….that’s what we’re always called to do as the church of Jesus Christ. That’s what we’ve been doing for 125 years as Lyndale Church in the Lyn/Lake
But we do it from our perspective as Easter People…people on this side of the resurrection – who know that death/oppression/injustice are not the final word. That Jesus lives, life reigns, love is stronger than fear or death or oppression.
We can’t be quiet, say nothing to anyone. We have a story to tell and too many people are looking for a church that tells it the way we do. We have no big building on 31st &
Aldrich with signs out front saying we are Open and Affirming and a Just Peace Church any more, that we favor marriage equality and want more Iowas and Vermonts. We can not be
quiet. There is too much work that needs to be done to transform our selves and our world. We cannot be silent. The only way people will find out we’re worshiping here on
Sunday mornings is the internet. And YOU. You saying something about this faithful little band of followers meeting in the building at 2822 Lyndale with the murals and
graffiti until our new space is ready at 28th & Lyndale.
You might mention to them that the front of the building has a resurrection scene on it…designed by the kids and teachers from Waite House Neighbor Center who were on the 35 W bridge on August 1, 2007 that fell into the Mississippi River. “Build bridges”, it says, “not fences”. We’re sharing space with other people who are practicing resurrection…using
art for healing and breaking down the walls that divide us.
There are Easter people on the loose….be of good courage. Death/oppression/injustice is
not the final word. Emmanuel, God is with us. Life reigns. Love is stronger. It’s a new day. Everyday is a new day. Practice Resurrection.
Soul Time - sermon by Don Portwood
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written,
"One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." '
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
"He will command his angels concerning you",
and "On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." '
Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "Do not put the Sovereign your God to the test." '
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
’Worship the Sovereign your God, and serve only God.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Ash Wednesday began the season of Lent.
Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays.
It has always been seen as a preparation for Easter.
The name Lent comes from the word lengthen…as the days lengthen in the northern hemisphere, but that’s not what lent is about.
There is nothing said about lent in the Bible. It’s a practice of the early church.
I learned in seminary that lent was the traditional time the early church took in new disciples or new members.
They had a discipleship program that went on during lent, then the new disciples were baptized on Easter.
It became a time of renewal for the entire church, as the older disciples also went through the same process with the new ones and so for them, lent was a time of renewal.
The UCC website quotes a sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor, “Lenten Discipline," in which she gives a wonderful description of how Lent came to be.
“Many years after Jesus had not returned as quickly as expected,
church folks "decided there was no contradiction between being comfortable
and being Christian, and before long it was hard to pick them out from among the population at large.
They no longer distinguished themselves by their bold love for one another.
They did not get arrested for championing the poor. They blended in.
They avoided extremes.
They decided to be nice instead of holy and God moaned out loud.
The church dug deep into its faith story, recalling the time (always with the number forty involved) that Israel, Elijah, and Jesus each spent in the desert, wandering and suffering, longing and learning: hungry and lonely.
"So the church announced a season of Lent…an invitation to a springtime of the soul," Taylor writes, "Forty days to cleanse the system and open the eyes to what remains when all comfort is gone…to remember what it is like to live by the grace of God alone and not by what we can supply ourselves."
Then as now, folks had their "pacifiers," as Taylor calls them, all the things and ways that we keep ourselves from feeling what it means to be human, even if that means being in pain or being afraid.
Our pacifiers can convince us that we don't really need God.
In fact, Taylor believes that just about all of us struggle with an addiction, "anything we use to fill the empty place inside of us that belongs to God alone.
That hollowness we sometimes feel is not a sign of something gone wrong.
It is the holy of holies inside of us, the uncluttered room of the Sovereign our God. Nothing on earth can fill it, but that does not stop us from trying.”
So here’s this story of Jesus, just beginning his ministry,
baptized in the Jordan by John.
He hears those wonderful words that we all need to hear too,
“You are my beloved child with you I am well pleased”,
and what does God’s Spirit do? Leads him into the wilderness.
For 40 days he fasts and prays….hungry and alone.
It’s there Jesus wrestles with who he is and how he will carry that ministry out…
is it about himself or others? Will he use special tricks? Who really is he serving?
Whether there was a devil tempting Jesus or not….
this story makes a lot more sense for my spiritual growth,
if I understand it as being the devil inside him, his shadow side.
What do I mean by shadow?
The Shadow, is a psychological term introduced by the late Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung. It is everything in us that is:
The Shadow is an archetype.
It’s a collectively unconscious idea, pattern or thought present in everyone. Everyone has a Shadow. Yes, probably even Jesus too.
This is not something that one or two people have, or just bad people.
We all have a Shadow.
And spiritual mystics or psychologists have always said
a confrontation with the Shadow is essential for self awareness for growth,
for living faithfully.
We cannot learn about ourselves if we do not learn about our Shadow.
That I believe is what this story of Jesus in the wilderness is about.
The Season of Lent then is Soul Time.
It’s the season, 40 days, to ask that that old Quaker question,
How is it with my soul? How is it with your soul?
Lent is this soul time set aside by the early church for renewal and growth,
for doing the hard work of being Christian and human:
loving and caring for self, others and God.
Though our wilderness or desert times may come, not just during Lent,
but as issues arise around
1) relationships we have or don’t have,
2) issues of family,
5) work or not working,
6) friends and community,
7) the church.
8) you fill in the blank.
Lent is Soul Time, “A time of looking in - to see how we are…
how it is with our soul.
Not how is the face we show to the world, but how it is with our soul,
that soul that only we know and often repress.
Lent is the season to become aware of and look at our shadow,
our anxieties, fears, recognizing the draw it has, the power over us.
It’s a hard time of trusting God, relying on God
and sitting with the loneliness, hunger, grief, desires,
difficult stuff we usually try and stuff back down with
food, tv, shopping, staying busy, drinking… whatever our pacifier might be.
That’s hard to do. Many of you know the loss my family experienced this summer with the death of our two day old grandson. My son Ben had come home from Spain to be with his brother for the birth. Ben has studied meditation. He let me know there were times his brother Matt was in grief and pain, and Ben would say, “Sit with it. Sit down, face into it. Sit in silence with it. Don’t give in to getting busy, doing something, playing music, making music. Sit with it.”
Those are words for us too, “Sit with it.
Don’t give into that feeling that leads you to that bag of processed unhealthy food, the x rated website, that decision to stay home rather than serving at Simpson or signing up for Families Moving Forward,
all the other pacifiers: tv, shopping, drinking, that we use to cut the pain.”
Sit with that feeling. Surround yourself with those words,
“I am God’s beloved Child, with whom God is pleased”. Dialogue with that feeling of love and that feeling of hunger, loneliness, fear, anger, anxiety.
If we don’t deal with out own shadow, it has a way of coming out.
Look at the people in your life who annoy you, irritate you, "push your buttons" causing you to move into judgment.
In actuality we may be reacting to our own self-projections.
It would be too horrifying to hate a part of ourselves,
so it is easier and safer to negate a trait in ourselves and project it on another.
If that wasn’t the case, often we could just observe some experiences
and not get so caught up in them. We would not be taking things so personally.
Facing into your shadows allows you to ask the question, "Why am I triggered here?” How does this relate to me?"
We project our stuff as individuals and we do this as a nation.
It’s probably part of what’s happening in this nation with fear of muslims or islamo facists or undocumented workers.
Our fear is projected onto others in a way that triggers a much bigger reaction than may be rational.
It takes courage to accept the possibility
that we may have these negative traits in common with people we dislike
and even more courage to spend time in the wilderness or dessert
of our unconscious dealing faithfully, lovingly with them.
But the people who drive us crazy can be out best teachers
and if we can identify that part within us, own it,
and then allow ourselves to disengage from it,
we can move into self-acceptance and acceptance of the other.
Two important suggestions:
1) Come at your shadow from that foundation of love…you are God’s beloved child…all of you is loved, even the parts you can’t admit to yourself, let alone anyone else. You’ve got to love your shadow to health, not repress or hate it.
2) remember in this process it’s difficult to do this by yourself. Shadow work is hard work. Call me, call a friend…Let me, let them know you’re working on some tough stuff and you want someone to check in…or be able to be called when it tough going.
Lent’s not just about giving up meat and eating fish, it’s 40 days of soultime, in the wilderness and desert:
A time to dialogue lovingly with your self and your shadow self.
So turn off the tv, the music, the political pundits…face into the shadow, the anxiety, the voices that you hate…
and you will discover, like Jesus,
that the end result makes you more loving, more transformed, more healed, more able to minister in this world.
And you discover your own ministering angels.
And that these shadows of fear and anxiety,
we think of as those horrible parts of us,
can transform into their own angels of light within us.
May it be so.
While It Was Still Dark
In the other three gospel accounts of the Easter story, Mary Magdalene is the first woman mentioned, along with other women, who go to the tomb early in the morning to anoint Jesus dead body with spices. This morning in John’s gospel, it’s only Mary Magdalene, going alone (with no spices)…. early in the morning…. to the tomb, while it was still dark.
She’s unaware yet, that love is stronger than death…but she heads out anyway, early in the morning, while it was still dark, dark outside and dark inside, no street lights to guide her way, the sun waiting below the horizon, not even the morning glow of hope to accompany here.
She was alone. Alone in the darkness with her grief and loss,
her fears and anger. Her teacher, her master, her Jesus, her hope had been killed crucified by the religious authorities and the empire. But on she walked, while it was still dark
to the graveyard, to the cave, to the place they had placed Jesus’ crucified body, to be near, to be close to where his body was;
in the dark, in the shock and grief,
by the grave, in her pain and anger and tears.
While it was still dark. Isn’t that about where we start this morning?
As a nation in the dark, in grief, in anger, in shock?
Still fighting a war founded on lies
after 5 years, hundreds of thousands of deaths, soldiers and civilians wounded, disabled, losing limbs,
experiencing life changing head traumas from the explosions
of cars and IED’s and people.
Led by an administration whose dreams of empire still try to tell us
That this war has been a successful endeavor, though the financial cost of this war, 12 billion dollars a month
is affecting every facet of life in this nation, especially for those who aren’t rich, who haven’t benefited by an economy and policies tilted in favor of the rich. While it was still dark.
Lights go out in home after home,
in a tidal wave of home foreclosures whose root cause is the deregulation of the banking industry.
While it was still dark, our lazy media, anxious for any news in the 6 week lull
before the next democratic primary in Pennsylvania, pounce on a few words out of the millions of a UCC preacher in Chicago, accusing him of hate speech and hating white people.
This is the same Pastor – who when asked before a worship service
to greet 10 German Christians who were visiting Trinity Church that morning, not only greeted them, but spoke and prayed with them in German, then during the service, introduced them to the rest of the church, again speaking to them in German and then had the choir
change one of their anthems and sing God’s praise in German (Wunderbar, Sie Nommen Wunderbar! Wonderful, Your name is Wonderful).
Tears came to some of the guests' eyes. Radical hospitality. That is a different reality from the characterization of the church and pastor as hateful or separatist.
But while it is still dark, this brother in Christ gets demonized without ever taking the time to look at what he said or why he may have said it.
While it was still dark. My list could go on and on. That’s when Mary and you and I and the religious authorities and administration and media start out this morning.
And it’s still dark when Mary gets to the tomb. She can’t see much,
but she can see or feel that the stone
that covered the opening to that cave that held the body of the one she loved has been moved from the mouth of the cave.
And she knows either by intuition or by touch that Jesus body isn’t in the cave, that someone’s done something with it. So she’s returns home, in the dark, in the pain, in the grief and shock and anger to tell somebody who maybe can do something.
She probably ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them,
'They have taken the Sovereign out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.'
Scared and angry. How much more of this do we have to take?
How much longer do we have to tolerate this craziness?
Why would they do that? To him? To us?
Thank God for this next section of scripture. It’s almost as if John put some comic relief into the story
to break up the intensity for his reader.
“Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb.
The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter
and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there,
but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.
He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.”
This section reminds me of an old episode from Seinfeld where Jerry runs into one of his old high-school classmates, someone Jerry beat in a race their senior year of school.
That’s all the guy wants to talk about, the race and how Jerry starting running before the gun went off.
In this morning’s scripture, you can just see John and Peter leaving together and running toward the tomb. John is faster and just happens to point out that he reached the tomb first. John looks in to the tomb. The darkness has begun to scatter now and the long rays from the eastern horizon are beginning to brighten the darkness of the cave. “John bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.”
Because by now, Peter, has arrived.
He wasn’t the fastest runner, but by the time this gospel was written,
he was the head of the church and so he needed to have the privilege
of entering the tomb first. “Then Simon Peter came, following him (probably breathing pretty hard),
and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
“Then the other disciple, John himself, who reached the tomb first
(mentioning this for the third time), also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
What a great interlude. A foot race. A winner. Peter enters the tomb first,
sees the grave clothes rolled up separately, but no body of Jesus.
He sees, but doesn’t believe.
Then out of respect for Peter, John enters behind Peter. He sees the same thing as Peter and believes. It’s unclear what he believes, but he believed something; “for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Then the disciples returned to their homes. And we know nothing! We’re still in the dark.
But this story isn’t about John and Peter, it’s about Mary, so after that historical and comic interlude to let Peter enter the tomb first, we get back to Mary, who is back at the opening of the tomb. We don’t know whether she ran with Peter and John to get back there, or against her better judgment walked the painful walk of grief, one foot in front of the other, until she arrived back at the graveside. Aware this time that Jesus body wouldn’t be there.
Peter and John returned to their homes. Why didn’t Mary? What was it that allowed her to hang in there, by the empty tomb? What mustard seed of faith or faithfulness or love or fortitude kept her there by that empty grave while Peter and John went home?
Peter saw, but didn’t believe. John saw and believed something. Mary saw the same thing and hung in there, persevered in the grief.
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’
She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Sovereign, and I do not know where they have laid him.’”
Maybe it was to have been her last look in the tomb before she turned to go back home. One last look,
one final memory to imprint on her brain that would last her a lifetime. This is the last place I saw him. So in the midst of the tears, she bent over to look into the tomb. Only
this time it wasn’t empty, but full of a strange presence, two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. Speaking to her they asked her why she was weeping. She didn’t say, “Because Jesus has been crucified”.
She said, “Because I expected his body here this morning, but someone’s taken it away. I just wanted to be near him, close to him and now I can’t even to that”.
“When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there,
but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’”
Mary hung in there through the pain, the confusion, the anger and shock, the grief covered with tears. Stayed longer than anyone else at the graveside and now is asked a second time by someone she doesn’t recognize, “Woman why are you weeping?” And again her response is simply, “Just tell me where his body is and I’ll deal with it. I’ll deal with it.” But this time, the unrecognized one says her name, “Mary”.
Mary didn’t see and believe, she heard and believed! Heard her name said in a way that only he could say it, had said it before, with love and grace, strength and challenge. Said her name in a way that brought out the best in her,
the love in her, the grace in her, the compassion in her. And she knew now - deep within her, that it was the Teacher in her presence. “Rabbouni!”
But now he wasn’t just there for her, not for her alone to hold and cling to, but for the world. Jesus said to her, “‘Do not hold on to me,
because I have not yet ascended to the Father/Mother. But go to my brothers and sisters and say to them,
‘I am ascending to the one who created me, to the one who created you, to my God and your God.’”
This time I’m pretty sure that Mary ran, with feet that never touched the ground, having heard, having seen, knowing now that, though love is what got Jesus killed by the principalities and the powers,
they don’t have the final word. For love is stronger than death! Knowing now that though love is what got Jesus killed by the principalities and the powers,
they don’t have the final word,
for love is stronger than death!
The light that shone that morning into the darkness of her grief, the darkness of the grace, the darkness of our nation, that light can never be overcome.
Mary ran home with a new song, a new heart, a new purpose and a new trust that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God,
known to us in Christ Jesus our Sovereign, neither height nor depth nor principalities nor powers, nor war, nor foreclosures, nor death nor life,
nor anything in all creation. “She ran and announced to the disciples,
‘I have seen the Sovereign’;
and she told them that he had said these things to her.” And so must we!
(Your name here) __________, run home with a new song, a new heart,
a new purpose and a new trust that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Sovereign, neither height nor depth nor principalities nor powers, nor war, nor foreclosure,
nor death, nor life, nor anything in all creation. Jesus has called us by name and sent us to share what we have seen and heard and know. Love is stronger than death! Tell others! Hang in there through the grief, the pain,
the war, the economy, the craziness
and live what you’ve seen and heard.
Do not fear the darkness! Be healed!
Love your enemies! Change the world!
Love is stronger than death, forever!