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Easter Sunday Video
Sermon John 1:1-18 1Easter-B
The Resurrection of our Lord; Sunday, April 4, 2021
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church,
Coos Bay, Oregon
Halleluiah! Christ is Risen
Christ is risen indeed! Halleluiah!
Quick quiz…Unmute yourselves and shout out the answers as you know them…bear with me.
◊What is the name of the River that runs north through the middle of our state, splits Portland in two, and empties into the Columbia River?
The word "Willamette" is a French corruption of the name of the indigenous Clackamas village on the river near what is now Oregon City. Okay, that was pretty easy.
Here’s a harder one: How did Mingus Park get its name?
Originally called Marshfield City Park, in 1937 the Parks Commission passed a resolution changing the name to Mingus Park in honor of local resident Dr. Everett Mingus. As chair of the Parks Commission, Dr. Mingus was instrumental in the park's development.
People who have the power to name also have the power to tell the story. In the retelling of any story, it’s always interesting to note whose voices get heard and whose have been silenced.
Think about how you got your own name.
Your story might have included the fact that historically, some groups of people were denied their names. Many people from Eastern Europe had their names shortened at Ellis Island because their last names were too long or too difficult for the officials to pronounce. My last name was likely a phonetic version of a common German name changed by a clerk at Ellis Island.
When Africans were stolen from their homeland and enslaved, their names and the history of their people were stripped as well. In many instances what they received in return was the names of those who had enslaved them. I read a story about young man of African descent who felt compelled to change his name. He recalled that “I changed my name to Bakari Chavanu six years ago, and my mom still won’t pronounce it. The mail she sends me is still addressed to Johnnie McCowan. When I brought up the subject with her of changing my name, she said ‘How could you be my son if you changed your name?’” I knew she was responding emotionally to what I had decided to do. I knew and respected also that she was, of course, the giver of my life and my first identity, but how do I make her understand the larger picture? That the lives of people are more than their families and their birth names, that my identity had been taken from me, from her, from my father, from my sister, from countless generations of my people enslaved for the benefit of others? How do I make her understand what it means for a kidnapped people to reclaim their identity? How do I help her understand the need for people of African descent to reclaim themselves?”
Years later, when his mother rushed to his hospital bed, she remembered her son’s request. When his mother called him lovingly by his chosen name, Bakari was freed from the hold of his confusion and found his way back to a relationship with his mother. And what he came back to was, really, a whole new world, one where, at least for the moment, his old fears and hurts had been banished, replaced by a sense of belonging and contentment and security that showed itself in his delight.
I have a hunch that it was something like that for Mary Magdalene.
John tells us of two trips that Mary makes to the tomb early that first Easter morning. On the first trip, she discovers that the place where they had laid Jesus was empty, so she runs all the way back to the city to tell Simon Peter and another disciple, the one Jesus loved.
They, in turn, race to the tomb, followed by Mary on her second trip that morning. Peter and the other disciple saw nothing, likely shrugged at Mary, and then each went back to his own home, presumably to ponder what they hadn’t just seen. But Mary remained, alone, in the burial garden.
Mary is, as we may well imagine, distraught and exhausted, troubled by equal measures of grief and confusion. So much so, in fact, that when she finally peers into the tomb and observes two angels in white, she shows neither the fear nor the wonder that I think any of us have shown if we, ourselves, had witnessed that amazing scene.
Instead, Mary displays only the distress of a lost child. And when, turning, she is confronted by none other than Jesus, the one whose body she is seeking, she is still too overcome by the trauma of last few days to recognize her Lord.
And then it happens. “Mary,” Jesus says, calling her by name, breaking through the shroud of her grief to grasp hold of her and draw her into a whole new world.
It’s hard to imagine all the emotions that must have coursed through Mary in that moment; and yet, while the text doesn’t give us many clues, I have a feeling that after no more than a heartbeat she responded at first with a shy smile, wiped away the tears soaking her cheeks, and then broke into a grin of recognition and delight, breathing “my teacher.”
Ah, but it doesn’t end here. No, after only a brief moment to savor this encounter, Mary is addressed by her Lord once again. “Go to the others,” Jesus tells her, “and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
And having been called by name, Mary is now sent to proclaim the wonder of what she has just seen. And she does.
Mary raced back to the city once more to announce to the other disciples and to the world, “I have seen the Lord.”
In so doing, Mary becomes the first Christian preacher, the first proclaimer of the resurrection. People like you and me who also tell of the good news are her descendants.
But if you aren’t telling others, where might you be stuck?
Why is this good news so difficult to share?
Might you be afraid you could be embarrassed? Are you not sure how to begin?
What is it that has you paralyzed or traumatized, confused or bewildered?
Can you not begin to share with others because you’re still in grief over the death of a loved one or the disintegration of an important relationship? Maybe it’s the recent tragedies in our hospital Intensive Care Units across the world, on a street corner in Minneapolis, in a grocery store in Colorado, on the steps of the US Capitol building, itself. Even this week, which we call Holy, included the shooting death of Billy Williams, another Capitol police officer. Maybe it’s an uncertain future or a painful past. Maybe you feel rather empty inside, numb from the thousands things you are worried about and feeling alone and isolated. Maybe it’s the reality of living on a fixed income and the squeeze that many of us feel?
Maybe,…maybe it’s any one of a host of things that plagues us on any given day of the year, diminishing our lives and paralyzing us where we stand.
But whatever it is, hear once again the good news that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is calling you by name, addressing you in a tender voice, and reaching out to draw you to himself and to reconnect you to those who love you. And, truth be told, it’s the significance of all of the preaching and teaching you will ever hear. This good news is the substance of our celebration and our worship, because through it, God calls us by name once again.
This, in a nutshell, is the significance of Baptism, where we are named by God to be one of God’s children now and forever. It’s the good news of the baptisms that will happen in a few minutes, when God will name little McKenna and baby Madison God’s beloved children. For the rest of us, hearing our names called by God, God penetrates the numbness and brokenness of our lives so that we are able to reconnect with God’s unending love, and by that love, be guided into a whole new world.
Now, I know, I know, in one way, it’s the same old world, ravaged by conflict and shadowed by fear. And yet, because Christ has been raised, it is also entirely new, infused with divine possibility and sparkling with the promise of a Creator determined to redeem it in love.
That’s good news! And yet it doesn’t end here, as the Lord has something more yet to say. For because you have been called by name, you are now also sent to proclaim what you have seen and heard to his other disciples and all the world. And this world is ready for such news!
Called by name, sent to proclaim. That’s the Easter message for you.
Because our God, who has infinite power, also stoops to call each of us by name. And in calling your name, God has called you as people to whom God has given the power to tell the story. This story.
On this Day of the Resurrection, we tell the story that the stone was already rolled back. That that tomb was empty. The story of how God used the cross, an instrument of humiliation and death, to give us life, to remind us just how much we are loved. The story that by his rising from death, Jesus has freed us from the culture of death and fear.
That God loved us so much that God would do anything – even dying on a cross to prove that love for us.
And you, in telling the story, you reconnect yourselves to Jesus and to each other in a whole new world, one infused by the promise that nothing – not even death itself – can separate us from the love of God.
Quick Quiz: What is the Good News of Easter?
The good news is that God has named and claimed each one of us as God’s own beloved child, this Easter Sunday and always. Blessed Easter morning. Amen
Worship Narrative and Sermons
To Read Past
Gloria Dei Sermons
Sermon John 20:19-31 2 Easter-B Sunday, April 11, 2021
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Coos Bay, Oregon
What’s a really effective way to get someone to do something? (Yawn) …at its base level, like me yawning, the power of suggestion is the psychological process by which one person influences the thoughts, feelings or behavior or someone else. So that’s one way to get someone to do the thing you want them to do. Then there’s one of my favorites: reverse psychology. When my nephew, Ryan, was about three, I remember trying to get him to taste something that he said he didn’t like. No amount of “just taste it, you’ll like it” or “you won’t have to eat it if you don’t like it” would work. Finally, I said, “oh, that’s right! You probably won’t like it because it’s too hot for you.” So what does he do? Immediately he responds, “No, it’s not too hot for me!” And gobbles down the food. Whether you consciously knew it or not, you parents have most likely used reverse psychology in raising your own children. Reverse psychology is a technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject to do what actually IS desired: the opposite of what is being suggested. This technique relies on the psychological phenomenon of reactance, in which a person has a negative emotional reaction to being persuaded, and so chooses the option which is being advocated against. Pretty tricky. Reverse psychology is often used on children because they have a high tendency to respond with reactance, since they often feel threatened that their freedom is being stifled. Keep these phenomena in mind as we return to today’s gospel. No one expects the risen Christ… The way the writer Mark tells it in his gospel – the women run away in terror and we don’t read of them telling anyone! The story we read from Luke has the women being terrified, but after being reassured by the two angels, ran to tell the disciples, who then didn’t believe them. Peter eventually went to check out the tomb on his own, but afterwards went home, where he sat in amazement. And in the gospel of John, which we read last week, Mary Magdalene runs back from the empty tomb to tell the disciples. Of course, they don’t believe her and have to go check for themselves. So in our gospel reading today, we have the disciples gathered together, probably because there is strength in numbers – they’re scared, and more likely than not, they’re still talking about Jesus’ death and what might happen to themselves. They’re terrified, sitting behind locked doors. But Jesus finds a way in. No door can lock him out. Think about any of the recent school shootings. The Sandy Hook shooting of Kindergarteners is one that always comes up for me. It never fails, whenever a shooting occurs, in response, some people resurrect the “whole prayer in public school” debate. They’ve suggested that these massacres happen because America is a “God-forsaken” place that has taken God out of the schools. To which I point to today’s gospel – God can never be removed or taken out of anyplace where God wills God to be… And just to follow up, we know that God WAS with those who survived and with those who died on that December day in Connecticut when they were terrified and when they needed God most. God, in the form of Jesus, was with the disciples on this day, when they were terrified, when they needed him most. I imagine that the disciples are still processing the last few days’ events. Why did Jesus have to die? We had thought he was the Messiah! These disciples are a bit slow growing into their resurrection faith. They’ve been traumatized and no one expects to see the risen Christ. But God’s peace gently breaks into their despair. And Thomas is the one who raises the question that they all – heck, WE all want to ask. Jesus, will you show me? I need to see it to believe it! Ever since, Thomas has been made to be the bad guy. But for some reason, he wasn’t with the others the first time Jesus appeared to his disciples. You can almost imagine Jesus, pronouncing peace on his disciples and then stopping himself…”Whoa, wait, where’s Thomas? We can’t start without him!” And now, it’s a week later. Thomas asks the question he gets remembered for…fair enough, but I think he just wanted what the others had, a first-hand look at Jesus. He just wanted to see for himself what the others saw rather than rely on this wild tale his friends had told him. Thomas wanted tangible evidence. Remember, these same disciples didn’t believe Mary that first Easter morning. They, too wanted tangible evidence to believe Sometimes, we need that same tangible reassurance from God. I think that’s why our sacraments include something we can taste, see and feel. They are the visible gifts of God…That tangible evidence that God is present and loves us, still. David Lose, the Luther Seminary professor suggests this exercise…bear with me, it will be fun. Turn to the person next to you at home. And if you’re alone, just imagine talking with someone next to you in line at the post office or grocery store…or your best friend. Tell them what type of toothpaste or cleaner you use and why…you have a minute each…go! Okay, so you just got a taste of sharing something personal… Sharing our faith is like that. It’s really just sharing our own story about something personal, and why we do what we do… It’s not so hard, really. There is a man named Bob in my home congregation who has been handed some really hard things to cope with. His only son was killed in Viet Nam, his wife left him shortly after the funeral, he began drinking, lost his job and is crippled by horrible arthritis. Still, his faith remains strong. Over the years, folks have asked him how he remains so positive, how he gets through each day – He always says that “I know that my life is in God’s hands, no matter what.” He always credits God. He enjoys sharing his faith with others. Sharing our own stories should be heartfelt, and it doesn’t have to be scary. To Bob, it was the most natural thing – and it should be that way with us. I wonder if any of you remembered the last line of my Easter sermon from last week? I had said that after hearing her name Mary did ran to proclaim to the others what she had seen. You have been named to proclaim. How many of you did that? But wait! I just remembered that I started this morning’s sermon with a story about my nephew, Ryan, and the use of reverse psychology. The gospel writer Luke recalls that after performing a miracle or after his teaching, Jesus often repeated this line…Don’t tell anyone. So taking a cue from Jesus, I beg of you. Don’t go out and teach. Don’t speak to anyone in the name of Jesus. Don’t you dare go out and share your stories with even one other person! Amen.