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Pastor's Letter 20200412 - 12 April 2020 - The Lord has Risen Indeed!


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April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme: “The Lord has Risen, Indeed”

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 Don’t Look for the Living Among the Dead

 One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the women* who visited Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. Their hearts must have been heavy as they approached the place where they lay Jesus’ body, just two days before.  They must have been terribly sad, knowing Jesus was dead and gone, but they had a job to do—further embalming and wrapping of the body with more spices.  Imagining their world without Him must have seemed so empty.  Upon reached the tomb, they found it empty, and were accosted by an apparition telling them: “Do not look for the living among the dead. He is not here! He has risen!”  They had to absorb the amazing thought that Jesus was no longer in a place for the dead—He was alive! They saw burial robes left askew—something for the dead, not the living. Incredibly, by God’s power, Jesus had escaped the bonds of death and corruption!  They must have wondered:  “But, where is He, now? Could He have returned to an earthly life?  Has He gone on to a new and richer one—some radically different state, where His perishable flesh was transfigured and radiant with the glory and splendor of divinity? Could He have begun a new manner of life, like a seed, which having died in the ground, becomes a new living thing, like a plant?”   (If so, the plant would be barely recognizable, relative to the seed…as we have read Paul’s words:  “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.”)  These and many more questions must have confounded them.

 Later, we are told the disciples believed—but not immediately. Only after several came and saw for themselves that Jesus was gone from the tomb did the Easter message begin to take root in them.  They had to face the fact that Jesus was not dead.  He was no longer in the tomb.  

 The Church’s Easter Liturgy announces the same message to us: “Do not look for the living among the dead.  He is not here.  He has risen.”  Jesus has overcome death, not just for Himself, but also for all of us.  He is the first in all of history to have truly risen from the dead, and we are to follow Him. As a true Christian, we must always remember there is no such thing as death in the sense of a “final extinction.” While our loved ones may be "physically" dead…they are "spiritually" alive and share life with the risen Christ.  That is how we should think of them.  

The glory of Easter enables us to “let go” of our loved ones in faith, but that doesn’t mean we should ever forget them.  Easter also allows us to face the inevitability of our own death with courage and hope.  We must always keep in mind that just as the expectation of spring takes the sting out of winter, so the resurrection of Jesus takes the sting out of death.

The Hope of Easter

 Humans can face anything, endure anything, as long as they know or believe it will not last forever, and that something better will happen.  People will face the uncertainty of a long, painful and dangerous operation if they believe in the probability that it will make them well.  Prisoners can face long sentences if they believe they will enjoy freedom one day.  Soldiers facing dangers on foreign shores are buoyed with the confidence at the expectation of going home again when their “deployment” is completed.  All this accentuates the importance of maintaining hope in our lives.  Hope is a necessity for the spirit, as much as food is sustenance for the body.  It’s amazing what the spirit can endure and overcome provided the bread of hope nourishes it. 

 Easter provides an enormous injection of hope for the human spirit—and how much it is needed today!  All of us face some element of tragedy in our lives.  Often we see good things vanish from our midst, like losing important people to murder and mayhem.  Our blessed Lord Jesus was cut down, too—but unlike our heroes, He rose again!

 At that time, and for many years to come, the world-at-large took very little notice of Jesus’ resurrection.  It occurred in a remote outpost of the Roman empire, where, by any modern standards, only rudimentary and fragmented methods for communication existed to spread the news.  Then, too, Jesus did not appear in triumph in the Temple of Jerusalem, disgracing those who humiliated Him.  The only people aware of what happened to Him were those He called by name; with whom He broke bread; and to whom He spoke words of peace.  And Like us,  even they had difficulty believing it, in spite of the evidence right there in front of them.  Yet this hidden event freed all of humanity from the shackles of death!  

 When one considers the length of time that has elapsed and all the complexities of history that have occurred since Jesus’ day, the survival of this event is a truly extraordinary testament to its.  It has been proven that “history is written by the victors” (who, in this case, were the Romans, among which Jesus small cadre of followers would hardly have been considered significant.)  Therefore, our faith is bolstered further by the fact that so many have gone to their deaths throughout time in order that “The Way” be preserved until now.  And when one considers that modern humanity has only “faith” on which to rely (lacking any “concrete, empirical proof” on which to establish our beliefs,) it becomes all the more remarkable!)

 Jesus rose as a sign to those who loved Him and followed Him that God’s love is stronger than death.  Jesus’ resurrection of Jesus must not be separated from all of humanity’s resurrection. By entering fully into human life, and by experiencing the bitterness of death, Jesus became a Brother and a Savior to all people—past, present and future.  Even with our limited human abilities of discernment, one can only conclude that Jesus’ and resurrection was part of God’s plan.  As such, then, Jesus is the Pioneer and Leader of our salvation: pointing the way and leading us along the road of obedience and suffering.  

 At Easter we still feel pain in the world; the pain in our families and among our friends; and the pain in our own hearts.  But a new element has been introduced into our lives, which doesn’t remove the pain but it gives it meaning and illuminates it with hope.  All of creation is different because Jesus is alive and even now speaks His words of peace to us as He spoke them to the apostles. 

 As is commemorated during the ceremonials of this Holy Week, our faith in the resurrection of Jesus is the basis of our hope for eternal life, a hope that enables us to patiently bear the trials of life. Therefore, there is a quiet joy and a deep sense of peace among us because we know that life is stronger than death; love is stronger than fear; and hope is stronger than despair. 

“Had this one day not been, 

Or could it cease to be—

How smitten, how superfluous

 Were every other day.”

 Emily Dickinson. 

May God Richly Bless You!

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection ~ Romans 6:5

(*Note:Mark, Matthew and Luke relate that several women came to the tomb.  John’s account—today’s Gospel: (John 20:1-18)—has only Mary Magdalene present.)  

All the Praise of a Lifetime.docx

All the Praise of A Lifetime.mp3

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