Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 – ELCA

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb.

So begins the Easter story in the Gospel according to Matthew.

The women had lived through the pain of Friday and
the emptiness of Saturday and were expecting death.
All of their hope had come to a dead end.

And just then, as the first day of the week was dawning,
hope was restored. The angel said, “Do not be afraid;
I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here: for he has been raised, as he said.”

Instead of death – life. Instead of the end – the beginning.

On Easter, we will have glorious celebrations in our congregations
and worshiping communities. There will be rejoicing and music
and flowers and alleluias. And that’s a good thing.

But when the flowers fade and the pressures of life seem so heavy,
when the brokenness of this world breaks our spirits,
when we have come to a dead end … rejoice. Because it is exactly
there where the risen Christ meets us. It is precisely there where we
are given resurrection life. It is at that point that we say, Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed. Hallelujah.

 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” – John 20:1

Would you say that you’ve seen a miracle? Miracle defined as, “event or action that contradicts usual expectations.” I have over my life (seen things) that still may defy explanation.

Mary comes that morning to the tomb and sees what probably defied explanation. The huge stone had been removed. That which would have taken many men had happened while most were rubbing the sleepy sand from their eyes. Mary is the first of the disciples to have her eyes begin to realize that the usual expectations about death and crucifixion were about to change.

On this day before Easter, the text reminds us that the real rules of creation are written by the creator and not the creatures. God has instilled into this order the expectation that his Spirit can transform the usual into extraordinary, simply in response to his love. As we travel our lives, therefore, we are called to become more open to the presence of God’s miracle of love that holds all the power in creation and to let this spirit become a part of our lives. Yet we must work on becoming open this receive Easter transformation.

Martin Luther who lived by grace (miracle) said it this way, “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

May God keep our eyes wide open to see.

Prayer: Lord. make me an Easter disciple that I may with joy and thanksgiving receive you and continue on the road of walking more closely with you.

Pastor Ed Heim

Good Friday, April 14, 2017

Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” – Matthew 27:37

The charge against Jesus is that he is the “King of the Jews”, as Matthew 27:37 tells us. Christ’s only real crime was trying to change the status quo. Change can be difficult, but seems to be especially difficult for people who have power. Jewish law had replaced God’s law and Jesus wanted to correct that. With Jesus, even the lowliest Gentile had the ability to experience the kingdom of God. So, Jesus gave people hope. Hope can be a powerful weapon and the Pharisees and Jewish elders did not want hope to spread because then their way of life would change. Jesus was killed so that the hope he gave to the people, would die with him.

It still hurts every Good Friday to think of Jesus being nailed to the cross and suffer for us, but if we take time to pray and meditate on Jesus’ suffering we will become better followers of Christ. For Martin Luther says, “whoever meditates thus upon God’s sufferings for a day, an hour, yea, for a quarter of an hour, we wish to say freely and publicly, that it is better than if he fasts a whole year, prays the Psalter every day, yea, than if he hears a hundred masses. For such a meditation changes a man’s character and almost as in baptism he is born again, anew. Then Christ’s suffering accomplishes its true, natural and noble work, it slays the old Adam, banishes all lust, pleasure and security that one may obtain from God’s creatures; just like Christ was forsaken by all, even by God.” Fortunately for us, the Pharisees’ plan to kill our hope did not succeed.

Prayer: Let us pray: Jesus, today we pause to remember your sacrificial love, that shone light into the darkness, that bore life from such emptiness, that revealed hope out of devastation, that spoke truth through incrimination, that released freedom in spite of imprisonment, and brought us forgiveness instead of punishment. Thank you that we can now walk in the light of your life, hope, truth, freedom and forgiveness, this day and every day. Amen.

James Keller

Maunday Thursday, April 13, 2017

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you.” – John 13: 14-15

Maundy, the practice of feet washing, began as a hospitality custom in ancient civilizations, especially where sandals were the chief footwear. A host would provide water for guests to wash their feet, often providing a servant to do the washing, which was considered a very lowly job, even for servants.

Jesus thus used feet washing as an example of humility, and being a servant to each other.

The practice has continued through the centuries to the present day, where it is most often part of a Maundy Thursday service, reminding us of Jesus’s admonition to be humble servants.

And we know that not just on Maundy Thursday, but throughout the year, there are plenty of opportunities to be humble servants, in our community and in our church. In fact, you can probably think of a lot of ways right now.

Prayer: Lord, help us always to remember the symbolism of feet washing, and help us to be humble servants to all. Amen.

John Zeigler

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

“Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart.” – Psalm 119:2

RULE BREAKER! Something that generally doesn’t come into my mind often. I try my hardest to follow the rules. I pay my bills on time, am always punctual for work, file my taxes, and follow the speed limit(well, most of the time on that last one).

Some rules though are harder to follow; for example, the Ten Commandments, to give just a sample of God’s word. While some are easier to follow…Thou shall not kill…Steal…Worship other gods, some can be much harder… Keeping the Sabbath Holy…Honor your Mother and Father…Coveting your Neighbor’s things. There’s a lot of commotion around in today’s society blocking the things that really matter – putting God first, to carefully and diligently read his word and follow him. As this Psalmist writes, only those who have a true desire, without hypocrisy or selfish reasons, to walk with the Lord, are blessed. Keeping his testimony in your heart and letting him influence our lives is the only way to salvation and grace.

Prayer: Lord, let us keep your word and walk with you every day. Let us be influenced by your guidance and teach others to do the same. With our whole hearts, in Jesus name we pray. AMEN.

Kristen Kessler

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

“But the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

Sometimes we just don’t get it! We try to be clever or out-think the next person. We get caught up in issues that really don’t matter. But for the long haul—and I mean the really long haul, Eternity—there is only one thing that matters. It is the power of God as shown to us by Jesus on the cross. In our limited human scope, we can scarcely comprehend that God sent his Son to share our humanity, that he sacrificed him on a cross for us, that he creates us and saves us every day. So we need to stop indulging in foolish thoughts and pursuits, and focus on the message of the cross. Then we truly get it. And what we get is everlasting salvation.

Prayer: Heavenly Father—Give us ears and hearts to hear the one thing that matters. Let us focus on the message of the cross so that we understand your power in the world and in our lives. Amen.

Suzanne Hayes