Swimming in Place

Friends,
Yesterday, a clergy colleague asked a good question about any helpful new practices we had established since Covid-19.  She shared that she now begins each day listening to an uplifting podcast rather than the morning news, which she finds to be a downer.  I thought about any new practice in this strange time and landed upon how I’ve come to exercise differently.  I used to lap swim a mile each morning at the YMCA (which, of course, is closed) but now with the help of a high-tension swim tether and belt, I swim in place in the pool of our new Scottsdale house.

 
I’ve decided that I like this new swim workout even better than laps.  Since I never learned to summersault at the end of each length to turn around, I lost momentum and time each time I got to the end of the lane.  Not only that, but I ended up chatting with the other swimmers a lot, which interrupted my cardio.  Sometimes they annoyed me when they would crowd the lanes.  Sure I miss the social aspect, but I’ve gained a better workout. Swimming in place is better for me because I don’t stop, and the pool is my own, private paradise.


We are doing lots of things in place, thanks to Covid-19.  My daughter started doing crafts. Some of you are perfecting your bread-baking techniques.  Others are walking or hiking early in the morning before it gets hot. Some are sharing photos of previous vacations since no one can travel much.  We humans are adaptable creatures, and stress can cause us to change—sometimes for the better.  One thing I’ve learned: We can trust God to help us create joy and grow where we are planted.  God is in the resurrection business after all!   Here’s a verse for us to meditate on today:  “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.  You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).  God has given me joy while swimming in place.  I pray that you can find joy in whatever new practices you have established while sheltering in place.

Peace and Joy to You,

Co-Pastor Sandi

The Future Church

Greetings CCOV UCC,
Last week I had a phone conversation with the former pastor of the church where I was ordained. We talk every few months, and each time he updates me on how many churches in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area have closed their doors.  This time it was 43.  In fact, the very church where I was ordained is on the market, and the remnant congregation is in turmoil.  We both lamented the seeming decline of church as we have known it in our lifetimes.  For many, the Covid-19 crisis is putting a final nail in the coffin, so to speak.  Yet, I think there is hope.  It’s just that churches of the future might look a lot different.


At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, just as most churches had gotten services up and running on line, a cartoon was circulating that pictured both God and the devil.  The devil was smirking over all the churches that he had now closed.  God, on the other hand, responds something like:  Nonsense!  I just opened one in every living room!


It may be that the brick and mortar churches we and our parents and grandparents have always known are giving way to a new move of the Spirit. Indeed, many iterations of church have come and gone over the centuries since Jesus walked the earth. Christians of the early centuries met in homes, in caves, underground, or in outdoor gathering places.  Then came the great cathedrals of Europe and elsewhere.  Then came the plethora of brick and mortar churches with which we are most familiar. Perhaps future churches will all be on line or even return to small house gatherings—or maybe hybrid combinations of brick and mortar, on line, and homes.  I refuse to worry about any of it knowing the promise that God’s holy church will continue—even if great change disrupts our nostalgic notion of church.


We all know that younger people generally don’t sit through long church services any more, but they are apt to interact with screens and technology (like they do for work and entertainment) as well as show up for service projects, e.g. serving at UMOM, which for them tends to be more meaningful than sitting through services.  A 30-minute on-line service may be quite palatable for them coupled with opportunities to serve.  What we do know right now is that CCOV’s on-line services are being shared and reaching many living rooms—beyond the usual bounds of our sanctuary—and that may be a real God thing.  We humans only change when stressed enough, so the silver lining of the post-Covid 19 world may be that we’ve given birth to the new move of the Spirit and the next iteration of church.  My prayer though for now is that we return soon to our beloved building but continue our on-line outreach.

Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi  

Auf Wiedersehen

Friends,

I believe that life is eternal and that there is an afterlife.  Some struggle more with this belief than I do, and that’s okay—no judgment.  It just seems to me that there must be an ultimate purpose in living—that our lives are leading up to something more.  I believe this because resurrection is also a key Christian message I see patterned throughout the cosmos.  Richard Rohr says it so beautifully: “…[T]he pattern of transformation is always death transformed, not death avoided.  The universal spiritual pattern is death and resurrection, or loss and renewal…We ordinarily learn to submit and surrender to this scary pattern only when reality demands it of us, as it is doing now.  Christians are helped by the fact that Jesus literally submitted to it and came out more than okay” (https://cac.org/death-transformed-2020-04-12/.  I find this very good news, and I keep thinking of what the Apostle Paul said in that powerful passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13: Love never ends.  The love we experience in relationship never ends—it, like the energy that animates our earthly bodies, just gets transformed.  Love, relationship, and energy are eternal, like God is eternal.

Our congregation suffered two great losses earlier this month: Jim Gaspar and Fred Rhoads.  We mourn those losses because our loved ones are not physically with us the way we are used to.   It was good the way they used to be here with us—with their spouses, their families, and with their friends, singing in the choir.  It was good because God intends and creates this life to be good.  In Genesis 1 God repeatedly calls material creation “good.”  And yet, good as it is, there is more.  We just don’t see it clearly yet.  In 1 Corinthians 13:12 Paul puts it this way:  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  We can’t fully know the enormous Presence that underlies material reality—not yet anyway.

And so, we say our goodbyes to Jim and Fred, at least for now.  Actually, the German language says this much better (theologically speaking).  “Auf Wiedersehen” implies that we will see each other again. I believe this with all of my heart.  In the meantime, let us be with one another in our mutual losses even as we have a blessed hope.

Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi  

Food Collection

Friends,

Yesterday I delivered 202 lbs of food to Vista del Camino Community Center’s food pantry!  Nearly every week since the beginning of COVID-19, our congregation and its friends have stepped up and provided hundreds of pounds of food for needy families lining up in the wake of virus-related job losses.  The good news is that the staff at VDC is seeing less need now with more people being called back to work.  I’d say our job is done when there is no need.  
In a related vein, Pastor Dick and I will begin a sermon series on The Beatitudes that will take us through July and August.  One of Jesus’ beatitudes (a word that means blessing) is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  “Righteousness” is better translated as “justice.”  It is justice, pure and simple, that everyone should eat.  And blessed are we when we hunger and thirst for everyone to do so.  Richard Rohr says, “When you experience the reality of your oneness with God and creation, actions of justice and love will naturally follow.”  The Holy Spirit, who lives inside of us, prompts us to such good works of justice and love.  Such sharing feels natural.  Let us therefore keep up our food collection.

You may want to read through The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 before we start the sermon series, which will still come to you by video.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to us by phone if you need prayer or any other pastoral care!

Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Racism

Friends,

At our Zoom meeting last Thursday afternoon, we all shared the heaviness on our hearts over the still-unfolding, tragic events in our country.  The unjust death of George Floyd is just the latest in a seemingly unending cycle of violence against our brothers and sisters of color.  One thing I hope we are all getting from this is that we, as white people, cannot really fathom the depths of racism’s legacy.  Slavery in this country existed from 1526-1865.  Segregation existed from 1865-1964.  The social ills from these terrible legacies will not resolve until we commit to fight racism wherever we encounter it, including in ourselves.


If we say, “I’m not racist,” then we are kidding ourselves.  All of us have likely been raised under the influence of racism.  The messaging in my own family and formative community was awful.  I am recovering from it only by intention and commitment.  The American writer Ijeoma Oluo, who wrote the book “So You Want to Talk about Race” said, “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend you are free of racism to be anti-racist.  Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself, and that is the way forward.”

 
One of the ways I am fighting racism is by reading the gospels with fresh eyes.  I know some are resistant to the Black Lives Matter movement and prefer to say that All Lives Matter.  Yet if you really look at the words and actions of Jesus, He repeatedly calls us to pay particular attention to the ones being marginalized.  He never says that we don’t all matter, but there are contexts—places and times—when some need preferential attention.   In the long wake of slavery and segregation, I would invite you to reread Luke 15:3-7 or Matthew 18:11-14:  Both passages tell the story about the shepherd who leaves the 99 to search for that one lost sheep.  Yes, the 99 are important, but we see what lengths Jesus goes to restore that one who has experienced trouble!  For the Christian, Black Lives do Matter. Saying so and fighting racism are acts of restorative justice, which are sorely needed in the long and unjust legacies of slavery and segregation.  Let us continually examine our hearts as we expose them to the light of the gospels.  

Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Worshiping Outside our Buildings

Friends,

Many of you are asking when we might return to in-person worship and our (newer) summer tradition of meeting around the brunch table in Hayden Hall.  At this time, the leadership of CCOV still feels that it is best that we hold off and then re-evaluate come September.  We want to base our decision to resume regular worship on the best science available at that time in order to keep everyone safe.  The Southwest Conference and the National Setting of the UCC have continued to guide churches through the process of deciding how and when to return.  Here is my takeaway from them in short: We have been urged to make our decision based on how it will affect the most vulnerable among us.  That, I believe, is a thoroughgoing Christian principle and the one that should guide us in our decision making.

I know some churches are clamoring to reopen and justify this by saying that worship is essential.  And I would agree that worship is essential, but worship does not necessarily mean gathering in buildings where we might spread contagion to the most vulnerable among us.  The Rev. William J Barber II recently said this: “Houses of worship are not essential, but true worship is: “When I was hungry, did you feed me?  When I was thirsty, did you give me a drink?  When I was a stranger, did you invite me in?  When I was naked, did you clothe me?  When I was sick and in prison, did you visit me?”  These practices are the outcomes of true Christian worship everywhere.  We continue to give and to serve as a means to worship God—now perhaps in more powerfully conscious ways than ever before.  We see the urgency of unemployed folks needing food and supplies, and we are stepping up. Let us continue worshipping God by our collection of nonperishable goods for Vista del Camino Community Center for the foreseeable future.  What an excellent way to say that the Church of Jesus Christ is alive and well!  See you on line!

Blessings,

Co-Pastor Sandi

Narrowmindedness

Friends,

One of the professors from my seminary, Dr. Steve Harper, penned a thoughtful quote a few weeks ago that I keep thinking about.  He wrote, “Narrowmindedness is the reduction of life until it is so small all you can see is yourself.  And in that tiny world, you can justify whatever you say or do.”  For me, Dr. Harper’s quote calls to mind Jesus’ frequent sparring with the scribes and Pharisees, whose old, worn narratives Jesus sought to disrupt with his telling of parables.  Those parables were stories designed to interrupt the narrow places that the natural mind would go, those well-worn tracts that upheld the status quo and old prejudices that were so antithetical to the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom that Jesus came to announce.  One good example is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  You know the old story, which Jesus tells to a scribe:  A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed and beaten within an inch of his life.  Both a priest and a Levite, two folks who should have known about God’s law of compassion, passed by the injured man.  But then a Samaritan, one considered to be low class and of mixed race, stopped and went above and beyond in his rendering of aid.  Jesus countered the narrowmindedness of the scribe’s prejudice in this parable as he drew a contrast between those who knew the law and those who actually put it into practice.

One of the things that Jesus frequently did was cause people to step back and look at their own attitudes and behavior in deeper ways.  We all need to examine our well-worn attitudes and perceptions with more objectivity.  I wonder if we can use this on-going time of quarantine to cultivate deeper self-awareness so that we might come closer to seeing the world as God would have us see it.  One way to do this is to revisit the parables in the Gospels and ask ourselves, “How is this story jolting me out of my narrowmindedness?  How is this story changing my usual thought patterns and moving me on to a larger world?”  May the time we spend be enlightening and fruitful.

Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi    

Asking the Big Questions

Friends,

The past two summers we met Sunday mornings in Hayden Hall over a potluck breakfast.  In 2018 congregation members offered various presentations and facilitated discussions, and in 2019 we had  worship services around the table with a brief discussion to follow.  Those intrepid enough to brave the Valley summer heat (and who didn’t flee to more temperate climes) came to enjoy these more informal and intimate fellowship experiences. This coming summer, starting on June 21, we thought we would try something still informal but a little different.  We will open with a prayer and then engage in a discussion based on questions that you all pose ahead of time.  Everyone has faith/biblical/theological questions that they always wanted to explore, so this summer will be a great time to get to those.  My aim is to explore one question per week.  I can’t promise you pat answers, but we can talk about how various scholars and traditions have answered some of those questions.  Here are some examples to get you thinking:  Why are there pain and suffering in this world?  How would Christianity and other world religions fare if we found out for certain that there is extraterrestrial life?  What happens to us when we die?  I ask you to start submitting your questions by email either to me or to the church office, and we will explore them over Sundays in the summer.  If we can’t meet safely in person and share a breakfast potluck by June 21, then we can certainly meet together by Zoom for these 10 AM Sunday discussions.  I look forward to seeing you all—in person or on Zoom!  In the meantime, please let me know if any pastoral needs come up; we can easily talk by phone, etc. 

Peace,

Co-Pastor Sandi     

Seeing Again

Luke 24:13-49

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Sermon: Seeing Again Preached by Rev. Sandi Anthony for April 26, 2020

The story is told (at least on sermon illustration sites) that a funny thing once happened to a pastor of a Hispanic congregation in the United States. He was baptizing a family in a river near the church. As the newly baptized members came out of the water, he handed them their baptismal certificates. Afterwards, in true Latino fashion, they celebrated a fiesta. Since the whole event occurred outdoors, the baptism and celebration were open for all to see — including a couple of men recently arrived from Mexico. The next day these men showed up at this pastor’s church asking if this was the church where they “fixed papers.” These men naïvely mistook the baptismal certificates for official government papers that would legalize their status in this country. In short, they thought that the people getting baptized were receiving green cards.

I wonder, how often do we misrecognize things and fail to see the larger reality all around us?  I misinterpret things all the time; I’ve learned that there can be quite a disconnect between intent and perception, perception and reality.  In fact, as I move along life’s journey, study the scriptures, partake in the sacraments, and dialog with other believers, I feel like my eyes get opened wider and wider to God’s greater reality just beyond my sight.  That’s a theme in scripture, you know—being blind and then seeing.  God causes the scales to fall off our eyes, and sometimes in those wonderful moments, we can see into heaven.  The gospel stories that we read starting at Easter about the post-resurrection events all seem to involve cases of misrecognition. At the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene mistakenly thinks that Jesus is a gardener. While on a fishing trip, Peter and the rest of the disciples see a man walking by the shore, but they do not immediately know that he is the Lord. And then you remember, Thomas, the one who refuses to believe until he sees and touches Christ’s wounds. Sometimes it is difficult to see Jesus—to see the spiritual truth right in front of our face.  Often it is difficult to see things as they really are.

So much of our spiritual journey in life is moving from our initial, cursory perception of something, to a deep, life-reorienting recognition.  This is in essence what it really means to be born again or even to repent.  Being born again and repenting really involve having our minds and hearts changed, sometimes again and again.  And when our hearts and minds get changed, that is evidence of the work of the Spirit in us.  Encounters with the Spirit can give us a new way of seeing reality.  That’s what happens as we encounter the risen Christ.  As we go through life, we often come to very different and deeper understandings of what matters.  It may well be, as we go through this unprecedented time with the virus crippling life as we know it, that we will emerge more focused on what really matters.  We may be moved toward a daily attitude of gratitude for having our needs met more than having all of our wants satisfied.  We may have a better appreciation for the arts that we can access by our media.  We may become re-enamored with the simple rhythms of life: sleeping, making bread, cooking at home, walking in nature, giving thanks for the gift of home.  We may begin truly seeing and loving our neighbors as ourselves and find ways to address homelessness, the lack of healthcare for all, racism, and all kinds of lack and inequalities.

This story in Luke’s gospel about the walk to Emmaus is about two travelers who move from cursory perception to the big reveal. On the walk to Emmaus, Jesus is first recognized as a stranger.  He is not recognized by his two followers who are journeying home to Emmaus from Jerusalem engaged in deep, reflective, and sad conversation about the events that had just transpired in Jerusalem.

The gospel story goes like this:  The two travelers were walking along the road to Emmaus.  We know that one of them was named Cleopas.   Cleopas and his unnamed companion were feeling pretty down because Jesus had been crucified, the disciples had run away, a woman named Mary fantastically claimed she saw the Risen Christ, that somebody had broken into the tomb and stolen the body, and that the Jesus movement was over and dead. They were somber, because their Lord and master, Jesus of Nazareth, was killed and it was all over.  The Roman Empire was not overthrown.  Their hopes for a political messiah were dashed.

And so, the disciples on the way to Emmaus, walk down a path of despair. Their conventional hopes for a Messiah who would liberate their people from subjection had no place for a Messiah who would suffer and die, above all on shameful death on a cross (Byrne, 188). Jesus, during his teaching ministry, had repeatedly described his journey, but they had not fully heard it because it did not fit with their understanding of him.  Suffering, humiliation and death did not fit with their understanding of messiah.  The disciples, you remember, were often so slow to get it.  Their shallow expectations, though, would soon evolve because of this encounter as well as Jesus’ other post-resurrection appearances.

As the two men walked along the road in this sad state, a stranger was soon walking with them. The two men told the stranger about why they were so sad and how Jesus had been killed. The stranger then started to teach them about the Scriptures; Jesus opened up their eyes so that the men came to know that he was the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament, the one who came to suffer and die on the cross.  The two men found their hearts burning with amazement. They invited the stranger to go with them that night and have dinner. At the meal, the stranger spoke and made gestures: he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. In that sacramental moment, the two friends realized that this stranger was Jesus, the Risen Christ.  Their view of reality expanded; they were seeing again, seeing more deeply.  They were seeing the truth in the act that we celebrate as the deep sharing of communion.

Our text says, “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”  This recalls the first meal in the book of Genesis—the one where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  Back in the Garden of Eden, “their eyes were opened” and they knew that they were naked.  In this instance, in Luke’s Gospel, “their eyes were opened” and they recognized Jesus.  This meal—the Eucharist—redresses the ancient problem:  The long exile of the human race—the long journey out of Eden—is over.  The new creation has begun.  Rather than seeing themselves and their own nakedness, they were seeing Jesus and recognizing him for who he was.  The human focus was moved from the self to the other, from ego to recognition of ultimate reality.

I am suggesting to you today that this passage offers us clues as to where to find the Risen Christ.  Too often we look in the wrong places and we fail to stay open to the unexpected.  Often people erroneously look to find the Risen Christ according to their personal expectations.  We think, for example, that we find Christ in our pastor or in our leaders.  We think we find Christ in our health and in our wealth.  No wonder we get disappointed.  Notice that our scripture teaches us today that Christ came to them as they journeyed; he was with them in their conversation, he opened up the scriptures to them, and he made himself known to them during supper in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing in the cup.  It was these things that made their hearts burn within them and transformed their seeing and their understanding.  It was all about the Word, the Sacrament of supping with him, and their fellowship together.  These were the things that ultimately mattered.

We may be looking to Jesus to deliver us from the new reality of the world we find ourselves in.  We may expect him to deliver us from this lockdown, to heal people we know who have gotten this virus.  We may be expecting him to return us to normalcy.  We may be looking to Jesus to deliver us from economic hardship this difficult time has brought.  But this may be misrecognition.  That is what the people in our Gospels had originally expected of him—that as the messiah he would throw off the Roman rule.  They wanted and expected a bread king, one who would satisfy all of their physical needs.  This is not what he was about.  He reveled something more: that he was there with them still, journeying along the path with them.  The take-home for us, at such a time as this, is that God’s presence in suffering is very real, but God is at work resurrecting the suffering, the grieving.  The post Covid-19 world may not look like the old world; what was once normal may not be that way again, but I would suggest that God will bring something new, some bigger way of seeing reality, perhaps this tragedy will inspire us to care more deeply for all our fellow human beings and our planet.

I find it interesting that these stories of Jesus’ post-resurrection experiences involve a response of witness—of witnessing.  The two men that had their eyes opened to Jesus over dinner, after Jesus vanished from their sight, left within the same hour to go back to Jerusalem to tell what they had seen.  There they found the 11 disciples gathered with their companions.  Peter had seen the resurrected Jesus as well, and I am sure they were all comparing notes.  Witnessing, you know, is all about how the church has grown—and continues to grow.  Maybe you could share our videotaped sermons that help you now with your friends.  Maybe they need to see again, to be reminded of God’s love and presence, and to have their eyes opened to the larger realty.

What do we do when we have an experience of the risen Christ?  We want to tell someone!  Some have profound experiences of Christ—and many varieties of such—and in an instant know that they are “born again.”  They become “on fire” for the gospel and are inspired to evangelize. There are a few who have had near-death experiences in this life come back transformed, with a new mission burning in their hearts—kind of like the Apostle Paul got from his experience on the Road to Damascus.  Some humans do get momentary glimpses into the broader reality—the dimensions just beyond our ordinary perception—and they know that this physical universe is not all that there is—and the experience is so profound that they are propelled to witness—just like Jesus wants them to—to spread a message of love and repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the nations.

This makes me think of a soil engineer Clint and I have hired to address problem of our sinking patio atop our hillside perch in Prescott—those of you who attend our church have likely heard our tale of woe, of our crumbling hillside.  When we met this man, he told us a story of how he suffered a widow-maker heart attack.  When his heart stopped, he had a full-blown near-death experience and a profound encounter with God.  When I asked him what changed in his life since this experience, he told me that he realized that love is truly the most important thing.  He wanted to tell everyone about God’s unconditional love, and he returned to making music—something he had long since given up—to help spread this news.  And he found a new church—one open to these encounters.  You can really see God’s love shine in his life; he is someone you instinctively trust—who embodies honesty, concern, and care.

My prayer is that Jesus is now opening up the scriptures to you along your life’s journey—along your journey to Emmaus.  Remember, this journey is a communal journey—not a solitary one, even though it may feel like that now.  People all over the world are feeling and experiencing the same things you are.  We still journey with others who are with us in spirit and who can connect with us in this strange new world of Zoom calls and electronic media.  But remember, we also journey with Jesus himself, who comes to join with us along the road—just like he did with Cleopas and his companion. 

Jesus has indeed risen.  With all the dark things going on, we long for Jesus; he is our hope.  In the meantime, we simply serve in the ways we can: by phone calls, texts, yelling across the street to check on our neighbors, and through the continued giving of our tithes and offerings.  No matter what, we remain the hands and feet of Christ in this hurting world.  I hope and pray we all get glimpses of Jesus along life’s journey; and that we see again, that we see more deeply the larger and eternal reality around us.  Amen.

Going through to Go Up

Welcome:  Welcome friends!  He is risen!  And you know what to say here, even from your homes….He is risen indeed!  So sad that I can’t see your beautiful faces in person this Easter.  Even so, it is good to be together in spirit and through the spirit that binds us all together. That time will surely come again, make no mistake.  When we look back through history, we will note the patterns that after every time of difficulty, there comes ease again.  Bill Gates recently said that “Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle.”  May Easter bring you the reassurance that this too shall pass—this time of suffering.  Let us therefore join our spirits, hearts, and minds together for the Easter worship of our Lord.   

Jeremiah 31:1-6

31At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, 3the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. 4Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. 5Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. 6For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.”

Matthew 28:1-10

28After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Colossians 3:1-4

3So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Sermon: Going Through to Go Up preached by Rev. Sandi Anthony Easter, 2020

Continue reading