But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
This was the day after the sabbath for them. And the sabbath for me has always been Sunday. The day after the sabbath is the day you go back to work. This was true for Jesus' friends. They came early in the morning because they weren't allowed to treat his body on the sabbath. It was "Monday." And like many other "Mondays" they expected one thing but got something else.
That doesn't really happen to us anymore on Easter. We get up, put on our Sunday best and go to church expecting the sanctuary to be decorated with flowers. We look forward to singing "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, Alleluia!" We wait to be greeted the same way, year after year...
He Is Risen! Say it with me now... He Is Risen Indeed!
There are no surprises waiting for us on the first day of the week, are there?
In fact, the women told the others what they had seen and "it seemed to them an idle tale." Except for Peter - he ran to check it out himself. A surprise? on a Monday? something we didn't expect? Can it be true? What's happened? What's going on?
Some sit idly by when the unexpected happens. Some run towards it.
The missing body wasn't a good thing to find Monday morning. It provoked confusion, chaos, uncertainty, questions. This was cause for meetings - fear-filled, stress-filled, impatient meetings.
It's almost too bad that we know the story too well. We don't spent anytime with them at those meetings. We know that in just a few hours, that couple will walk with Jesus and be warmed by his presence and conversation. We know that in no time they will share a meal with him and they will recognize him in the breaking of the bread. We know the story and we leave little room on Easter Sunday for surprise.
There are traditions to be carried out - new dresses, dinner at grandmas, Easter baskets and egg hunts. That's where the real mystery is... where are those eggs? We've made it all very predictable. But that first Easter - there was nothing predictable. They had put their friend to rest. And then he went missing. He wasn't where they left him. Life with Jesus was never predictable. Life with Jesus always changed their agendas. Life with Jesus kept them guessing. Death with Jesus was no different.
And while our traditions keep surprises at bay, life and death with Jesus remains unpredictable. Following this man who taught anywhere people were sitting, healed the sick, touched the untouchable, lifted up the poor, called into question those in power, turned the law on its head, and went straight ahead into his death - he surprised them all the time. Doesn't he still surprise us?
If we were told that Jesus wasn't where we last left him, would we sit idly by or would we run toward mystery?
28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Decent and in order - what do the stones say?
People lining the street - creating a farcical parade - Jesus entering town like one of the kings or officials. Let's pretend and poke fun - let's laugh and enjoy ourselves. Ourselves, this motley group of followers of the Way. No one take yourself too seriously - after all Jesus is determined to go to the most dangerous place for us. Don't think about it too much - it'll scare the crap out of you. We have no idea what he's up to - we think he might have lost his mind - all we've got to keep us going is this colt and some palm branches and the last minute pageantry of the crowd.
"Blessed is the King!" Not just any king... the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven... glory in the highest heaven! Shouting and dancing and waving - pretending. Less about worshiping Jesus and more about mocking the current power structures who ride into town expecting praise.
And the church folk are quick to say, "stop doing that! it's embarrassing us." Tell them to be quiet. They're causing a scene. Have you no shame?
And Jesus' answer - come on now... if they don't shout, the stones will. What do the stones say?
As we enter Holy Week - whether we celebrate Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday or if our congregations all go away for Spring break... what do the stones around us say? I have a feeling that they've speaking because I haven't seen pageantry lately and praise seems far from our lips.
All photographs can be found at To the Clouds Photography.
I chose to include verse 14 because it provides clear context. God is going to send a messiah to rescue the people once again.
Yes, once again... imbedded in this text is a reminder of the exodus. The central story of the Jewish tradition. Pictures of chariots and horses, armies, warriors, the sea and a path through the mighty waters.
But do not remember.
What? Judaism is all about remembering. Even in this text that challenges the people to not remember has bits and pieces of memories... that they should or shouldn't remember? I'm not sure.
Honestly. What should we remember and what should we not remember? What's worth remembering?
The things that are lost in our lives are the hardest things to forget. Those things that we've lost forever embed themselves in our muscle memory - the hug of a grandma that we can never give again or giggles of a child we hear faintly when we close our eyes or the wise words or unwavering support of a dead friendship. Memory lies within our bodies even when we wish to forget with our minds.
Moving on requires remembering. So what should we remember and what should we not remember? What's worth remembering?
Is it possible to hold onto a rescuing God while not remember the means by which that rescuing God has acted in the past? Is it possible to cling to the rescuer and not the escape route? Hmmm...
Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
You can find this picture at To the Clouds Photography
A severe famine was in the land.
dry, aching earth.
cracked and thirsty.
farmers with work,
farmers without fruit.
A severe famine was in the land.
parched, distant family.
broken and wanting.
father with a business.
father without peace.
A severe famine was in the land.
confused and jealous.
son with status
son without joy.
A severe famine was in the land.
outcast sinners, snubbed tax collectors,
disgust and righteousness.
leaders with reputations,
leaders without grace.
What if the famine is the backdrop for the family as well as the land? What does it mean to have a famine in our families? Does cracked earth translate to broken relationships? Does thirst shed light on jealous older brothers?
And on this desolate landscape, we have a father who pours a glass of grace - ice cold. A stark light onto the dim scene. The son was prepared with a speech and he didn't get to finish it. The father interrupts him with a call for grace - from himself, from the servants, from the house. Grace with food that's hard to come by, grace by party.
And why is Jesus telling this story? Well, he's eating with sinners and tax collectors; the leaders are unhappy with his friends of "doubtful reputation" (as the Message puts it). Jesus is spotted having lunch with the thirsty, the aching, the cracked, the broken, the wanting. And he's serving water.
He's serving water to them? And I've gotta ask myself - who is them to me? Who is revolting? With whom would I not be caught sharing water? Is there anyone in my life that is ruining my reputation? Isn't there a famine somewhere around me that needs water? There simply must be a severe famine somewhere that needs grace like rain.
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