Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sermon for May 13, 2018; Psalm 1

Rev. George Miller
May 13, 2018
Psalm 1

Pictures.

Noted Old Testament professor, James Limburg, begins his commentary on Psalm 1 by stating that the psalms use powerful pictures.

The Lord as shepherd (23), as king (53), as a rock (92), as a father (103).

Pictures.

They are used by the psalmists not just to convey images of God, but to convey images of us.

The Lord’s people as sheep (28,80), as servants (90), as vines (128), as arrows (129).

Psalm 131 paints the picture of us as dependent children, and God as a Mom, when it states “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”


As James Limburg states, pictures are used to make points, and to convey a message. He then points out the first picture presented in the Psalms:

“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…they are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in the season, and their leaves do not wither…”

A tree.

Of all the images, of all the pictures, of all the ways one can begin a collection of 150 praise songs to God, this is what was chosen, thousands of years ago.

The Book of Psalms could have begun with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(22)

It could have begun with “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up…” (131).

But instead the Book of Psalms starts with the word “Happy” and it begins with the picture of a tree besides the water.

Pictures.

Why a tree? What kind of tree?

A maple? An oak? A cypress or sequoias?

When picturing a tree, what kind of words come to mind?

Sturdy? Alive? Rooted? Bending without breaking? Beautiful?

Limburg goes on to state that Psalm 1 seems to be saying to us “This tree can be the picture of your life.”

A key aspect of this picture of a tree is not just that it is by water, or that it’s bearing much fruit, but that it is prospering; it is happy.

And what brings this happiness?

Not following the ways of the wicked. Not surrounding yourself with people who feel the need to scoff and scorn.

But most importantly happiness comes from finding delight, and experiencing joy in the Lord’s teachings.

This right here is how Psalm 1 defines prosperity. From the psalmist’s view, happiness is not based solely on money, or purchases or always getting what you want.

From a scriptural perspective, prosperity is about being connected with God, who is the source of life.

We may be the tree, but God is the water.

We may bear fruit, but it is God who provides the nourishment.

From God’s commands come other examples of happiness- Psalm 41:1 says that those who care for the poor are happy.

Psalm 89: 15 says those who walk with God, offering praise are happy.

Psalm 127:5 says happiness belongs to those who raise a family in which God builds the home.

Happiness is prosperity.

Being planted by God is prosperity.

Meditating on God’s commands brings prosperity.

Like a tree by streams of water.

Pictures.

Jesus was notorious for the use of pictures.

Think of the images Jesus used to teach about God:

the waiting Dad, the rebellious child, the woman searching for a lost coin.

Think of how Jesus used pictures when he said “Blessed are the poor in spirit…you are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…look at the birds of the air…consider the lilies of the field...”

Of course, if we are to talk about pictures, there is perhaps no greater image for us Christians than that of the Cross.

The Cross in which Jesus hung. The Cross in which all of history revolves around. The Cross, in which suffering and salvation meet.

And, after all, what is a Cross, but a tree.

The Cross, which is the ultimate sign of our faith, is also perhaps the ultimate picture of our very depravity.

Think about the depravity of humanity- that we would take something so beautiful, so life giving as a tree.

We would take something meant to give shade in the heat, home to the birds of the air, and a fortress from winds and storms…

…and chop it down, cut it up, carve it into what? A vehicle for murder. A tool to humiliate. A means to kill.

It is heartbreaking.

It is heartbreaking to think that God wanted us to be so blessed that Christ was willing to be cursed.

It is so heartbreaking to think that our faith is such that one moment we may sing “Like a tree that’s planted by the water, we shall not be moved,” to a song that solemnly asks “Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?”

…and yet, the depravity of humanity is no match for the redemptive power of God.

It is so astounding to think that God could take something that was rough and rugged, and turn it into a picture of amazing grace.

How astonishing that God could take desecrated wood, and turn it into a picture of God’s love for us.

How unbelievable that God could take something that was deadly and turn it into a picture of unity.

How shocking that God could take something that was used as a source of fear and transform it into a sign in which east meets west, north meets south, earth touches heaven, and the wounded reaches out to those who are doing the wounding.

The Christian narrative is seamlessly portrayed through the picture of trees.

A tree that was planted in the very first garden. A tree from which our savior hung. A tree that is prosperous beside streams of water.

In closing, as we prepare to enter into this summer season, as we prepare to enter into our congregation’s first ever sabbatical, let us do so mindful of today’s scripture.

That’s God’s desire for us is to be happy.

God’s desire for us is to be prosperous and to meditate on God’s commands.

That God’s desire for us is that we be like strong, sturdy, rooted trees that are well nourished, able to withstand tough times, and able to bear much fruit.

Like a loving father, like a loving mother, what God wants is for us to be happy.

For that we can say amen and amen.

Monday, May 7, 2018

May 6, 2018 Sermon on 1 John 5:1-6

Rev. George Miller
May 6, 2018
1 John 5:1-6

(Sermon starts with holding up a small plastic cup) Who knows what this is?

It’s the Family Cup.

Perhaps you had one in your home growing up. This is the cup that was kept in the family bathroom by the toothbrushes.

Maybe you didn’t have a Family Cup.

Maybe you grew up in a home that had a dispenser attached to the wall in which you used disposable Dixie cups with cartoon characters or sassy sayings on them.

Maybe after brushing your teeth, you cupped your hand under the faucet to catch water to rinse your mouth out.

Or, maybe you had the good old fashioned Family Cup. The cup that everyone used after they brushed their teeth.

If you had a Family Cup you can testify that it was rarely washed and would eventually develop its own series of fluoride-based water stains running down the side.

The Family Cup is what you did. You didn’t think about it; you didn’t know any better.

You didn’t think it was gross to drink from the Family Cup.

You were part of a family in which mother, father, sister, brother all used the same cup.

Why not? Sharing is what family does.

Besides, it built your immune system

There is a beauty in the shared Family Cup.

Without anyone realizing it, it symbolized belonging, it symbolized being part of something bigger than yourself, and it symbolized that as a family, we are ONE.

There is a beauty in the ability to share.

Think of what it is like to date. You meet someone you like, you go to the movies. You start off by getting separate sodas and separate bags of popcorn.

But eventually, what happens? You get a tub of popcorn to share, your hands melting into the buttery goodness.

In courtship or friendship, you get to a place in which you share something off the other’s plate.

Then you may share something off the same fork.

You know it’s serious, and you know it’s real, when you eventually sip from the same straw.

This notion of intimate sharing, of family unity is a huge part of today’s scripture.

As we move from Easter into Pentecost, we have a chance to hear the communal nature of the good news.

As theologian Amy Oden notes, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about being a lone ranger; it’s about a partnership that involves all the people of the church.

Today we have a letter that has been written to a congregation. Though the early church attributed this letter to John, the author is actually anonymous, choosing to identify himself as “the elder.”

Already the theme of family weaves itself through this testimony of faith.

It is not a letter written just to the head bishop, or to the board of deacons, but it is written to the entire church family.

It is a letter crafted from words of faith, and words based on belief.

Belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the unifying factor of the Christian family.

The elder states that if we believe in Christ, then we are a child of God.

And if we love God, we love All God’s children. More than that- if we love God, than we see God’s children as our sisters and brothers; as our kin.

This is not love as in a general feeling of good will.

This is not love as in the way we love a purse, or love a sports team, or love the latest Marvel movie.

It is love that is communal. It is love that is beyond agreements and like-mindedness.

It is love that is an ACTION.

Love that is a verb.

Love that makes you raise your hand in thanks, close your eyes in gratitude, and makes you want to be a better person.

It is love that says “I will Care 4 U, just as U Care 4 me.”

This is the kind of love that says “We are the same body, filled with the same blood coursing through our veins, and the same water flowing out of our eyes.”

This is the kind of love that says “When you hurt, I hurt. When you heal, I heal.”

This kind of love made known through Christ is the kind of love that manifests itself in welcome; love that manifests itself in acts of compassion.

Love that comes across so clearly in the things we do- like meal sites and pantries, prayer shawls and music programs.

This is the kind of Christian love that manifests itself in cards of condolence, phone calls of care, and Coins for Kids

This is the kind of love that one would experience in the Family Cup, in which everyone shares, and everyone sips.

It’s sad to say, but culture has become way too fragmented, way too divided, way to isolationistic for anyone’s good.

But Christ…Christ calls us to do the opposite.

Christ, as the son of our Heavenly Father, calls us to come together.

To find common ground.

To create community.

Christ calls us to be comfortable with conflict, to take chances, and to welcome complicated conversation.

Jesus Christ, as our sacred sibling, calls us to conquer the world through a few simple commandments-

That we love God. We love neighbor. We love our congregational brothers and sisters.

That we dare to love ourselves.

With Christ as the Son, and God as the Father, we realize that we are not in this alone, we were not meant to be isolated from one another, but that we are a family.

We are meant to share the same cup. Meant to share the same meal. Meant to eat at the same table no matter what we may be going through.

In doing so we welcome the Spirit of truth; we welcome the Spirit of love, and we become ONE. Amen and amen.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sermon for April 29, 2018; Psalm 22:25-31

Rev. George Miller
April 29, 2018
Psalm 22:25-31

It’s been said that in the Eskimo language there are 100 words for snow. English has about 32 words for rain.

And in Hebrew, there are 7 words for “praise.”

There is zamar (zaw-mar) which means to sing with instruments and to touch the strings.

There’s yadah (yaw-daw) which means to raise an extended hand, it is a form of surrender and affection, as when a child says “pick me up, Papa.”

There’s tehillah (teh-hil-law) which means to sing out, to be spontaneous, to share the melody that’s in your heart, unrehearsed.

There is barak (baw-rak) which means to kneel or bow, to be reverent before the Lord.

Shabach (shaw-bakh)- to address with shouts and loud adoration, giving testimony in praise while being unashamed.

Then there is towdah (to-daw) which means to extend the hand in agreement, saying “That’s right,” “Hmm-mmm,” and “All that I am is yours.”

Finally there is halal which means to shine, to celebrate, to act a fool.

Now, why would anybody want to act like a fool?

Anyone who has sunk to the pits of despair and emerged with new breath.

Why would anybody act a fool?

Anyone who has been encircled by the bulls of Bashan and found their way out.

Why would anybody act a fool?

Anyone who has ever uttered the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me???”

Why would anybody act a fool?

Anyone who can testify what God has done, not caring what anyone else has to say.

Today we take a look at Psalm 22, a scripture that everybody should know.

Why?

Because Psalm 22 addresses perhaps the most universal experience- the suffering of man and the abandonment of God.

It does not sugarcoat. It doesn’t pretend. It puts it out there for anyone who has ever said “God- where are you?”

Psalm 22 is a song for the lonely.

It is a song for anyone who feels dejected and down in the dirt.

It is for those who know what it’s like to have people mock you or use unflattering names.

Psalm 22 is for anyone who feels that trouble is near, their body is breaking down and their heart is melting away.

Psalm 22 is for anyone who has ever been abused, traumatized, neglected, hurt and left to wonder “Why me?

Psalm 22 is for anyone who knows what it is like to have a sleepless night, an endless day, and to spend hours in humiliation.

Psalm 22 is for anyone who has ever wondered “Where is God?”

“Is God asleep?”

“Is God deaf?”

“Is God punishing me?”

“Has God utterly and completely forgotten all about me?”

Anyone who says they never felt this way is a liar.

Anyone who never felt these things has been living in a dream.

There is a reason why Jesus spoke these words from the cross; there is a reason why we read them every Maundy Thursday.

They are the words of anybody who has ever lived.

But thankfully…they are not the last words.

Fortunately these words of despair do not have the final say, because while sorrow may last from verses 1-20, joy comes in verse 21.

The psalmist, in their lowest moment, cries out “Save me from the mouth of the lion!”

…and then, in the very next line says “From the horn of the wild oxen you have rescued me…”

Salvation comes to the person at hand.

We don’t know how, we don’t know when but the person experienced the presence of God, and after the trauma of his experience loosens its grip, he moves into all kinds of praise.

“I will tell your name; in the midst of everyone I will praise you.”

The praiser praises God by saying “My vow I will pay before everybody.”

With jubilant testimony, he states “God heard me when I cried.”

The psalmist is ecstatic. The psalmist offers praises with song, praises with promises, praises with vows.

You can just picture the person raising their hand, laughing out loud, shouting their song, and shining forth in such a way that no basket could have hidden his light.

There is something more to this psalm.

In the words of Kim, the head of our Word and Sacrament committee, the psalmist could clearly see the “Big Picture.”

They had experienced all the bad, they had experienced all the good, and now they know what their response will be:

To establish radical inclusiveness in which no one is left out of worshipping God.

The poor shall be fed.
Seekers shall find.
Families will praise God together.

What is even more amazing is how this person’s praise transcends all of time and every single life-

Those who are already dead will bow down.

Those who are yet to be born will learn the old, old story.

Though everyone past, present and future will eventually return to dust, as long as there is breath, we will all praise God’s holy and sacred name!

Last week we talked about what happens when water boils.

Are we like carrots, which turn to mush? Are we like eggs that harden their shell?

Or are we like coffee beans that flavor their environment?

Today we clearly witness coffee beans in the making.

Though life can be hard, though we may feel God is far away as far can be, we are reassured once again that-

No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what the situation may be,

God is present.
God is HERE.
God sees.
God acts.

God is worthy of our praise and admiration.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sermon for April 22, 2108; Acts 4:1-13

Rev. George N. Miller
Acts 4:1-13
April 22, 2018

A woman went to her mother to talk about her life and how things had become so hard for her.

She didn’t know how she was going to make it. She wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting, struggling, and it seemed as one problem arose right after another problem was solved.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high flame.

Soon the pots came to boil.

In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil. Twenty minutes later, she turned off the burners.

She fished the carrots out and placed
them on a plate. She pulled the eggs out and put them in a bowl. She ladled the coffee out and into a mug.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She noted that they were soft.

The mother asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the egg was hard boiled.

The mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter asked "What does it mean?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. But each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, in the boiling water, it softened and became mushy.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its interior, but after enduring the hot water, its insides were hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique. After being in the boiling water, they changed the water, infusing it with their own rich uniqueness.

"Which are you?" the mother asked her daughter. "When adversity boils around you, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Which are you?

Are you most like the carrot that seems strong, but with adversity wilts and loses strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a hardship you become hardened and tough?

Are you the coffee grounds, changing with the situation, able to transform the surroundings and yourself through the process?

When the hour is the hottest and trials are their greatest, can you elevate yourself to another level?

In today’s reading, the disciples find themselves in hot water.

The disciples are continuing the ministry of Jesus Christ. They’ve healed a lame man inside the Temple. But the people in power aren’t too happy about this, so they’re locked up.

The next day Peter and John are brought before the high court, and they’re asked “By what power do you have to do what you’ve done?”

Peter, cool as cool can be, says to the court “The good we have done was done through the power of Jesus Christ, the one you treated like a common crook. It is Christ alone who offers salvation.”

This surprises the council.

Here they are, a court made up of the wealthiest, most powerful people, and they have just been told off by a fisherman.

The court wants to punish the disciples, but they knew it would make matters worse, so they let them off with a warning.

But the disciples go right back to preaching, teaching and healing.

By the next chapter they are arrested again. Peter tells the court “We must obey the God of our ancestors, the one who raised Jesus from the grave.”

This time the court wants to kill them, but one man convinces them “If you pay them no mind, eventually they will fade away.”

So the disciples are given another warning, along with a brutal flogging.

But being as stubborn and sure of their faith as they are, the disciples go right back to teaching, preaching and healing.

Here we witness the awesome power of Christianity. After having Jesus crucified, after the disciples are arrested and flogged, everyone should have just called it a day, given up and gone home.

But our spiritual ancestors were not carrots or eggs, they were more like coffee, and because of this Christianity grew from 12 to 100 to 5,000 and beyond.

How could this possibly be?

So many other religions have come and gone, but Christianity grew and thrived, even while existing in social and political pots of boiling water.

Not only has our faith survived, but it has changed the culture around it.

This story is part of our collective heritage, and it is an example of what life is like.

If you read the Book of Acts, you’ll witness how the disciples are always meeting and overcoming obstacles.

In Acts we come across every day folk that begin as no different than us, who allow themselves to be empowered by the Holy Spirit in all situations.

Acts is an adventurous book with scenes of miraculous healing, heart pounding ship wrecks, and constant run-ins with the law.

In many ways the disciples become models for how we can face challenges.

Now, some of you may be wondering- when will we stand before a court due to our faith?

When are we ever going to be flogged because of our faith?

But we do stand before a court almost every day, don’t we?

It’s called the Court of Life.

The Court of Circumstances.

The Court of Cancer and Chronic Illnesses.

The Court of Accidents and Economics.

The Court of Prejudice and Sexism.

The Court of Aging and Mortality.

We symbolically stand before all kinds of courts all the time even if we don’t realize it.

There are those of us who are standing before the Court of Health. Our bodies are changing and going through things we never signed up for.

We age, our eyes dim, our hearing goes. We stand up and something squeaks, we sit down and something else pops.

We stand before the Court of Health which says “You’re in hot water and look what you got. God is not real, Jesus is a lie, and you are forsaken.”

We can choose to say “It appears that you are right.”

Or like the disciples we can find a way to say “I know my God is real, Jesus loves me so, and as long as I have hope I will never be alone.”

There are other courts we stand before.

Some of us may be standing before the Court of Family Life.

This particular court tells us that our children are struggling or our parents are aging. It tells us that our siblings are dealing with sickness, memories are being erased, and feuds are continuing to pull apart and destroy.

We stand before the Court of Family which tells us that “You’re in hot water and look what you got. God is not real, Jesus is a lie, and you are forsaken.”

We can choose to say “It appears that you are right.” Or we can reply “I know my God is real, Jesus loves me so, as long as I have hope, I will never be alone.”

There is also the Court of Cultural Climate.

It tells us that no one will ever get along, that one side is wrong all the time, that the issues are too great, our differences are too divisive, and our nation is doomed to not survive.

This court tries to scare everyone and says “You’re in hot water and look what you got. God is not real, Jesus is a lie, and you are forsaken.”

We can choose to say “It appears that you are right.” Or we can find our own way to reply “I know my God is real, Jesus loves me so, as long as I have hope I will never be alone.”

We each live our lives in symbolic pots of water.

Sometimes everything is OK and we are not even aware that water is around us.

Sometimes the pots are lukewarm; sometimes they are boiling hot.

When this happens, and the initial shock of our situation subsides, what do we do?

If we’re not careful, we can be like the carrots and become soft and weak, leached all of valuable nutrients.

We can be like the egg and create such a tough interior that no one else can ever get through or make us feel good again.

Or, we can learn to faithfully ride the scalding current and work with the situation, like the coffee beans, finding a way to both transform the situation and to be transformed by it.

Through the Book of Acts and the example of the disciples we see one way to do it.

We see how we can welcome the Holy Spirit, trust it to move in our lives, and to fill us with that cool courage that Peter and the others had.

We also learn how to see our troubles through the scope of time.

To realize that we are all involved in the Christian story, and we already know the ultimate outcome: God prevails, evil loses, and the joy of Christ endures forever.

Life is difficult. Just as much as we win, there is also defeat.

But even situations that seem to be absolute defeat, God can turn into victory.

Even with despair, God can bring out hope.

Even when there seems to be astounding loss there can be ecstatic love.

Today we experience the disciples in boiling pots of water, but instead of becoming mush or hardening their hearts, they became coolly courageous.

No matter what court they stood before, they survived the situation and in doing so they changed the world around them.

When the waters around us begin to boil, may we muster up our courage, harness our strength, and allow God’s Spirit to take us to that higher level, in which we too can change and flavor the world around us.

For that we can say thanks be to God who gives us strength, to Christ who offers us salvation, and the Holy Spirit that fills us with courage.

Amen and amen.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Message 2018; Mark 16:1-8

Rev. George Miller
April 1, 2018
Mark 16:1-8

Though we live in a rapidly changing technological world of Snapchat, Firestick, and Amazon Prime, I’m still a little bit old-school.

I get Netflix through the mail, my DVD player also plays videotapes, and I prefer to read books made of paper that can be held, bent and written in.

So when my Emerson 6 CD Direct Access Changer System, circa 2004, decided to stop working, I was not happy.

For weeks there were some problems: the tray eject would stop half way through or a CD wouldn’t play.

No problem, it was easy to fix; nothing that a good whack on the side or tap on the top could not fix.

But then last week, at an inopportune time, it decided to die. It was the day the Adoption Specialist was coming over to update my Home Study so I could continue the adoption process.

On her last visit, she wrote that my home had a calm, warm atmosphere, due to the music I played.

Sooo, I had to make sure she got to experience my smooth grooves once again.

There was the most perfect line-up of CDs ready in the player, but when I hit play, nothing.

First the screen said no CD. Then when the changer button was pushed, it just whirred and clicked.

Wanting nothing more than to present a calm and warm environment to the Adoption Specialist I whacked the side of the stereo. I smacked the top! One hand, two hand; three times, four!

No luck.

I shut it off, unplugged it, said my prayers, doing all I could, until finally, a CD began to play, and not wanting to take any chances, I just hit “repeat”.

The next day a representative from Home Depot come over to give a quote on new windows. I decided to turn on the CD player.

But this time, not only wouldn’t it play, the changer wouldn’t move, whir or do anything.

I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to head to Habitat for Humanity to get a new stereo, or go online and fork over $200 for a brand new one.

Home Depot comes over, does what they do, giving a quote $11,000 to replace 13 windows!

Not today!!!

So when they left, with sticker shock rattling my spirit, and an uneasy silence in my home, I looked over at that Emerson 6 CD Direct Access Changer System, circa 2004, and thought:

“Oh, you may be playing dead, but I’m gonna figure out a way to make you work!”

And with a sense of fear and purpose born out of that sticker shock, I went to task taking that sucker apart.

Me: who just a few weeks ago had to ask someone at the hardware store what was the difference was between 2 light bulbs,

and just a few months ago learned that there are screws with drill bits built into them…

I was going to fix that CD player!!!

I took it apart, lifted the top of the stereo…

…and I was transfixed by what I saw.

First, I found the causes of the problem- one CD was laying on top of another, while one CD stood at a slant between the trays, preventing it from moving.

With one mystery solved and easily fixed, I sought out the answer to another mystery: how do multi-CD players actually work?

With the Mr. Emerson plugged in, 5 of the 6 CD trays loaded, and the top off, I began hitting all the buttons.

It may sound silly, but for me to see how the trays turned, how they ejected out, how the CDS were lifted up and spun fascinated me.

I was surprised that when the “stop” button was hit, the CD was not dropped back into place, but kept suspended, until the next instruction was given.

I learned that the CDs were played from the back of the machine, not from the front as I would have assumed.

I discovered that though the tray ejection was clunky and slow, it was nowhere near broken, and if well cared for, the system will last a long, long time.

I also discovered something else- the inside of the CD player reminded me very much like a tomb.

There was nothing super fancy about it. There was nothing colorful about it; nothing that seemed alive.

There were 6 slots to place 6 CDs, but I only had 5, and the slot that was empty seemed really, really bare.

And the CDs themselves; they’re basically nothing: flat, lifeless discs with somewhat shiny backs that have little smudges and scratches.

The stereo is basically a CD cemetery, until you hit play, the trays shift, a beam of light hits the disc, and then…sweet, sweet sounds emerge.

In some ways I felt like I experienced my own technological type of resurrection, but of course, Easter is in no ways at all like a CD player.

Easter is like nothing at all.

Easter is a day when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and unlike a light bulb, or a screw, or a CD player, the Resurrection is not something anyone can truly figure out at all.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a narrative that is easy to take apart; it is not an electronic that’s easy to assemble.

The Resurrection is one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Why can we say that?

Because none of the parts fit.

All 4 of the Gospels tell about the Resurrection completely different.

When you read Mathew, Mark, Luke and John it’s not clear just how many days Jesus was really dead. Or who went to the tomb. Or who was at the tomb.

Or, who this guy inside the tomb?

What does it mean to say Jesus has been raised? Like a zombie, or a ghost, or like Frankenstein?

Theories abound and people make assumptions, but that is all they are- assumptions, because no one really knows, and unlike CD players and light bulbs,

I don’t think we’re supposed to know.

And if you notice, the way in which Mark tells his version of the resurrection is very curious.

Mark was the 1st of the Gospel writers to write his account down, and almost all scholars agree that his story ends right here, at verse 8, with the expression “for they were afraid.”

There is no vision of the Resurrected Christ, there is no appearance of Peter, there are no tears in the garden.

Just this scene of three women fleeing in fear from the tomb where the body of Jesus once laid.

“…for they were afraid” is how Mark ends his account of his Gospel.

And we wonder- why fear? How is fear a proper way to end a story about Easter Sunday? How can fear connect us to Good News?

…I’ve been thinking about this all week, and came to this conclusion- “Who says fear is such a bad thing?”

After all, emotions are just emotions, neither good nor bad, until we attach qualifiers to them.

Think about the times you’ve been afraid and how it may have saved your life.

The time you just didn’t feel right walking down a street and something inside you said to leave, now.

The time you didn’t feel safe driving your car and sure enough there was an accident or the check engine came on.

That’s fear as intuition, meant to keep us alive and well.

Then there is the kind of fear that’s attached to new beginnings, or something good that is about to happen.

For those who’ve been happily married, think of that sense of fear the night before and the day of your wedding; jitters that cause one to wonder if they’re doing the right thing.

For those who decide to go back to school or to seek out a new career- there’s an element of fear that can certainly freeze you in your tracks:

Am I doing the right thing? Am I too old? Can I still learn?

For those who have children, and either went through pregnancy or the adoption process, think of all the fear and mystery that was involved.

The not knowing, the waiting, the hoping, the worrying.

For anyone who buys a home- there are all sorts of fears. Can we afford it? Will the closing go smooth? How do we move all our stuff in?

These are just 4 life events that almost always involve some sort of fear, but they can also involve and create some kind of joy, happiness, and glee.

Mark chooses to tell the Easter story through the lens of fear, and in doing so, he lets us know that sometimes being afraid is ok.

When the women flee from the tomb full of terror and amazement, it meant they were very much alive.

It meant they were present.

It meant there was still much more of the story to be told.

And their fear signaled something new- that Jesus was no longer tied down to an earthly realm and limited to bodily form.

Yes- Mark tells us about the Resurrection and chooses to talk about fear. But that is not such a bad thing.

Fear can be used to dismantle systems that no longer work

Fear can be used to create new beginnings.

Fear can push one to discover that they are smarter, stronger, more capable of success than they ever thought before.

Fear can be used to change the world.

Fear can make complacent people get involved to go out and vote, or inspire students to march.

Fear is almost a component of anything worth doing.

Think of our Shepherd’s Pantry. How worried people were in the beginning. How it took a year of meetings to get it off the ground.

How people were afraid it wouldn’t work; we were afraid the money would run out; we were afraid the people would not come.

And look where we are now- feeding over 100 families a month with over $5,000 in our account.

…“Go to Galilee, and there you will see him,” the women are told.

Though they flee in fear, there is no doubt that this fear allowed them to go out into the world and experience Christ in a whole new way.

Perhaps this fear allowed them to discover how Christ is there in the wilderness and the seashores, how Christ is there in the community and in our homes.

How even in death, and in illness, in the unknown and in things that seem broken, and beyond repair- Christ is there.

The Resurrection will always be a mystery, but what a wonderful mystery it is, because no matter how it is told, it is a reminder that God is not done amazing us.

And if we learn how to embrace our fears, we can even amaze ourselves.

For that, we can say amen and amen.