Easter Worship for Sunday, April 4, 2021
Isaiah 25:6-9 (Glenn Eisenbrey)
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all people,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Cheryl Markley)
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!
Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
‘The right hand of the Lord acts valiantly;
the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord acts valiantly.’
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the acts of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Acts 10:34-43 (Marilyn Mills)
Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 16:1-8.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus’ body]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today we all joined Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James for an early morning walk. But this wasn’t three friends enjoying a walk together for pleasure or for exercise. They weren’t setting off to the market to shop for food or to the well for water.
This was a walk these women never wanted to take. Because our early morning journey took us to a cemetery. These women have come to Jesus’ tomb. They have come to anoint Jesus’ dead body – because there just hadn’t been enough time to complete this sad task on Friday evening before the sun set and the Sabbath began.
They have come to finish the heartbreaking task of burying their beloved friend – their teacher . . . and their Lord (?) – Jesus of Nazareth.
They had thought. They had hoped. They had prayed that Jesus was their long expected Lord and Savior. That Jesus of Nazareth was the one who would deliver them . . . that he was the one who would save them . . .
This was work they never expected to need to do for Jesus. Jesus wasn’t supposed to die like this. Not at just 33 years old. Not on a Roman cross.
Not a man who helped so many. Who gave so much. A man of love and kindness and generosity. A man who fed the hungry and healed the sick. A man who was good and gracious and merciful. A man who had even raised his friend Lazarus from the dead!
And yet – Jesus had died on a Roman cross. They had seen Jesus’ lifeless – dead body with their own eyes. Jesus was dead. . .
It felt like their world had ended. Their hearts were broken. Their hopes were crushed. Their souls were so very heavy with the weight of grief. They ache for the one they had hoped was their Lord.
Their hearts and their feet probably feel like they are made of lead. We know this – because we too have walked in similar processions. Our feet have walked these paths. We know . . . oh yes – we know . . .
Maybe we haven’t actually prepared a loved one’s body for burial like these women set off to do that morning. But we have all walked those slow – heavy steps into the funeral home to say goodbye.
We have all wrapped our arms around the shoulders of a grieving friend.
We have needed to be wrapped in loving arms when the pain feels like it might just completely overwhelm us this time.
We have all struggled to absorb and comprehend really bad news.
We have been to funerals. We have heard the pastor say “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” over the grave of a loved one. Most of us have been to far too many funerals and heard these words spoken far too many times. . .
We have all felt the weight of grief. We know what it is to ache and long for just a moment more with a loved one.
So we can imagine what these women were thinking and feeling that long ago morning. Because we too know sorrow and grief. We have been there. We know this.
This year – of all years – taught us that. This year taught us about grief and disappointment and heartache. These past 13 months have taught us you don’t always get what you want or expect from this life. This year taught us the storms of this life can come out of nowhere and leave you reeling.
But when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome arrive at Jesus’ tomb their world is turned upside down and inside out – again. Because – nothing is as it should be.
Jesus’ body isn’t in the tomb . . .
Instead – a stranger is waiting for them in Jesus’ tomb. And this stranger boldly declares to them that Jesus “has been raised from the dead. Jesus is not here.”
Jesus has been raised from the dead! Jesus is not dead! Jesus is risen!
What could this mean? What does this mean?
Jesus’ empty tomb means death has been destroyed. And sin has been defeated. Jesus’ own innocent death on the cross and his resurrection three days later broke the bonds of eternal death forevermore.
In Jesus’ empty tomb – we see that God’s grace, love, and mercy have triumphed over sin and death.
God’s love and God’s mercy are stronger than sin and death.
Talk about Good News! Well actually – this is awesome – amazing – earth shattering – life transforming – angel chorus singing – mind blowing news! There is simply no news better than this.
Sin and death have been defeated!
Death does not have the last word with God. Life is the last word. Just as Jesus lives you too shall live.
And so today is a day for celebration. Today is a day for smiles so big that our faces begin to ache. Today is a day for belly laughs – boogie dances and whoops of delight.
Today is a day for alleluias and amens. Today is a day for hallelujahs and whoo-hoos and lots of them!
And maybe – just maybe – today is even a day for some hootin’ and hollerin’. (We do live in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky after all!)
Even for Lutherans – even for God’s beloved “Frozen Chosen.”
Death and sin have been conquered.
Truly this is very – very Good News – indeed! AMEN!