The world was turned inside down on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. His followers didn’t know what to do. They were afraid.They were grieving! Things would never be the same. Into the heart of that grief came a stunning revelation–life had overcome death. Love had won out over violence.
For the last month, our world has been turned upside down. Businesses have closed. Jobs have been lost. The economy has suffered. We have to shelter in place. Huge numbers of people the world over have died from this silent deadly virus—Covid-19. People are grieving! Things will never be the same.
God’s faithfulness would build Jesus’ followers up once again. God’s love will bind them together. Is this possible in our lives? Today’s worship will say, “Yes, it can! Come and see! Live and love! This is the heart of the matter!”
One of the scriptures for this year’s Easter selections is from the book of Jeremiah. The people of Jeremiah’s time were going through trauma. Jeremiah was frustrated with their behavior for many chapters but ultimately his tone changes and he prophesies God’s promise that they will be built back up from the devastation they have endured. They will again feel joy and they will begin to plan for the future again, planting vineyards on the hills even in the midst of exile and pain. Hear these words of promise:
At that time, declares the Lord,
I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.
The Lord proclaims:The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness.
As Israel searched for a place of rest,
the Lord appeared to them from a distance: I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.
And so with unfailing love,
I have drawn you to myself.
Again, I will build you up,
and you will be rebuilt, virgin Israel.
Again, you will play your tambourines and dance with joy.
Again, you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
farmers will plant and then enjoy the harvests.
The time will come when the watchmen shout from
the highlands of Ephraim: “Get ready! We’re going up to Zion
to the Lord our God!” – Jeremiah 31: 1-6
(based on Jeremiah 31)
God of new dawns, new awakenings, new life,
we hear your voice this morning saying,
“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
On this Easter day, you tell us we will be rebuilt and made new. In gratitude we hear you, Living God, and we believe you. And so we will celebrate the gift of new life in Christ,
even in the midst of fear.
You give us eyes to see through tears,
songs to sing with throats tight with emotion.
We know you help the weary rise up out of the ashes.
Give us the courage to be your light and hope in this world today. Amen.
In the account of the resurrection in the Gospel of Matthew, after the stone is rolled away from the tomb, the angel sits on the stone and gives the women this message, “Don’t be afraid.” Throughout the Season of Easter, I invite you to use a “worry stone,” which is a stone you carry about with you to rub when you are feeling anxious or worried. We encourage you to find a stone and paint or draw a heart on it. It will remind you of this angel’s message which Jesus then repeats, “Do not be afraid.”
Easter is not just a day. Easter is a season of eight Sundays that last from today until Pentecost Sunday, a time when we celebrate the Spirit of Christ in the church as the presence of Jesus’ work ongoing in the world. During the Easter Season, we will continue to hear more about Jesus’ message of what is truly the “heart of the matter” in our lives. We will gather each week around a meal. You can make breakfast and have it ready on your tables just in time for worship. We will incorporate eating together as we “break bread” and break open the Word of God and break open our lives with each other. We will be incorporating all ages into the service and so this will be a great way to bring everyone together to share it with loved ones who may be with you in your homes. But we would also love for you to invite anyone that you really miss and wish was at your tables with you such as loved ones– families or friends– across the miles. We’ll be gathering by Zoom, if all goes well today!!
Let us close with this prayer that we will repeat every week of the Easter Season. Repeat after me:
We know Jesus is present among us… [repeat] even in this very home… [repeat]
We will not let fear be louder than love… [repeat] but with glad hearts and rejoicing souls… [repeat] we will sing God’s praise… [repeat]
for we are Easter People…! [repeat]
(based on Psalm 16)
As we close this time together, remember:
God is always with you. No matter what you face, no matter what trials or hardships come your way, God is right beside you, raising your very life, guiding and directing your path. So, acknowledge your fear and your worry and know it is as true and holy as any feeling, including joy and hope and love. Take heart, my friends! This is the heart of the matter. Let the people say, Amen!