Sermon- Does it Feel Like Easter? (John 20)

Martin-Resurrection Morning

Resurrection Morning by JRC Martin

Easter Sermon: Does it Feel Like Easter?
Scripture: John 20:1-18
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/12/2020, via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the contemporary worship service, including the message which starts around the 15-minute mark.

Does it feel like Easter?
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel so much like Easter. I think of special gatherings full of food, loved ones, and laughter. I think of special clothes, family pictures, baskets, bunnies, egg hunts, and chocolate.

I’ll be alone this Easter. Maybe you are, too.

I think of big church gatherings. Outdoor sunrise services, beautiful sanctuaries full of lilies and light streaming through stained glass windows.

I think of beautiful music. I’m so glad to have some of our musicians here today but I miss the rest of the praise band and the choir. Sometimes we even have trumpets.

I miss all of you. I miss us raising our voices to sing and celebrate Christ’s glorious victory. Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed!

Here we are on Easter morning, and none of us expected this. None of us expected sanctuaries to still be closed, that we would be isolated from one another, that we would be watching worship from home because of a deadly global pandemic.

It doesn’t feel like Easter, it feels like Good Friday
Heavy. Overwhelming. This has been a pretty intense week. Everything is changing so fast and my heart, my mind, and my soul can’t keep up. This horror is unfolding and I feel helpless. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

Some folks are making life-threatening sacrifices for our health and well being and protection. Where am I? Tucked away in my house. There are times where it feels like I’m hiding. Am I denying? Am I blaming? Sometimes I’m bargaining.

Everything is uncertain. What is going to happen? What is next for us? I wonder every time I head out to the grocery store if I’ve brought it back with me? Will I be next?

Maybe you’re like me and all you want to do is turn back the clock, but we know we can’t. We’re living a historic moment, this world-changing moment and nothing will ever be the same.

The one thing that’s for sure- grief is our constant companion.

It doesn’t feel like Easter. But, when I think about it a little more, maybe it does feel like Easter. It feels like the first Easter.

It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb in John’s version of the story. Grief is her constant companion. Everything’s changed so fast and she can’t process it. One evening Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples and less than 24 hours later he’s dead. Now they’re rushing around trying to get him buried before sundown.

I imagine Mary Magdalene continuing to relive the horror of watching Jesus being crucified. She witnessed it. She was helpless to stop it.

Now everyone’s scattered, everyone’s isolated. They’re locked in hoping death won’t come for them.

It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb while it’s still dark. Don’t miss that detail! Mary goes to the tomb expecting to find death, Good Friday. Instead, she finds the stone removed and Jesus’ body missing. Horror on horror, pain on pain, where have they taken Jesus’ body?

John 20:2-18
2 So Mary ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

The men get there, check out the situation and exit quickly, returning to the safety of their locked doors. Mary stays- isolated, overwhelmed, weeping outside the tomb.

John 20:11b-18
11 … As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Have you ever been in that much pain?
You can’t see the angels. You can’t see Jesus.

Jesus keeps working to break through. A third time, Mary is addressed.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Beloved Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and she told them that he had said these things to her.

What changes everything for Mary?
Jesus calls her by name. Jesus is calling you by name.

At the mention of her name, Mary’s weeping gives way to seeing. At the mention of her name, Mary’s grieving gives way to action. I have seen the Lord

Nothing could have prepared Mary for this possibility. The undoing of death itself. Jesus’ victory over injustice and violence and sin and shame and death.

Mary witnessed the most historic moment of moments- a moment that changes everything.

I have seen the Lord and the Romans are still in power
I have seen the Lord and the disciples are still in danger
I have seen the Lord and there’s still a deadly virus
I have seen the Lord and the church is still empty
But so is the tomb

It’s still Easter!
It’s still true!
It still changes everything!
Yes, it still feels uncertain but I have seen the Lord

Hear Christ calling your name
Let your weeping give way to seeing
Let your grieving give way to action
You have the message of hope we all need to hear
Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
Amen!

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Does it Feel Like Easter? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

TED Talk Notes: The Three Secrets of Resilient People by Lucy Hone

Dr. Lucy Hone’s statement, “Adversity doesn’t discriminate” captured my heart. It revealed a truth I’d been living for a long time with those I serve as their pastor, the larger community and world I serve, and my own experience.

If adversity is a universal experience, could it be resilience is also universally accessible?

I and Dr. Hone agree. Yes!

After sharing her own experience of crushing loss, Dr. Hone says, “I didn’t need to be told how bad things were. Believe me, I already knew things were truly terrible. What I needed most was hope. I needed a journey through all that anguish, pain, and longing.”

She offers these strategies for rising up from adversity, for accessing resilience.

1. Resilient people know suffering is a part of life for all humans.

2. Resilient people carefully assess situations, knowing what they can and cannot change. We are hardwired to notice the negative. “Our threat focus, our stress response, is permanently dialed up.” Resilient people notice both the negative and the good. Focusing attention on the good, such as practicing gratitude, brings perspective and higher levels of happiness. Finding the good takes intentionality and effort.

3. Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping me or harming me?” This powerful question provides boundaries and control over decisionmaking.

She closes with, “I won’t pretend that thinking this way is easy. And it doesn’t remove all the pain. But if I’ve learned anything over the last five years, it’s that thinking this way really does help. More than anything it has shown me that it is possible to live and grieve at the same time and for that, I will be always grateful.”

flower breaking through concrete

What strategies help you grow and stay resilient? 

From the official TED Talk Notes: “Dr. Lucy Hone is a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, a research associate at AUT University, a published academic researcher, best-selling author and contributor to Psychology Today, the Sunday Star Times and Next magazine.”

Dr. Hone’s book is Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything.

Micah 7:8, ESV
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

Romans 5:1-5 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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Ted Talk Summary © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day (Matthew 14)

loaves and fish

How Jesus Grieves, a Sermon for All Saints Day
Scripture: Matthew 14:1-21
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/3/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Introducing All Saints Day
Traditionally celebrated on November 1st, or the Sunday closest to it
On All Saints Day, we remember…

  • We too are saints (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
  • Our loved ones who have died
  • Those who have inspired our faith and led us to Christ

For some, All Saints Day is a day of thanksgiving and gratitude. A day of inspiration. For some, a day of beloved memories. A day of sadness because those memories bring a reminder of grief and loss.

Whatever you are feeling, it’s ok. All those feelings are welcome.

Reading of Matthew 14:1-21, Jesus grieving the death of John the Baptist

Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, is unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered. John was executed by a weak man, Herod Antipas. Herod was drunk, aroused, showing off. Herod got caught in a bad place. in order to “keep up appearances” before those who had gathered for his birthday, those he had to lead, those who might report his choice to Rome, Herod had John executed.

John had been a part of Jesus’ life from the very beginning, since before the two of them were even born. They met in their mothers’ wombs. At the meeting, John began jumping and preaching in the wilderness of his mother’s womb that Jesus was the Messiah.

John was family, literally family. If anyone understood who Jesus was and what Jesus was called to do, it was John the Baptist. If anyone understood what Jesus is going through- the sacrifices Jesus was making, the mocking, the confrontations, the homelessness, the misunderstandings, the persecution, it was John and now John is dead.

John’s disciples come to tell Jesus and Jesus is shaken by the loss. He’s grieving deeply. It’s one thing to lose a loved one, it’s another to lose a loved one in such an unjust and brutal way.

What does Jesus do? Jesus gets into a boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee to find a quiet place. But when Jesus arrives he does not find a quiet place. Jesus finds people. Thousands of people.

These folks are also grieving the death of John the Baptist. They’re heartbroken, sick, hungry, and oppressed.

Hoping to find quiet, but instead finding people, what rises up inside Jesus? What would rise up inside of you?

What rises up inside Jesus is compassion. Compassion literally means “suffering with.” He hears their cries alongside his own. He understands their pain because he is in pain. What does this pain do? This pain opens Jesus. Opens his heart in compassion, in empathy, his hands in generosity and Jesus helps.

There’s healing in the helping. He helps. He blesses. He feeds. He listens. He comforts. He heals.

Excerpt from an Instagram Post by Jen Willhoite @cobbleworks
“Jesus let himself be interrupted by the pain of others even as he was suffering, reeling in his own. He took what scraps of food and hope there were and offered it all up to Divine Love. He knew something abundant could come from something threadbare and it seemed he knew it started with honest sharing…with himself, with others, and with the Sacred One. He held it all aloft and the bread and meat grew in abundance. …

Maybe it was healing for Jesus to nourish others when he was aching. [What] if suffering alongside each other and giving our hope to God even if it’s just grieving scraps might be the thing that gets us all through. Maybe the 5,000 were fed and Jesus was fed too. Maybe we’re still being fed today by stories like this. Stories that tell us hope matters. That our pain matters. Our friendships matter. Our cries matter. Our gathering matters. Our willingness to say we’re hurting and also be interrupted by the pain of another all matters.”

Amen! It matters. It all matters.
Jesus was grieving and what rose in him was compassion and generosity and hope-
not bitterness, not revenge, not isolation, not despair

This is the power and glory of our Great God rising in the midst of death. This same power and glory of God are rising in you.

Jesus’ brokenness, the crowd’s brokenness, your brokenness – God gathers it and redeems it all. Broken hearts, broken bodies broken systems, broken bits of bread and fish- God gathers it and redeems it all.

This is our truth – God is good, God is strong, God is near. When we claim it and cling to it, this is what makes us saints. 

God’s compassion, generosity, hope rising up in us so we find healing in the helping.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints are simply people who understand their deep need and turn to God and ask God to bring good out of the pain. That’s what redeeming is- God bringing good out of the pain, out of the brokenness, out of the mess.

Today we remember we are saints. We remember the saints that have gone before us. Claim this life. Say “yes” to it. Place your trust in Jesus and follow him. Be a saint.

And so my brothers and sisters, let us remember who we are in Jesus- wounded healers, saints, set apart by God and for God.

Let us remember our purpose- to lead a devoted life of compassion, generosity, and hope. A life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. A life that inspires faith in others.

Let us recommit ourselves to this life, by first honoring the lives of those who have inspired us-
The heroic and humble who ran the race before us
The martyrs who sacrificed all for the sake of Jesus
And especially those who we have known and loved
who led us to Jesus and encouraged us to deeper faith and service

Let us pray…
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You surround us with witness after witness to your transforming love
Inspire us and empower us to persevere
Fill our hearts with courage

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You weep with us in our heartbreak and loss
Comfort us and protect us in our mourning
Fill our souls with hope

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
You cry out in victory over sin and the grave
Raise us and release us to fulfill your calling
Fill our lives with faithfulness and good works

The message concludes with a prayer consecrating the elements for Holy Communion.

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How Jesus Grieves, a sermon for All Saints Day © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

TED Talk Notes: The Three Secrets of Resilient People by Lucy Hone

Dr. Lucy Hone’s statement, “Adversity doesn’t discriminate” captured my heart. It revealed a truth I’d been living for a long time with those I serve as their pastor, the larger community and world I serve, and my own experience.

If adversity is a universal experience, could it be resilience is also universally accessible?

I and Dr. Hone agree. Yes!

After sharing her own experience of crushing loss, Dr. Hone says, “I didn’t need to be told how bad things were. Believe me, I already knew things were truly terrible. What I needed most was hope. I needed a journey through all that anguish, pain, and longing.”

She offers these strategies for rising up from adversity, for accessing resilience.

1. Resilient people know suffering is a part of life for all humans.

2. Resilient people carefully assess situations, knowing what they can and cannot change. We are hardwired to notice the negative. “Our threat focus, our stress response, is permanently dialed up.” Resilient people notice both the negative and the good. Focusing attention on the good, such as practicing gratitude, brings perspective and higher levels of happiness. Finding the good takes intentionality and effort.

3. Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping me or harming me?” This powerful question provides boundaries and control over decisionmaking.

She closes with, “I won’t pretend that thinking this way is easy. And it doesn’t remove all the pain. But if I’ve learned anything over the last five years, it’s that thinking this way really does help. More than anything it has shown me that it is possible to live and grieve at the same time and for that, I will be always grateful.”

flower breaking through concrete

What strategies help you grow and stay resilient? 

From the official TED Talk Notes: “Dr. Lucy Hone is a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, a research associate at AUT University, a published academic researcher, best-selling author and contributor to Psychology Today, the Sunday Star Times and Next magazine.”

Dr. Hone’s book is Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything.

Micah 7:8, ESV
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

Romans 5:1-5 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Easter Message- Collective Trauma, Collective Hope (Matthew 28.1-10)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 5 of 5: Collective Trauma, Collective Hope

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/21/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 28:1-10

notre dame burning

Last Monday, the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame burned. 

  • Where were you when you heard the news?
  • What did you think?
  • How did you feel?

As I watched, heartbroken and sick to my stomach I thought of the three historic African American churches which burned in Louisiana in the last few weeks. I prayed it wasn’t intentional, arson or terrorism.

I heard this term for the first time: Collective Trauma

  • trauma that happens to a large number of people
  • the size of a community or so large it can cross national boundaries
  • it can affect generations to come
  • The older you are, the more you’ve experienced collective trauma
    • war, genocide, slavery, terrorism, natural disasters, accidents

We mark days, time, and life by collective trauma- before and after the trauma

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Deaths of Famous people- President Kennedy, Dr. King, Princess Diana
  • Chernobyl
  • The Challenger Explosion
  • The 9/11 attacks

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Columbine school shooting. Fifteen persons lost their lives that day.

Rick Townsend, whose daughter, Lauren, was 18 when she was gunned down, said
“It seems like every month there’s a new tragedy of some kind somewhere around.
It just makes you feel sometimes hopeless.”

Now we add the Burning of Notre Dame to this list.

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 850 years old
  • Survived: crusades, reformation, revolution, 2 world wars
  • 13 million visitors a year. That means millions and millions of memories- that once in a lifetime vacation, an encounter with Gothic architecture or art, a profound moment of prayer. Maybe they were baptized there. Now millions share the pain over the burning of Notre Dame- collective trauma.

Why does this affect us so deeply?

  • We care about beautiful and sacred places and the people tied to those places
  • What would it be like if my church burned?
  • Something we presume will always be there is gone or forever changed
  • Increased sense of impermanence, mortality, vulnerability, helplessness

notre dame post fire

Yet in the midst of the darkness, pain, tears something new rises

  • In one of the most secular cities in the world, bystanders did not watch indifferently
    • They held each other, raised candles and sang hymns in the streets. Ann Voskamp said, “Songs rose like incensed prayers, mingling with plumes of smoke.”
  • People worked together, risked together, to make a human chain to pass sacred objects from flames to safety- what some believe to be a nail that held Christ to the cross, the crown of thorns which pierced his brow, and a piece of the cross itself
  • At that moment, the world was drawn together in a common goal in the midst of their common pain and it broke down all the dividing walls that so often separate us from each other.
  • Now there is a commitment Notre Dame will be rebuilt on those ancient foundations. Something new will rise.

This is the Good News of Easter
What starts in darkness, pain, and tears will rise, it ends with new life.
Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust ends in Resurrection!

As much as there can be a sharing in communal trauma, this rising can be shared. All of us begin our lives in the darkness of our mother’s wombs. And there is pain and there are tears and there is new life and there is rising.

That first Easter morning, the women started for the tomb in darkness.
Mourn-full, tear-full
Mind-full of the trauma and pain
Expecting to encounter death
Instead, they found a rising. They found new life.

Matthew 28:5b-6
Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

He is not here! He is risen!
What? How?

Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He told you… remember, he told you
He is not here! He is risen!

Blinding light begins to rise within them
Awe-full, Hope-full
Mind-full of words and wonder, this story and this truth
He is risen! Hallelujah! He is risen, indeed!

Where are you experiencing darkness pain tears?
They do not have the last word
There is new life coming, available
There is a rising

What needs to die, that you might know resurrection?
They need to die because they bring on the pain, darkness, and trauma.
Let them die so Christ may be alive in you.

Pastor Lisa’s Testimony

It is Easter! Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed!
It is not about collective trauma, it is about collective hope!
Collective grace
Collective blessing
Collective new life available to each of us

Communion Prayer

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Collective trauma, collective hope © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.