Abiding in God’s Love

Sunday, April 29, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
John 15:1-8

 

Abide. It’s a word we don’t hear or use very often. But in the gospel of John it is used over 40 times, and almost as many in 1 John. It’s a word that’s hard to explain. It can mean to remain or stay, but what John is trying to convey is even deeper than that. It’s more than just remaining at a particular place. When Jesus says, “Abide in me, as I abide in you,” he is inviting us to a deep and intimate connection with him. Jesus wants us to be as close to him as he is to God. And if we think about that it almost seems impossible. How can we be that close to God? Jesus and God are in fact one. And that’s the relationship Jesus wants with us. Jesus wants us to be so immersed in him that we can’t live without him. What is it you can’t live without? What is it that gives you so much joy, and comfort, and peace that you don’t ever want to be parted from it or that you get so caught up in it that you lose track of all time? Where do you want to abide?

For some, it might be gardening, reading, cooking, or doing some other kind of creative project. For some it’s being involved in a sport like running or bicycling or swimming where you just can’t imagine a day without engaging in it. Maybe it’s a day spent fishing or hiking where you lose track of time. Or it could be a day spent with a person or persons you love that makes time stand still. Those are times of abiding, moments or hours where you’re so wholly immersed in the moment that nothing else matters. It’s those times of abiding that we treasure the most in our lives.

That’s the kind of abiding that Jesus is talking about. He wants us to be so connected to him, so immersed in his presence that nothing else matters. Jesus wants us to abide in him, just as he abides in God. And since Jesus is the revelation of God, then when we are that caught up in Jesus we are also caught up in God. How amazing is that! Jesus wants us to find our place of joy and peace in God, and not only does he desire that, but through Jesus it’s possible. We don’t have to try and imagine what God is like. God has been revealed in the person of Jesus. In his life, his ministry, his death, and his resurrection, we have experienced God.

But what about those times when it feels like God is not with us? We’ve all been through those times. Sitting and waiting in a hospital room for a loved one to get out of surgery, waiting for test results from a doctor, waiting for news from a loved one who you haven’t been able to reach, suffering physically or emotionally ourselves, these are all times when it feels like God is not with us. It’s at times like these that we feel like God has actually abandoned us, and God is most certainly not abiding in or with us. Those times are heartbreaking. They leave us feeling isolated, and lost. We feel like branches that have been cut off from a tree and are withering. The life feels drained right out from us. Jesus felt that way too. He cried from the cross before he died, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Could there be any more desperate words than those?

That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers.” He didn’t speak those words as a threat; he spoke them as a fact. God is the source of life, and when we are disconnected from that source, we begin to wither and die. Jesus may have felt he was abandoned by God, yet, before he breathed his last, he said, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit.” He may have felt that he was disconnected from God, but because he abided in God and God in him, Jesus was never truly abandoned. It was their love that kept them connected. They abided in that life-giving love together with the Holy Spirit.

How do we abide in that holy relationship? How can we love like that? Jesus says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Love is the key to our connection to God. And it’s not simply enough to say we love God; we have to show our love through our actions. Jesus gave us a commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus loved us all the way. He loved us to the point of suffering and dying in order to save us. And he expects no less from us as his disciples. We cannot profess to love God if we do not love one another. If we are to be fully alive we need to abide –to totally immerse ourselves – in the love that flows from God. This means that all our actions must flow from the love of God. And this is possible by staying connected to Jesus who is the true Vine. All those other things and situations we think can satisfy us and nourish us only leave us lacking. Jesus who is the true Vine and is connected to God, feeds us with his love so that we can nourish others as well. “We love because he first loved us.” Jesus has shown us how to love; we now need to do the same.

Choosing to abide in love isn’t always easy, especially when people hurt us. But Jesus was crucified, and he still chose to love. He is the image of what love is. He is the image of God who is love. As disciples, we are commanded to love with that same kind of love. We can’t do that on our own, but if we abide in him, his Holy Spirit will move in us to put his love in action. Mother Teresa was an example of a person who abided in Jesus, and lived that kind of love. It wasn’t always easy for her, but she chose to abide in God’s love. I’d like to end with her words.

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

This is how we abide in God’s love. This is how we as the church bear much fruit. Amen.

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Experiencing Resurrection With All Creation

Sunday, April 15, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Romans 8:18-25, Job 12:7-10 & Luke 12:22-31
 

Today, we celebrate Creation Care Sunday, which also happens to fall on Earth Day this year. April 22nd was first designated as Earth Day by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin in 1970 as a result of witnessing the massive oil spill in 1969 in Santa Barbara, CA. On that first Earth Day over 20 million Americans demonstrated in rallies across the country to draw awareness to the destruction of our planet. Thousands of colleges, universities, and other groups united and organized protests to bring awareness to the serious problems human greed was having on the environment. Health problems were also increasing for humans as well. Almost 50 years later, we haven’t made significant progress in being good stewards of the earth, and the call to action is even more urgent. Senator Nelson, however, was not the first one to address the need for environmental stewardship.

Since the beginning of creation, God blessed the first humans and said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) This scripture text, however, has been misinterpreted over the years, and added to humanity’s understanding that we are more important than the rest of creation. God did not create us to have dominion over the earth in the sense that we have understood it to mean we rule over the earth, but rather that we are called to be stewards or care-takers of the earth and all its creatures. This understanding changes the way we relate to all living things, and we then treat all life with respect and love because everything is God’s creation. We were made from the dust of the earth. We share the same particles and elements as the plants, animals, microorganisms, and the elements of the earth, air, and sea. We were created to be in relationship with each other, and with all life. We can learn from each other, as our first reading from Job points out that the animals, birds, fish, and plants have lessons to teach us.

Can you think of a time when you learned something from creation? I remember sitting under a large weeping willow that grew in the backyard of my childhood home in CT. This willow gave me shade from the heat of the sun, and a place to sit and relax. It was like a friend I could always go to when no one else was around, and it didn’t judge or complain. It was a haven from the storms of life. That willow taught me patience, and how to listen.

And over the years I’ve learned from many of God’s creatures. Have you ever noticed how amazing ants are? You can learn about hard work and perseverance from watching them – seriously. They can carry over 5000x their body weight – it’s true! And then there are the Emperor Penguins, which I’ve only seen in documentaries, but during Antarctica’s winter – a frigid night four months long – male Emperor Penguins huddle by the hundreds in the snow. The male penguin guards the single egg left by their mate who goes off to feed for four months. That baby’s survival rests on the mate who can’t make any mistakes. Each male penguin puts his egg on his feet. He covers it with a fold of skin that keeps it warm at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while the outside temperatures can drop well below -30 degrees. And they all huddle together to keep warm. That’s teamwork, dedication & commitment!

There are so many lessons we can learn from all of creation, yet we rarely think about it in this way. It’s common to think humans are first, and the rest was created for us.
The truth is we were all created by God, and for God. We are in this together. And that’s why on this fourth Sunday of Easter it’s fitting to draw our attention to the care of creation. We’re still celebrating the resurrection. Jesus is alive. He lived his life to teach us how to be in relationship with God and with one another. Jesus suffered, died, and was raised again to new life because “God so loved the world.” Or as the original translation says, the cosmos.  God so loved the cosmos – everything – all of life-not just you and me. That means that God came to save all of creation.

St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, that “the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” and that creation itself waits in hope to be set free.” Did you ever stop to think about these words and how creation is suffering? It is in pain, and it is waiting to be set free. St. Paul goes on to say that “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” Through Jesus we have been set free, and now creation is waiting for us – God’s children – to set all of creation free. Creation is waiting for us to protect it, to stop the abuse against it, to stop the fracking and mountaintop removal, to stop the deforestation and the strip mining, to stop the pollution of the air, land, and water. Creation is suffering, and because we are part of creation we are suffering too. Our health and our children’s health are at risk, and so are our very souls because our sinfulness and waste, putting our wants first, harms relationships. God’s creation is sacred – all of it – for all life has been touched by the Creator’s hand, and breathed into existence from the very breath of God. How did we lose touch with creation?

There are many ways, and many reasons – the hectic pace with which we often live, the rushing, the consumerism, but it’s not too late. It’s not too late to mend our relationships with each other and with all of creation. We are Easter people! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We are witnesses to this greatest miracle of all. God can bring life from death. Anything is possible! We must believe this promise from God. We have been charged with sharing this story, and living it out as people freed in Christ. And we can be a part of freeing all of creation.

That means we can let go of worry and anxiety. Jesus says in our gospel lesson from Luke that all we need to do is strive for God’s kingdom, and all these things will be given to us as well.” (Luke 12:31) The kingdom of God encircles all of creation. The kingdom of God is wherever love and compassion exist. The kingdom of God has been revealed in Jesus, and continues to be revealed through us. We experience resurrection whenever relationships are restored. It’s time to restore relationships with each other, creation, and all life. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

 

The Walk of Peace

Sunday, April 14, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Luke 24:36b-48

There’s nothing like a good long walk to clear your mind. Whether you’re sad, angry, or confused, a walk can really help you feel more at ease. The physical component to walking stimulates that part of the brain that releases endorphins and lightens your mood. It calms your soul and gives you a renewed sense of peace.

A lot of people feel that way about running too, and we have many members right here in our congregation. But as for me, I like to walk, especially outside. I love being out in nature whether it’s walking through a forest listening to the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet, or on the beach with the warm sand under my feet and the smell of the salty air….well, you get the picture. Walking is something I like to do and I know I’m not the only one.

I usually have my cell phone with me, but once in a while I’ll leave it behind and those are the times I wish I had it. Because it always seems that when I forget my cell phone something unexpected happens when I wish I had the camera on my phone. I spot a woodpecker on a tree right near me, or a chipmunk posing in front of me, or a tree with a hollow in it that looks as though it were perfectly made as a door for some small creature. And without the aid of a camera, I am left to my own memory and storytelling abilities to relay the story as best as I can. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but words too when chosen carefully can paint an amazing picture. And that is what the disciples in our gospel text from Luke were trying to do.

Our story today begins in the middle of a conversation that began when two of the disciples – Cleopas and another unnamed disciple – were out taking a walk. They were on the road to Emmaus talking about all that had been happening since the resurrection. They recounted how the women ran to the disciples to tell them that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was empty and how they saw angels who told them Jesus had been raised. They didn’t believe the women; they thought it was an “idle tale.” So Peter had gone to the tomb to see for himself and it was true. The tomb was empty. Cleopas and the other disciple were going over and over the events and trying to grasp the reality of it when their walk was interrupted by a stranger who asked what they were talking about. They were astounded and asked the stranger, “are you the only one who hasn’t heard the news? Jesus of Nazareth is alive!” They then proceeded to tell him all the events of the last few days. They needed to tell this story; it was healing for them. Stories have a way of doing that. The disciples were filled with joy, yet uncertainty about what this all meant. They urged the stranger to stay with them and he agreed. And when he began to eat with them and break bread with them – they recognized him. It was Jesus! Their minds quickly flashed back to the last supper they had with him. He is risen! They didn’t have any cameras, and they couldn’t wait to tell the other disciples that they had seen the risen Jesus!

And that is where our story picks up today. Just as they were telling the disciples this amazing experience, Jesus came to them and said, “Peace be with you!” Yes, that’s what they need most of all – peace. The disciples were seeking safety – locked up in their houses except for the few times they went out – walking to where they needed to go – then going back to where they felt safe. They were certain they could find peace in being locked up safe and secure, trying to prevent any more sudden changes, but the truth is everything in life changes at one time or another. That is the nature of life – change. Each and every minute of the day things are changing – plants, seasons, temperatures, air currents, creatures, including humans. That’s what threw the disciples into a frightened frenzy. If the tomb was empty and Jesus was risen that meant even death was no longer what it was before. Because of Jesus even death was changed from something that was final to something that God had power over. And that threw the disciples off balance.

It can throw us off balance too. Change is hard for many people. We often resist it – preferring the familiar over the new because it’s what’s most comfortable. . We want things to be the same as they always were because we feel secure with that and we think that it will bring us peace. But that’s not always true. Hiding doesn’t really make us secure. Storing up things doesn’t make us secure. They only prevent us from seeing God’s grace as we venture out in our daily lives. We can have peace even when things are up in the air, even in the midst of the storms and challenges in our lives. We can have this peace if we put our trust in the risen Christ, who is the evidence of the truth to God’s promises.

Jesus doesn’t call us to live lives that are safe and risk free. He calls us to live lives of peace. And peace sometimes requires taking risks for the sake of the gospel. It comes from accepting that change is a part of life. It comes from moving forward beyond what is certain and stepping out in faith to do what Jesus calls us to do and be – our true authentic selves. For God uses each one of us with our own unique and special gifts – to reveal Christ in our midst. Jesus commands us to help one another on this walk of faith and recognize Christ in our midst. But we can’t do that if we are only seeking safety. Peace comes from living life to the fullest. It comes from being brave and courageous enough to let others see our vulnerability and our light – the light of Christ shining within us. The light of the resurrection doesn’t erase our scars, it transforms them.

Every day we are walking, and like the disciples walking to Emmaus that day, the risen Christ is walking with us and we need to have our eyes of faith opened to recognize him. For Christ is truly risen. This is no idle tale and this truth give us peace in the midst of our storms. We will have storms, challenges, and heartbreaks, but Christ is with us to give us peace. It’s a deep peace that as the psalmist says, allows us to let go of our worries and lie down and sleep in peace, because God gives us the true security and peace we seek. Christ’s peace gives us courage to work toward justice and peace for all. And in reaching out in love and telling this story of the power of God, we will find true peace and share it with others. We are called to be witnesses to the gospel and to walk a life of peace. Be prepared in your walk of faith to see the unexpected. Be prepared to see the risen Christ. You will see him with the eyes of faith and live your lives out of love so that others will see Christ in you. God’s peace be with you. Amen!

Holy Humor and the Joy of the Resurrection

Sunday, April 8, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
John 20:19-31

 

Here we are, the second Sunday of Easter, known by many as Holy Humor Sunday. It’s a day to continue the celebration that we began last week as we celebrated Easter – the resurrection of Jesus. We affirm that he is indeed alive – today! We joyously profess this bold and wonderful statement of faith. Our Easter worship was a day of joy, and singing.

Yet, how quickly it is to forget this news of the resurrection. How easy it is a week later to forget the reality of the resurrection when we go about our everyday lives. Our celebrations with family and friends soon bring us back to the reality of our present day situations – jobs, school, and the many challenges and problems we may be facing. It’s easy to find ourselves doing exactly what the first disciples did – locking ourselves up in out of fear. We may not literally lock ourselves inside a room, but we can lock ourselves up in fear. We can let fear take such a hold on us that we aren’t willing to try something new. We might even be so locked up in fear, grief, sadness, or even anger that we refuse to open ourselves up to joy.

That’s exactly what happened to the early disciples. They let their emotions paralyze them. They refused to hope, and it’s understandable. They were hurt so deeply. Their hearts were broken. They wanted to believe Jesus had risen as he had promised, but ….it was too good to be true. How could it be possible? Until…..surprise – Jesus appeared through the locked doors! Yet Thomas wasn’t there. And over the centuries Thomas has gotten a bad rap, and has been labeled doubting Thomas as if doubting is a terrible sin. The other disciples doubted too before they saw Jesus, otherwise they wouldn’t have locked themselves up in that upper room. But when Jesus appeared to them Thomas wasn’t there. Thomas was out. He wasn’t locked up in fear. Thomas was going about the business of living, even though his heart too was broken. Yet he wasn’t going to let fear get the best of him. When the disciples told him how they saw Jesus he didn’t believe them. In fact, he may have even laughed at them. For Thomas, that news was too unbelievable. It didn’t seem possible. He wanted to believe it, but ……he just couldn’t.

Until….surprise! Jesus showed up again through the closed doors! Only this time it was for Thomas’ benefit. Jesus had promised them he would rise on the third day, but the disciples let their emotions, and fears, cause them to forget that promise. They were rationalizing that it just couldn’t happen, instead of believing through faith the promise of Jesus. They saw him die, yet, there Jesus stood – alive! And after the initial shock…..after some conversation…..they may have had a good laugh over it, not because it was funny, but laughing at how the disciples could have been so foolish as to doubt Jesus. And Jesus probably laughed right along with them.

We can all look back at times when we’ve done foolish things, and it’s good if we can laugh at ourselves and with each other. It’s important to not be afraid to fail, because as long as we try we aren’t failing; we’re learning. Jesus commands us to get out there and try and if we don’t get it right the first time, to keep trying with hope and joy in our hearts.

We don’t often think of Jesus laughing. Artists throughout history haven’t painted Jesus this way. They have portrayed him as serious, but that’s just their own projections. In the 21stchapter of John, Jesus yelled to the disciples from the shore, “cast your net on the other side.” They thought he was crazy, until they tried it and their nets could barely contain all the fish. I’m sure they were all laughing about that! Christians tend to think that we have to be serious all the time. Where did we ever get that idea? In the beginning when God created the world, God saw all that he had made and called it good, and I’m sure God was smiling – beaming and laughing –at the beauty of creation. Laughter comes from joy and peace, and this is the nature of God.

Psalm 37:12-13 tells us “ The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming.” God laughs because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Evil will not have the final say, no matter what it may seem like to us. The prophet Zephaniah (3:17)tells us as well, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” The bible tells us that God laughs, and sings, and rejoices. How can we who are made in God’s image do any less? If God can take time to laugh, then it’s important for us to laugh too. Laughter is a holy thing too.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” Science has proven this. Laughter has been shown to release stress, lower blood pressure, improve one’s mood, boost the immunity, and even relieve pain. True, it doesn’t take pain away, but it can lessen it. Doctors in children’s hospitals all over the world know this well. They bring in clowns, and other characters to visit seriously ill children to make them laugh. It eases their pain. It gives them hope. Laughter truly is a gift from God.

A perfect example from the bible is the story of Sarah and Abraham. God told them in their old age that they would have a child. The bible tells us Sarah laughed at this unbelievable prospect. Yet, Sarah did have a child and she named him Isaac, which means in Hebrew, he laughs. Sarah and Abraham failed to believe in God’s promise. We too – like Sarah and Abraham, like the disciples, like Thomas – often fail to believe in the promises of God.

It’s time for us to stop locking ourselves up in fear or sorrow or anger and live as Easter people. Jesus found his way through locked doors and revealed himself to the early disciples. Jesus is able to find his way through any locked doors –even the locked doors of our hearts – and resurrect us. Jesus can unlock the doors of conflict, and breathe in the spirit of peace. It’s time to believe that, for with God all things are possible.  It’s time to live in joy, to live in hope, to live in holy laughter.

Laughter is contagious. The more we laugh the more our hearts are filled with joy. Jesus is alive! He is on the loose! What reason is there to fear anything? We are called to serve others, not in fear, but with boldness. There is resurrection power flowing through us. It’s time to unlock the doors, it’s time to open our hearts, it’s time to live into the resurrection joy with praising, and singing, and laughter. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!

Jesus Is On the Loose!

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Mark 16:1-8

“Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?” It’s Easter morning and we heard these hauntingly beautiful words sung at our 8:00 am service this morning – words that echo those sung on Good Friday when we ended with Jesus being sealed in the tomb. But now Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! It’s time to be filled with joy. It’s time to rejoice. It’s time to celebrate. It’s time to ……run away? If you’re reading the gospel of Mark, that’s exactly how he describes what happened at the resurrection. Unlike the other gospel writers, who end with post-resurrection appearances by Jesus, Mark ends with people running away in terror. Not the kind of resurrection story you’d expect. In fact if you look in your Bibles, early Christians added shorter and longer versions to the end of Mark’s gospel thinking that he must have intended different endings. But scholars agree that Mark’s gospel – the earliest of the gospels – did in fact end this abruptly with fear, terror, and amazement. Unlike the other gospels accounts, perhaps this is why Mark’s gospel speaks to us most personally today.

We all know what it’s like to go and get something we’ve put away only to find it’s not there. We remember putting it there. We remember seeing it. But now it’s gone, and we have to find it. Panic starts to set. Where did it go? Where could it be? We want it back. It’s important to us. That’s the same thing that happened on that first Easter morning. The disciples knew that Jesus was sealed in the tomb, and yet when the women went to anoint Jesus’ body, which was the custom, he was gone. Where was he? Who took his body? Panic and fear set in.

There’s a lot of fear going around these days. We hear it on the news and wonder what horrible thing is going to happen next. People are worried for their children, parents, the health of those we love, and finances. Every one of you here today has experienced worry or may be worried about something right now. We are afraid of a great many things and it’s hard to live in that kind of fear every day. It’s not the way God intended for us to live. It leads us to feel alone and isolated. Jesus knew that feeling of isolation.

At Jesus’ crucifixion all his friends left him. Peter denied him, the disciples ran away and hid in fear, but the women stayed.  The women stayed and experienced the agony of watching the one they loved die. We hear today that three days later in the dark early morning hours, they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body with oil and spices as was the customary practice. This was their last act of love and caring for the person they had loved. This act alone shows that they did not believe that Jesus was resurrected as he had promised. How could they? They watched him die. They were still stricken with deep grief and sorrow. The one they had come to love and follow was gone and they were beside themselves in grief.

For those of who came to the Good Friday service here just a couple of days ago, you know the feeling. We prayed and meditated on Jesus’ death on the cross. Many of us left with tears in our eyes, because this pain is real. God became truly human in Jesus and actually died a horrible tragic death. It leaves one feeling like the women did as they went to the tomb that morning – filled with sorrow and grief. It’s natural to feel that way when someone you love dies.

Members of this congregation have experienced significant losses this year. Death is a hard part of life. I learned this myself from an early age as I grieved the loss of all my grandparents. Before I was even a teenager I grieved the loss of others in my family – beloved aunts, uncles, and friends. While still in my early twenties my best friend suddenly died. Later, I would grieve the sudden and tragic loss of my nephew, then my father, and most recently my sister. At times I wished I didn’t love people so much because then I wouldn’t experience the deep pain of their loss. I know many of you have felt and feel the same way. Love is a costly thing. Yet the pain is even more severe if you stop loving because then you miss out on all the joy. Love is a costly thing. God knows – it cost him a son. Jesus knows; it cost him his life.

So why do we talk about death on this joyous Easter morning. Many people purposely avoid Good Friday services so they can avoid thinking about death, but death has everything to do with Easter. Jesus was human. He ate, he slept, he was tired, he wept, and he died. Mark makes that plain. But he also really was raised from the dead. Easter is the celebration of how God overcame death and the grave. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, he broke the chains of death’s hold on us. Our earthly bodies will die, but they will be resurrected again on the last day. Jesus has promised this to us. And Jesus does not go back on his promises. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection death will no longer hold us prisoner. It’s only temporary. The stone has been rolled away. Jesus is not there. He is risen. Jesus is on the loose!

That’s what terrified the women that first Easter Sunday. Jesus was on the loose! He really was raised like he said he would be. Of course it terrified them! They could not deny the power of God. They were speechless. They were in awe. God had done the unthinkable. God had undone the power of death. Wouldn’t you run?

Wouldn’t you run if you were there? And don’t we as disciples today still want to run on hearing the truth of these words? The resurrection changes everything! There is nothing God cannot do! And when we find ourselves lost, and grieving, and afraid, we no longer grieve like those who have no hope because we know that God is more powerful than even death itself.

Mark ends his gospel without the resurrection occurrences because Jesus is on the loose! It leaves us wondering in awe and amazement. Where is he? Is he in my house? At my school? Where I work? On the highway? In the grocery store? In our neighborhoods? Our communities? In the face of the stranger? The face of the person I don’t get along with? The person sitting right next to me? And the answer is yes! Yes! Jesus is everywhere! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This really happened! It’s not just a story we tell once a year. This is what we as Christians believe. This is the foundation of our faith. We are Easter people, living in the resurrection of God’s amazing grace. This is why we are here this morning, to hear once again that Jesus is risen and is on the loose. We don’t know where we are going to bump into him next. And this should give us reason to be excited and a little afraid at the same time. We don’t know where Jesus will show up next. That means we have to be ready. We have to love one another as Jesus commanded us to do.

There’s a lot of things that could cause us to be afraid, but we have bigger news to report. Jesus is alive! Each and every day – everywhere we go – Jesus is right here with us. And once the women who were the first to witness the empty tomb understood this they did go and tell everyone. How else would the news have spread? Once they got over the initial shock, they couldn’t stop telling people and neither can we. Jesus is alive! He is with us and in us and the world is waiting to encounter Jesus through us. Jesus is on the loose. Spread this Good News wherever you go! Live in the joy of the resurrection. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!