“The Work of a Shepherd” John 10:10-18

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This is “Good Shepherd” Sunday.  Every year at this point in the Easter Season we have an opportunity to hear Jesus talk about his role as the shepherd.  We hear him tell us what he will do for us as the flock. 

          The problem, of course, is that many who hear this Gospel will have had very little experience in the world of agriculture. 

We hear Jesus talk about sheep and the activity of the shepherd and we tend to conjure up cute images of cuddly animals.   

Or maybe that classic image of the “good shepherd”… a laughing Jesus with the little lamb in his arms, clean white robes flowing as he carries it.

          I have spent a few too many days on the farm to have those kind of images come to mind. 

Those who have ever actually worked with livestock of any kind know how tasking and frustrating animals can be!  

We did not have sheep.  We had cows and pigs.  There was very little about working with them that was particularly romantic!

So, when I hear this gospel lesson, it is not cuddly animal images that come to mind.  It is the harsh reality of doing the day-to-day work with livestock that I consider. 

If you are going to work with livestock, the first great learning that takes place is the nature of the relationship. 

You have to be there for and with them, in every aspect of life.  They depend upon you, and yet remain so very independent.

The sheep (like the cows or pigs) know the voice of the shepherd because the shepherd has had to have been fussing regularly in their daily lives, and often very inconveniently!

 He or she has been shearing them, vaccinating them, feeding them, corralling and weaning them from their mothers, and shoving wormer down their gullet for their own good.

He or she has been moving them from pen to pen, pasture to pasture to keep them safe and well fed without letting them follow their own tendency to overgraze the land. 

As for the flowing white robes as you carry the little lamb?   Well let’s just say the daily reality of working with livestock is often having to deal with the crap they leave behind… everywhere.

If the livestock has gotten used to hearing the shepherd’s voice, that has probably included not hearing only “gentle words.” 

The shepherd or rancher has probably sometimes used “colorful” language to describe their antics and has peppered his or her urgings to them with exclamations born of frustration!  

Livestock do not “intuitively” just “know” what they are supposed to do, where they are supposed to go, and what the best method for conveyance will be.  They have to be trained, coaxed, and often forced into spaces and actions.

There is some biblical precedent for that kind of coaxing and pleading.  

More than once in the Old Testament and in the words of the prophets we hear God lamenting at how long he must suffer with his wayward people, this faithless Israel, this “stiff necked people.”   

Jesus makes a side comment or two as well, wondering how long he must put up with a “perverse and faithless generation.”   He comments on and puts up with disciples who don’t know how to pray, or when to pray, or who seem to want to pick their places they want to be,(his left or right hand), or who lack trust.

I think it is important on this Sunday to counterpoint the romantic view of God as some kind of “sentimental shepherd.”

The truth is, like a real shepherd, farmer or rancher described, God is really in this with us for the long haul and in the day to day!

 What is at stake in making that clear is the very matter of the incarnation and the investment that God has in us!

We do not have a sentimental God. 

We have a God who knows what it is to get down and dirty with the flock, to live with us and to fuss with us.  

We have a God who fusses with creation with his bare hands, who shapes and forms us in Genesis.  

We have a God who enters creation physically in his own Son, the incarnation, to live and walk and move along the dusty pathways with us, experiencing firsthand what it is to live and move in this world.

Let’s acknowledge that if we want to compare ourselves to the flock, or the herd that we have to acknowledge that we’re really pretty hard to put up with most of the time!

That’s not meant in any derogatory way!   Please understand that!   I’m just being descriptive here.

Sheep don’t mean to be dense or wayward.

Cows don’t consciously choose to be contrary.

Pigs don’t search for ways to get out of their pen on purpose or just to tick off the farmer.

In every case, they are simply following their natural inclinations, their own “self-interest!”

They are looking for greener grass.

They are enticed by the prospect of what looks like better food or what looks like a more comfortable location.  

They are following their own lines of self-interest, which are very often not always really in their best self-interest or their own safety!

It is often the case that the farmer, rancher, shepherd has to work diligently to keep the herd or the flock from doing damage to themselves!  

So, in the Gospel, you have Jesus detailing that he is “willing to lay down his life for the sheep.”    Whatever it takes to protect them from outside dangers, or from themselves, that’s what he’s willing to do.

That includes putting a check on the natural inclinations of the flock and its individuals.

We follow the “good shepherd”, who lays down his life for his sheep.

There is a stern determination in the voice of Jesus here as he talks about that.  It penetrates to the level of life and death.  

We do not have a “sentimental God”, we have a God who gets down and dirty and walks the dusty road with us, and then invites us to “follow.”   

Jesus has considered the cost of being the shepherd.  

So, in order to follow, we must also consider the cost of being the sheep.  What is it that God requires of us?  

What does “following Jesus” mean for daily life?

It means that you order your life around where the shepherd is leading and not have it come simply come as an afterthought, or when it is convenient.

We are a flock that is pretty hard to put up with at times, prone to go our own way and (like sheep) often leaving a lot of crap behind.

But God has sent the Son to show us the way, a way that leads into greener pastures, beside still waters, that is ultimately soul restoring.

In order to find that way however, you do have to be willing to listen to the Shepherd and to be led!

There is this promise in scripture that Jesus will always recognize us.   “I know my own….”  

But it’s equally important that we catch that whole phrase.   “And my own know me.”   

We do have a God who gets down and dirty and walks the dusty road with us, but the truth of the matter is that even if Jesus recognizes you, you may not always recognize the shepherd’s voice if you haven’t been letting him fuss with your daily life!   

I am fascinated with all the voice recognition software that is available these days.  You find it in computers, in your Amazon Echo, Siri, Cortana, Google, my car and my phone.  It seems to be everywhere.

 But do you know what it takes to make that work?   

The first step is always for you to speak phrases clearly and repeatedly into a microphone so that the computer can recognize your voice and your inflection.

It has to learn your way of speaking, your “voice.”  

Once the computer learns what it is that you sound like, what it is that you want, it can perform the tasks that you ask of it.

I think that a life of faith is also something that requires some “voice recognition” in both directions.

We have to be willing to spend some time talking to Jesus about the day-to-day stuff.

We need to be bringing our questions.

We need to lift up our concerns. 

We need to tune our voices to sing God’s praise and to develop the confidence to bring our day-to-day stuff to Jesus.  

Shepherds don’t mind listening to all the bleating, it lets them know what the flock is up to or encountering right now.

Then once we have gotten used to bringing our day-to-day to Jesus, we can tune our ears to hear the shepherd’s voice.

 We can begin to understand what it is that we need to do, what it is that the Shepherd wants us to do, where he wants to lead us.

It is in the back and forth, the give and take of a daily conversation that we begin to understand where it is that God wants us to go, and what God wants us to do.   

We have to listen to the scriptures and make them a part of our daily contemplation, informing us and shaping our actions.

Even doing so, we have to do that with some humility.   We have to acknowledge that sometimes we mis-hear or mis-read what the shepherd is doing or saying.   We are (after all) like sheep, “prone to wander everyone, everyone to their own way”—as Handel’s Messiah puts it in the Messiah.

Self-interest is a constant companion for us, and Jesus knows this, which is why he reminds us that laying down the life is a choice.

He chooses, so that we can choose.

He shows us, so that we can follow.

On this is Good Shepherd Sunday the Shepherd calls to you. 

God has great and gracious promises for us all.

Jesus has words of encouragement and words of correction to keep us from wandering off on our own.  

It is a good day to tune up the ears, and to tune in the heart, that we may find our way under the Shepherd’s attentive gaze, and steadfast commitment as he walks with us.

“It Can Be Scary” Luke 24:36-48

can be scary when Jesus shows up.  That appears to be the take-away from this gospel story.  

“They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost.”   That’s how Luke puts it.

The scene is the gathering of disciples who are listening to Cleopas and that other unnamed disciple as they talk about their experience along the road to Emmaus.  

Cleopas and that other disciple explain how it was that Jesus seemed to just appear to them.

He walked alongside of them.  They did no recognize him exactly in that moment, but there was a strange “felt presence” as he opened the scriptures to them.  They felt their hearts begin to burn, to be warmed as he talked.

Jesus was finally made known definitively in the breaking of the bread.  They insisted that was the moment when it all became clear who was with them, and then just as quickly, he was gone!

The disciples listening to Cleopas and that other disciple do so with a kind of rapt skepticism.  They experience a strange combination of “joy and disbelieving”  as Luke puts it.  Questions are no doubt rumbling in their minds.

“Did they actually see him?”

“How could this be?”

“What was it exactly that made you think it was Jesus?  Made him recognizable to you?

It is in the very midst of this kind of conversation about whether Jesus could possibly be encountered like this that Jesus once again “shows up.”

He extends his greeting of peace to the assembled disciples.

He offers proof of his physical existence by offering to let them touch him, to see his hands and feet, and by finally eating a piece of broiled fish in their presence. 

“For a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”  Jesus states in matter-of-fact kind of way.

He then goes on to open the scriptures for them. 

Jesus recounts the events that have taken place, the scripture passages that pointed to those events, and the concrete actions of his ministry, of repentance and the forgiveness of sins as proof and examples of his presence.

“You are witnesses of these things.”  Jesus says to them at last.

It can be scary when Jesus just “shows up.”

For those first disciples it was the scariness of having to rethink everything they had experienced in the last few days.   Re-evaluate the evidence of their own eyes to entertain the possibility that Jesus might very well still be here just as he promised!

I submit that such is the case with us as well, still to this day!

It can be scary when Jesus shows up to disciples like us because we live in a world that jades us against any continuing presence of God.

Just peruse the local news.

Another mass shooting.

Another 13-year-old killed in an incident with law enforcement.

Continued divisions in politics, controversies over masks and vaccines, wealth divides, and abuse of every kind are out there.

We have grown accustomed to what looks like a world without Jesus anymore. 

We’ve grown used to straining our eyes to try to make sense of a world where the rich and powerful get by with outrageous actions while the poor continue to suffer and pay twice.

We survey a world where justice is dismissed while vengeance seems to be administered swiftly and disproportionately against the weak.

We just don’t expect to see Jesus anywhere, or anymore, in the actions of others, or in the events of this world.

We have become jaded to expecting God to show up.

And yet, despite the drone of the news and the evidence of our own eyes, Jesus does still come to us.  

He “shows up” in flesh and bone, and not as a ghost, here and there, in the unexpected moments when individuals act.

That can be a bit scary because it sends us off balance!

When you are expecting only more of the same, more bad news, more “business as usual” of this world, to have someone act in a Christlike way can leave you with the response of well, — joy and disbelief.

We know this to be true.

We know that in this city gun violence happens every night and it is prominently featured on the morning news of the “overnight happenings.”

We will get all the grisly details, an ongoing investigation, the obligatory video of the shell casings and little orange cones marking their location – and we will be led to believe that THIS is what people are doing!    This is our world!   This is what we should prepare for and only this!

There will be no camera crews on hand for a hundred thousand, thousand kindnesses that will be done in the name of Christ and on behalf of humanity throughout the world this day.

No one will follow our food pantry volunteers as they sort through cans and boxes, and cull produce to tell us of the good work that is done there.

No one will interview the teachers who explain patiently to the student one more time whatever it is that they need to learn.

No one will chronicle the changing of bed pans, the touch of a nurse’s hand, the smile from the bank clerk, the joy of the chef preparing the food, the quiet conversation among friends of care and concern over a cup of coffee.

This is the important and scary thing about Jesus just showing up! 

Jesus does so now in the midst of the ordinary, as really he always did, now that we think about the scriptures and open them up a bit.  

Jesus showed up along the shores of Galilee to fishermen mending their nets.

He appeared as a guest in a house to heal a fever, in the middle of worship service in a synagogue, at a well in the middle of Samaria to just one woman there to start a conversation.

He showed up to the discouraged in the walk along the road, with a word to lift their spirits.

Jesus appeared in the sitting down to a meal together, several times.  In the house of a Pharisee, at Mary and Martha’s, with Lazareth, at a picnic on a hillside.

So is it so surprising that if you want to look for where Jesus is showing up still, you would find him in the sharing of a piece of broiled fish, or a debate among friends over whether or not he is still around.

That is when Jesus pops up and in!  Always has, always will.  

He will not make the evening news.  

He will not work with fanfare and procession.

When Jesus shows up, it has always been in the little things, and the little moments and to the little groups of people.

Oh, we remember the feeding of the 5000, the mass teachings, the entry into Jerusalem, and the walking on the water, but only because people who were there ended up talking about such things to others.

They were not “evening news” events.

“You are witnesses to these things.”  Jesus says.

All of it! 

The appearances, the events, the disappointing actions of the disciples, the repentance done and the forgiveness extended.

Which is the next scary part of the story.

You begin to realize that if the presence of Jesus is to be made known in this world, it is not Norah O’Donnel, or Chris Wallace, or Lester Holt or Scott Simon who is going to make it known.

“You are witnesses of these things.”  Jesus says to his disciples, to you and to me.

We are the ones who are going to have to tell the story of where we saw Jesus this day!

We are the ones who are going to have to stick our neck out in a world that says God is gone, to say, “no God is not gone, God is here, and I see God’s actions in flesh and bone!”  

God is no ghost of things gone by or times past.

God in Christ Jesus lives and is active in the actions and the words of people in a thousand, thousand ways every day.

Every little act of kindnesses.

Every decision for life and healing and to make this world a better place for THAT person, this day. 

All the things that are done that the 6 o’clock news will never pick up as important, so that the 6 o’clock news does not have the final say.

All the people who make a difference, and who go the extra mile and who do what they do because they understand it is the Christ-like thing to do and they decide to do it.

These things will not make the news, except for occasional “feel good features,” but the world is much more full of those things than it is of crime, deception and violence.

We can lose sight of that in our jaded existence, hammered as we are by media sources.

“You are witnesses to these things.”  Jesus says, and it is up to you to report and to talk about them.   To lift them up with friends and in the circles you inhabit so that Christ can appear in the midst of the talk and confirm his own presence.

It is confirmed with the breath and greeting of peace, that thing that falls on us when we recognize that God was here, in with and under the actions of that person, or that event, or in that situation.

The presence of Christ is confirmed wherever repentance takes place, and the forgiveness of sins is extended.  

We are witnesses to that. 

We get to name it, to point it out, and to affirm, “Jesus was there!”

It can be scary to be such a witness because the world will just try to hammer back a dismissal.

“It was a coincidence, a fluke.”

But you, you are witnesses to these things, how Christ comes still into this world not as some ghost but in the flesh and bone or those who follow and believe.    Jesus comes in the words and actions of ordinary people. It can be scary, but don’t be afraid to point it out when you see it.  The world needs a good reminder, and it comes from your lips.  

“The Measure of Success” John 20:19-31

What makes for success?  

According to the models employed by this world success is usually measured in terms of size.   If you are a successful company, you employ large numbers of people.  

        You are successful if your product or service dominates the market or at very least a select niche of the market.   

        You are a success if you gain “name recognition” or “product placement.”

        You are a success if you beat out your competition, or have the “biggest” of something, whatever the status symbol happens to be,– house, car, factory, store, manufacturing plant, return for your investors and stock holders, etc.

        That is the measure of success, or so we are told by this world on a regular basis.   

       If you want to see where success will get you, take a look at Oprah, or at Trump, or at Beyonce, or Cher. 

We only need to the one name for them, successful at making their mark.   It is their “Brand.” 

The name says it all, power, wealth, resources, fame, the ability to act, influence and impact this world.

This is what we measure our own lives against far too often, isn’t it?

When we measure ourselves against that kind of success, guess what?   There aren’t too many of us in the room that measure up, are there?

Some of us are depressed because we will never be like that.

Some of us are thankful that we will never be like that, never have to shoulder that kind of notoriety, that kind of responsibility, or be known as notorious for something!

        Now I want to give you a different vision of success. 

The measure of success found in today’s Gospel reading is quite different!

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”    After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

      The scene is a Sunday evening on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. 

The people gathered are the disciples of Jesus, his core followers, minus two, Thomas and Judas.  

       Using the measure of success that this world employs we would have to say that Jesus himself looks like a colossal failure here.

       On the day of resurrection, when the best, most successful thing to do—(which is what every church tries to do on Easter in some measure,) would be to make a big production of the event with trumpets and costumes and T.V. Coverage….He’s Back!

What Jesus chooses to do instead is to appear quietly in a little locked room to not even the full complement of his disciples. 

Is this a success story?

       Yes, yes it is.  But to see it that way, you have to stop measuring it and yourself by the standards of this world.   

The people in the locked room were the same people who had followed Jesus when he entered Jerusalem triumphantly with palm branches waving.  

Jesus had looked like a classic success story then!   He looked just like a King David, and these who walked beside him to the shouts of “hosanna!” waving their own palm branches would have been his right-hand men, his entourage!   How successful they must have felt that day!   

  But the trial and crucifixion had changed all that.  

No more triumphal displays of affection.  

Everyone in Jerusalem knew who had won three days ago, and it was the same story that plays out all too often in this world and in the news. 

The people currently in power and with the power had won again. 

The old guard of the Temple, the Romans, Herod, the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  The “named people,” in the story, the famous and the infamous!  They were the ones deemed to have succeeded in the end.   

They held on to their power! 

They had eliminated the threat, even a threat of this so called “Son of God.”   

And although there were reports that were circulating now that this Jesus was now raised from the dead, they are still firmly in control of their temple, and of their city, and of their country and their Roman province.  They are still calling all the shots from their halls of power.  

No more crowds waving palm branches or threatening a coup.

      The disciples had been driven underground behind locked doors, where they no doubt felt like failures.  

They had given three years of their lives, and for what?   To end up with reputations as people who followed a crucified Messiah?   To be seen as failures in the eyes of this world?

They couldn’t even follow Jesus properly to the end!  When the heat was on, when the soldiers came, when they had been questioned by torchlight or confronted by firelight from the shadows instead of joining and professing Jesus to die as martyrs by his side, they had deserted him one by one.

They denied him repeatedly and failed to trust in even one single thing that he had said.

      And now, it is to these failures in the eyes of this world that Jesus appears. 

If you or I were to read this account for the first time, we might suck in a breath of anticipation here. 

Just what will the Resurrected Jesus say to those who left him hanging high and dry?  Will he lash out?   Will he berate them?  Will he accuse them of faithlessness and cowardice? Dismiss them and find more suitable people to carry on his legacy?

That is what the standard mode of operation in this world would demand, blame affixing and dismissal, shaming and rejection.

But Instead, what Jesus does is breathe his Spirit into those who are cowering behind locked doors.  He says to them, “as the father has sent me, so I am going to send you.”

He chooses them again!  The failures, the betrayer, the ones who scattered like sheep.

Now, we tend to hear that as a gentle word from Jesus, (and it is) but it is also a word that should make one pause.  

     You will be sent in the same way that God sent Jesus.  

     You also will be sent not as some triumphant conqueror, not as someone who goes from success to success, from accolade to accolade, to gain acclaim or recognition.

You will not be sent to make some name for yourself, or to establish a brand, or to beat out your competition or to corner the market.  

No, you will be sent out as Jesus was sent.

You will be sent out as one who ended his life and ministry not as a success story in the eyes of this world, but rather as a failure — so that you can bring closer God’s kingdom instead of anything you would build yourself or for yourself!

     It is essential that you hear this because this is the central point to understanding the measure of success for the Christian.   

     Success is not what this world makes it out to be!   

Success in God’s Kingdom is not about measuring up to this world’s standards at all!  

Instead, success is measured by working in the hearts of people. 

Success is about being able to breathe new life and Spirit into the defeated.

Success is measured by the ability to influence others in such a way that they will commit themselves to God and to God’s Kingdom despite any outward measures that this world holds up as necessary or desirable!

      That is what Jesus is doing behind the locked doors!  

      He comes as a failure, among failures, and breathes God’s Spirit upon them.   

      He opens the eyes of the defeated disciples to see that the world does not need a quick fix, nor does it need yet another powerful ruler making promises. 

What this world needs are disciples who will breathe the Spirit of God into the defeated, reminding those people to stop measuring themselves by this world’s standards.

      I want to ask you an important question now, if you are skeptical about this as being your task.  

Which of the apparently “successful” people at the end of the story of Jesus is still around? 

      Have you met a Sadducee lately?   

Have you enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at the house of a Pharisee?  

Do the Romans still rule in Palestine? 

Is there a descendant of Herod still on the Throne in Judea?  Or even a throne there anymore to rule?

Everyone who was seen as successful, as “winners” in the eyes of this world at quelling the rabble-rouser Jesus are gone.  All those who believed that they had won, have since disappeared into history’s pages, and are remembered only because of the story of the carpenter from Galilee and his teachings. 

People are still seeking Jesus out to follow him.

People are still reading the words of Peter and James and John – those failures who eventually came out from behind those locked doors and who went on to travel and to witness to the Son of God made flesh to dwell among us.  

Who was successful in the end? 

Was it those who had used this world’s standards and power most effectively, or was it the ones upon whom God’s Spirit had been breathed?

      Don’t get caught in this world’s trap!

      This world and its expectations of what is “successful” will lock you up tightly behind doors that you can’t open and can’t walk through.  Jesus will blow right through them to find you!  

You may never be a success in the eyes of this world, and God says, “that’s O.K.”   because what God seems to want are disciples who will breathe God’s Spirit into all those who feel defeated. 

     What God seems to want are followers who will work from within, people who will love deeply, and who will admit their failings and who will then respond to the Spirit’s call when it comes upon them. 

     That is what makes this a success story!

     It is how well we breathe the spirit of hope and new life into the defeated that matters. 

That is what God is looking for, people who will come out from behind their locked doors of fear and breathe hope and life into those whom this world labels as failures, reminding them that God comes looking for such as these to give them new life, and to entrust them with purpose. 

You will be sent in the same way that God sent Jesus.

Easter Sunday “Bringing Our Spices Still” Mark 16:1-8

I feel a certain kinship with the women this day in Mark’s Gospel.  

We are told that they have purchased spices and are coming to the tomb to do what they can for Jesus.  

The body was buried in haste on Friday.  It was not prepared as it should have been for burial. 

Now these three days later, early in the morning they are going to the tomb to see just what can still be done.

They have not worked out all the details.  

“Who will roll away the stone?” they ask.

They no doubt wonder just what they will they find as they make their way.

There is a sense of apprehension about this, combined with devotion and a desire to serve or to bring some closure.

Maybe they are just looking for a way to move on.

That’s where my kinship connects with them.

It has been a year since some of you have been back inside this building, at least in this fashion. 

A year since we last gathered to worship together in person.

Like the women this morning, we have not worked out all the details.

“Who will usher?”

“How will we do the service?”

“Is it okay for us to sing?  To greet one another?”

“Is this far enough away to sit?  Have you gotten the vaccine yet?”

There is apprehension about all of this, combined with a sense of devotion.  We want to do this for, well ourselves to be sure, but also for our family members, and for one another.

Maybe we feel compelled to do this, to come here, for Jesus.

We want to laud the Resurrection into the face of a year that has been punctuated by so much death, uncertainty and fear.

We are bringing our spices still, it seems, in the form of our own offerings, our own hopes, our own sense of devotion, and maybe even our desire to find a way to move on from all that this past year has been and done to us.

Like the women this day, we bring our spices looking for what we can do for Jesus, and wonder if it can ever be enough?

Maybe that is in the form of what we can do for the church, or for one another and that really is a beautiful thing.

I think in years past I have been guilty of not dwelling long enough on this beautiful part of the story. 

Like so many others, I am usually in a rush to get to the resurrection. 

I want to hear the assurance of the man in white robes when he speaks, to have him tell me, the women that “Jesus is not here, he is risen, just as he said.”

We are often all too ready to flee the scene, if not in “terror and amazement” as the women did, then at least out of our impatience to get to other things. 

We hurry out of here to get to our Easter breakfast or to our family dinner.

We are impatient to move on from the time of worship to the other important stuff of this day.

This time as I read the resurrection account in Mark, I was struck by the beauty of what these women did. 

They bear their spices for Jesus uncertain of how the day will go.

The simply show up, as they always seem to have shown up throughout the whole story now that I think about it.  

They are there in the background of the other stories while the men take all the lines and get all the notice.

They are there, bringing what they have to offer to Jesus. 

Mary and Martha with their hospitality and their attention, their questions and their presence.  They sit at Jesus’ feet, attend to him with tears and kisses, bring what they can in the moment that is tender, powerful, or charged with meaning.

The women are there clustered at the foot of the cross, bringing what they can, their tears and mournful looks, their attention, when all the others have turned and walked away.  

It is a beautiful thing, just showing up.

We come here today very much the same. 

We are drawn here, or we feel compelled to try to partake of Easter vicariously through the live feed, because we have a sense that we want to do something for Jesus and for one another.

We want to do something to make this feel like an Easter.

We want to do something to mark this pivot point in time and in our lives.

Like the women who come to the tomb, we too might have some vague ideas of what the future looks like, or what we might find, or how things may play out for us in the hours and days ahead, but nothing really prepares us for the news of resurrection.

We come looking to do something for Jesus, and instead (as is so often the case,) we discover that it is really Jesus who is doing something for us.

Jesus is going ahead of us into the world.

Jesus is keeping his promises.

He is turning what should be a tragic and sorrowful moment into a moment of joy and wonder, something that catches us off guard and makes us re-evaluate everything!

That is what the resurrection does. 

Resurrection opens up possibilities that are both unexpected and terrifying.   

          The women come looking to do something for Jesus, with their spices in hand to offer what little they can, but they leave the tomb in fear and amazement at what Jesus has done for them, made all their preparations a moot point.

There is no need for any of those offerings they were bringing.   Jesus is already moving on back into life and doing things and now we have to go out and catch up!

The women come to the tomb together, spices in hand to see what they can do for Jesus, and they leave together as well — in terror and amazement, saying nothing to anyone because they are afraid. 

They are afraid to see what may come next now that Jesus is moving ahead of them. 

They are afraid of what the Risen Lord may do now.  What he may call upon them to do.  Right off the bat they have to get together again with Peter and the disciples.  They are called to give their witness, tell the disciples and especially Peter where Jesus will meet them again.

They are probably afraid that what they have in their hands and at their disposal will prove to be just as inadequate and out of touch as those spices.  Do they bring anything helpful, useful to Jesus now that he is loose in the world.

Perhaps they are afraid that their intentions are not nearly big enough, their faith not nearly strong enough, their actions in keeping with what Jesus has in mind for them now.

The beauty of it all is that in their coming and in their going, the women still do it together!

They may be afraid of what comes next, but they will face it as they have always have — together, following Jesus where he has said he would be, back in Galilee. 

Back in the world that they came from.

Back in amongst the living.

Back in this newly reordered world after the events of these last three days, or last three years, or in our case, this past year.

I feel a certain kinship with the women this Easter, and I am touched by the beautiful thing this is that you all have simply shown up with whatever it is you have in your hands right now.

This is really all that God needs to proclaim resurrection to a waiting world.  All of us simply showing up with whatever we have in our hands.

To such as these God announces that where we came looking for death and an ending, God put a beginning.

“He is risen, he is not here.”

It can be terrifying, but it does appear that this is how the Resurrected Lord comes to us.  He takes us with whatever we come bringing in our hands and calls us to new life this day. So, “Go and tell,” but do it together.