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thank goodness


 Sermons & Thoughts

If you have questions or suggestions, please refer to our contact details below to reach us.

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Outquotes

 Below, you will find some of our favourite "learnings" from our weekly readings.

God can handle all our questions

A selection from the meditation for April 18, Easter 3

   Thomas didn't pretend. He didn't fake his belief. He told the truth. Was he "doubting Thomas"? Well, perhaps. But even more importantly he was "honest Thomas."

   We shouldn’t judge ourselves or others for questioning. Doubt is a natural part of the faith journey of many Christians. We should take our questions and concerns in prayer to God. God can handle our doubt. I can assure you of that. God welcomes our questions … because it gives us the opportunity to be open to hearing the answers. And all answers point to the truth as Christ brought to us.

   I remember reading an article in Time magazine several years after the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta about some letters she had written to her confessor. They had just been released to the public and they surprised me! In them, she confessed the guilt and shame she had felt for most of her life because she questioned her faith in God.

   I don’t think in her lifetime any of us would have guessed the inner turmoil she was feeling over her doubt. She just continued to do the work she felt called to do. It was work that followed the call of Christ who tells us to walk and live among the poor. To welcome the outcast into our midst and to heal and comfort our fellow children of God. This was certainly the work Mother Teresa did!

   It’s obvious to me that God had faith in her! Even when and if she wasn’t sure about her faith in God. It’s always been a two-way street.

   Maybe that’s what we should be more concerned with … living our lives as though God’s trust and faith in us is well-founded and deserved.

Stephen King loves what he gets from God, 

but still has doubts

An illustration from the Easter 2 meditation about Doubting Thomas

  You all know who the author Stephen King is? Undeniably, he’s a creative, intelligent person…. I don’t know how many millions of books he’s sold.

He was interviewed one time and asked about God.

He said religion and faith have always interested him, and interests him more the older he gets. He says he wants to believe that there is something more “on the other side,” as he explains it.

This is a quote from King: “For me, life is so rich—so colourful, and full of good things: things to read, things to eat, things to watch, places to go, new experiences —that I don't want to think that you just go to darkness ….

I choose to believe [in God]. There's no downside to that. If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,’ then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.”

And then, after saying all that, King went on to say that he chooses to believe in God, but he still has serious doubts.

In other words, he struggles in his faith. And that's okay. Because when you question, you grow as you find the answers.

The God of Good Friday: an excerpt from a meditation by Nadia Bolz-Weber

  I’m not sure which is worse about what I was taught: the fact that we had somehow made God out to be a divine child abuser or that we had made God out to be an angry loan shark demanding his pound of flesh.

Either way, I don’t think that’s really who God really is. But I do think that whole mess is what we get when we think the cross is about us and not about God.

No wonder people want to go from glory to glory and skip the cross.

Because when we think the cross is about us, the only view we can have of God, is of God standing in heaven with folded arms looking down at the cross judging us but punishing Jesus. But the thing is, God isn’t standing above the cross. God is hanging from the cross.

Maybe the problem starts when we think we can know who God is by just looking at who we are, and then projecting that up really big. We’re vengeful so God must be vengeful. We are power-hungry so God must be power hungry. We want to smite our enemies, so God must want to smite our enemies. That’s why it’s hard to imagine that God would willingly choose to be poured out for us on the cross because, well, we’d never do a thing like that.

Yet in the end, it’s like that quote from Einstein “the same thinking that created a problem cannot solve the problem.” We cannot be saved by a God who is just a bigger, bad-er version of the worst parts of us or a bigger better version of the best parts of us.

But we can see who God actually is, when we see how God chose to reveal God’s self in a humble cradle and on a human cross.

True Greatness

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-11)

The Thunk

   From March 21


   A lot of people both outside and INSIDE the church don’t realize that Christians have all different kinds of thoughts and ways of explaining the Word. We are not all the same – I think in any church, we are a people who view our faith as a religion of love and acceptance and mercy and grace. We are people with spirits and brains and souls and hearts that are fully engaged in the ways of Jesus Christ. Christ has chosen us – and we, intelligent, thinking, compassionate people have chosen Christ.

And it sure isn’t easy in today’s world. We’re always running up against the Thunk … and there’s something else called The Gap. The Thunk and the Gap.

The Thunk has been created by the Gap.

There is a gap between Christianity and the world. The Gap has been growing because … well there’s a whole lot of reasons. Let me throw out a couple … as I’ve been saying here today, people misunderstand who we are – and as long as we do all our business and worship and good deeds inside walls and behind doors – they will never know who we are or what we do – except for what they see on TV every time a church acts up and misbehaves.

And a second reason there’s a growing Gap is because of something psychologists call “religious wounding.”

Too many good people have been hurt in the past by the doctrines of their churches or the people in their churches.

For example, when a faithful person struggles with poverty and gets a message in church that we only care about what they put on the offering plate, then a wound is inflicted. Conversely, when people hear that people of wealth are the root of all our problems, a wound is inflicted.

From March 14:


Jay Shetty (author of "Think Like a Monk", shares the answer of his spiritual teacher, Radhanath Swami, after he was asked how we can be a positive force in the world with all this negativity around us. Swami told him: “There is toxicity everywhere around us. In the environment, in the political atmosphere, but the origin is in people’s hearts. Unless we clean the ecology of our own heart and inspire others to do the same, we will be an instrument of polluting the environment. But if we create purity in our own heart, then we can contribute great purity to the world around us.”


 

From March 7, 2021


   Following is a page from Harold Ivan Smith's book: "When You Don't Know What to Say," published by Smith himself and Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City; 2006, 2012, pg. 52:


    "How do you think Joan is doing?" There are several variations on this basic question. Too commonly, the bereaving are forced to go underground with their grief. Subtly, we day - "If you must grieve, do it in private - not where we can see it and definitely not where we can feel it." Grievers who thoroughly grieve, make many of us nervous. We say things like, "What? You're STILL grieving? Why it's been weeks (months)!"

    A "What" can reverberate like thunder. Doug Manning captured this thought in his great book titled "Don't Take My Grief Away from Me." Sometimes the grief-sharer needs to say, "don't et anyone take your grief from you!"

   Manning points out, "You deserve it and you must have it. If you had a broken leg, no one would criticize you for using crutches before it was healed.

... Grief is a major wound. It does not heal overnight. You must have the time and the crutches until you heal." (pg.. 65)

   Grief-sharers (that's you!) can give permission to grievers to take time to heal. It takes time to thoroughly grieve."


________________________________

From Feb. 28:


Joyce Rupp will be a name familiar to many of you. For many years, this author and Roman Catholic has led spiritual retreats around the world. She has written countless best-selling books.

   In 1997, she wrote a lovely creative guide, called “The Cup of Our Life: A Guide for Spiritual Growth.” In it, there is a passage in which she writes about the “broken cups” in our lives: 

“The broken cup reminds me of those times when hurts, wounds, pains and adversities of all sorts invade our lives and change us forever. During these times, all we can do is try to survive, slowly recover, and start anew. It is often difficult for us to give or receive during this brokenness. The pain knocks us over, like a cup on its side. We may feel like all our hope has been drained out of our lives. When the cup of our lives is broken apart it has to have the pieces put back together again.” (The Cup of Life, Joyce Rupp. Published by Ava Maria Press, Indiana, 2007, .” pg.88)

    Do you hear what she is saying here? “All we can do is try to survive through the pain and slowly recover.” Slowly … because coming out of profound pain and grief takes time.

    So – be good to yourself. Take your time. Turn to God. Pray and talk it out with God. Talk to others.

    Those in your life who have your best interests at heart and care about you and your health, are willing to listen.

    Be gentle with yourself. Surround yourself with others who can be gentle with you as well. Don’t be afraid of sharing your lament.

Blessings!

RGK

At "thank goodness," we know how busy you are and how unsettled things can seem at times. We invite you to read the meditations and prayers below.  We hope you find them helpful and thought-provoking.

"Easter 3"


"The Proof's not in the Pudding! It's in the Fish!"

Meditation based on 

Luke 24:36b-48


Proof is in the Fish! Jesus Lives!

There is an old saying that we hear all the time: “The proof is in the pudding.” In this week’s lectionary passage from Luke 24, it appears that the proof is not in the pudding, but in a piece of boiled fish.

   Jesus’ appearance after having been publicly crucified, scared the apostles. They thought he might be a ghost! And so, he asked for something to eat and they gave him a piece of fish. He ate it to prove to them that the new life of the resurrection is real. That he was again “in the flesh” and not an apparition, and that renewed life can and does take place in our world!

God’s promise that they would see him again had been kept. We too, are saved from eternal death and we live by the Grace of God.

   Today’s reading is reminiscent of last week’s from John when we had the same scenario of Jesus appearing before the disciples, - everyone that is – except Thomas. And he too, needed proof that Jesus had been resurrected.

"Doubting Thomas." Poor doubting Thomas. He gets a bad rap. A "doubting Thomas" always needs more proof, more time. A "doubting Thomas" has a hard time trusting others.

    Where is his faith!!!!

    Thomas told his fellow disciples: "I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side."

   And the disciples in today’s reading from Luke were fearful … unbelieving…. Until Jesus said: “give me something to eat” … and he ate in front of them.

Isn’t doubt just what we might have felt? Do we blame Thomas and the disciples in Luke for the emotions they felt? For what appears to be their lack of faith?

   I would like to bring a different perspective to this doubting Thomas and the others. I think that when we read these Easter resurrection stories in the Bible, we shouldn’t be thinking in terms of “Oh ye of little faith.” Rather, we should be thinking in terms of discovery! Of opportunity. Of awe and mystery and miracle!

   Theologian Frederick Buechner once said that “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith.” That’s a good and descriptive way of putting it, isn’t it? Doubt is what makes us move and question and reflect about our faith. We can’t stand still in the face of it. (like we have ants in our pants)

   We are called as Christians to be challenged. And Thomas was challenged that day when he was asked to believe - on faith alone - that Jesus had returned. But he wasn’t going to change who he was …. Or follow the crowd without questioning.

   How many of us relate to Thomas? We all have doubt at times…. about many things. I once had an employer ask me if I was 100 per cent sure about something and I told her I wasn’t 100 per cent sure that the sky is blue … you see, I had heard that we see the sky as blue because of refractions of light and other things too scientific for my mind. So what colour is the sky? I don’t know … it depends on one’s perspective… where one is when looking at it….what time one is looking at it….

   Even what planet one is standing on when looking at the sky. Apparently, the sky is pink if we’re standing on another planet…

And so, we can understand the Apostle Thomas – and those other disciples - didn’t know for sure that Jesus was resurrected and returned to life. Despite the fact that he was standing in front of them … they all asked for proof!

   But the thing about Thomas is that he was honest about his disbelief!

   So - what if we use Thomas NOT as someone to be disappointed in, but as someone to emulate? Wouldn’t that then allow us to find new freedom to be honest about our own faith, or, maybe our questioning of it? We really should be MORE like Thomas, not by doubting more, but by being more honest with God and with ourselves by rising to the challenge of questioning and growing in our faith because of those questions.

   Aren’t we called to reflect? Doesn’t Jesus challenge us to question so that our faith and our spiritual journeys can continually move forward … can continually deepen? So that we can ask questions of ourselves and others in order to discover and affirm our faith? So that we come to understand, in our own individual ways, the awesome wonder and goodness of our God?

   Thomas didn't pretend. He didn't fake his belief. He told the truth. Was he "doubting Thomas"? Well, perhaps. But even more importantly he was "honest Thomas."

   We shouldn’t judge ourselves or others for questioning. Doubt is a natural part of the faith journey of many Christians. We should take our questions and concerns in prayer to God. God can handle our doubt. I can assure you of that. God welcomes our questions … because it gives us the opportunity to be open to hearing the answers. And all answers point to the truth as Christ brought to us.

   I remember reading an article in Time magazine several years after the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta about some letters she had written to her confessor. They had just been released to the public and they surprised me! In them, she confessed the guilt and shame she had felt for most of her life because she questioned her faith in God.

   I don’t think in her lifetime any of us would have guessed the inner turmoil she was feeling over her doubt. She just continued to do the work she felt called to do. It was work that followed the call of Christ who tells us to walk and live among the poor. To welcome the outcast into our midst and to heal and comfort our fellow children of God. This was certainly the work Mother Teresa did!

   It’s obvious to me that God had faith in her! Even when and if she wasn’t sure about her faith in God. It’s always been a two-way street.

   Maybe that’s what we should be more concerned with … living our lives as though God’s trust and faith in us is well-founded and deserved.

   Do you notice how calmly Jesus speaks to all the disciples in Luke despite their doubt and in their fear? There is no sense of rebuke or anger from Jesus.

   He does not give them any lecture on doubting or on fearing. Rather, Jesus gently offers all the disciples what they want: proof. Jesus met the disciples right where they are IN their fear and doubt and he says to them: "Here, touch me, and believe."

   This week’s Scripture says Jesus opened their minds so that they could understand what had been written … so that they could understand the wholeness of the promise that resurrection brings.

   God’s ways are full of mystery. Full of awe and wonder. And also full of promise. In today’s story from Luke, Jesus told the disciples that they were witnesses of this great promise. And that soon, because of their faith, they would be clothed in the power that can only come from on high.

Their faith was not pretend faith. This was not a blind, unthinking faith that follows the crowd just to blend in….. it is a 100% genuine faith … born out of questions and fears that are spoken aloud. This is a faith that can transform our lives. It's the sort of faith that we should all aspire to.

   We are blessed when we come to our own conclusions that our faith in Christ should be the center of our lives. And that usually doesn’t come like a bolt of lightning out of the sky. And that’s okay. However we get to our answers to our faith questions is okay – as long as they are reached with the help of wise people and writings and are based in God’s truths.

   The important thing is that the invitation to believe and trust is offered freely to us and we are called to meditate upon it and grow in the spirit with it.

   In this Easter season, we are challenged to put our trust in the one who died for us, and who was raised again so that we might have the fullness of life forever.

   No matter where we are in our relationship with Jesus today, the good news is that he meets us in that place. We are not alone, we are never alone. The one who gave his life for us so that we might be forgiven; the one who was raised so that we might live forever; wants us to seek a genuine, honest relationship with our Creator.

   So, no matter where we are, as individuals and as a community on that road of faith, may the risen Jesus walk with us today, tomorrow, and every day from here on.

                 Amen!

Tear Down those Doors of Doubt

You know what doubt does? It shuts us off a little from living life to its fullest. Think about it – doubt and fear are two words we often find together. After the death of Jesus, the disciples hid behind closed doors. They feared death. And they were mourning the loss of the One they loved. And so, they had retreated behind closed doors in the Upper Room. It was a place where they felt safe and had happy memories of times gone by spent with Jesus.

    Did you ever think about how many doors you walk through every day? Why are those doors there? To protect from weather? Sure. To keep the people inside safe? That too.

     Are the doors inviting or intimidating? Locked or unlocked? Do the doors you pass through make you feel frightened and uneasy, or peaceful and secure?

    What about the doors of your church? What message do they convey? Are they open and inviting, or closed and unwelcoming? Are they designed to let people in? Or do they keep people out?

     At the beginning of today’s gospel story, we find the disciples meeting behind closed doors. They have heard rumors that Jesus’ body was not in its tomb. They have heard that some had seen the Lord, but these disciples hadn’t. Confused and grieving and afraid, the disciples have come together and shut themselves in. And at the same time, they have shut the world out.

    They’re locked behind the doors of fear and despair. In the words of famous preacher Thomas Long, that assembly of disciples is “the church with nothing”—no musicians or preacher, no hope, no purpose, no joy.

    And, Long points out - even if they HAD great music and preaching, elaborate worship, a marvelous building, a dynamic youth ministry, and a presence in the community, their fear would reduce them to nothing. A church stuck in fear, a church lost in despair, a church that’s convinced it’s powerless, locks itself behind its doors of fear.

     And that’s what happens to people too.

    When we fear and doubt all kinds of things because we’re living as if Jesus is still dead and powerless, we keep ourselves locked behind doors of fear. When we shut ourselves off from the world around us, trying to keep the church a safe and comfortable place, we lock ourselves behind doors of fear.

     But Jesus doesn’t want us stay there. Not behind closed doors. He didn’t come to live among us so that we could hide. Jesus didn’t heal the sick and raise the dead and change water into wine so that we would think he’s weak and irrelevant.

Jesus didn’t die for no reason, and Jesus didn’t stay dead.

     Jesus had a purpose for everything that happened! And that purpose was to give us life and empower us to share his life and his peace with the world!

     So, what about this doubt that Thomas had? This doubt that Jesus had come back to life and walked on earth again. Well - what doubts do we have. You and me?

    We’re pretty intelligent people. I know that about you. And it’s okay to have doubts, because that makes us ask questions and then we grow as the answers come to us. Faith is a lifelong journey of discovery. Sometimes, our doubts can be stronger than at other times. Lots of people struggle with what they believe or have trouble believing.

     You all know who the author Stephen King is? Undeniably, he’s a creative, intelligent person…. I don’t know how many millions of books he’s sold.

     He was interviewed one time and asked about God.

     He said religion and faith have always interested him, and interests him more the older he gets. He says he wants to believe that there is something more “on the other side,” as he explains it.

     This is a quote from King: “For me, life is so rich—so colourful, and full of good things: things to read, things to eat, things to watch, places to go, new experiences —that I don't want to think that you just go to darkness ….

     I choose to believe [in God]. There's no downside to that. If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,’ then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design.”

     And then, after saying all that, King went on to say that he chooses to believe in God, but he still has serious doubts.

     In other words, he struggles in his faith. And that's okay. Because when you question, you grow as you find the answers.

     In an interview with Fortune magazine, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, said he is agnostic. In fact, he once famously said: “Christianity is a religion for losers.”

     But then he also offered some surprising thoughts on prayer: "I still say prayers for my friends who are ill. Little short prayers. Mini-prayers. It can't hurt anything."

     Like so many people with doubts, Turner is covering all his bases!

     Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. In a Rolling Stone interview a few year ago, Gates was asked "Do you believe in God?"

     Gates said that he believes science has now filled in some explanations for disease and the weather but not for everything.

He said:

     “The mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know.”

     Gates is a good example of an intelligent, successful person who sees God's hand in the beauty of creation. He feels the awe …and he just doesn’t know who to give credit for it!

     And finally, let’s talk about the most famous atheist of all: Richard Dawkins. In 2012, he was in a famous debate at Oxford University with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

     Dawkins admitted that he can't be certain that God does not exist. He made news around the world when he said he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator.

     Professor Dawkins said that he was "6.9 out of 7" sure of his beliefs. He wrote a book called the God Delusion in which he set out a seven point scale to prove that God does not exist. At that debate, he admitted that he couldn’t himself come to the full 7 points of belief there is no God.

     According to people who were there, when an amazed man chairing the debate said: "But, you are described as the world's most famous atheist," Dawkins retorted, "Well, not by me!"

     If any one of you said to me that you are 6.9 percent out of 7 sure there is NO God, that would still be great because it means somewhere in your doubt, a door remains open – even if just a crack – to further exploration and questioning. There is hope that you will keep searching for truth …and peace and comfort and maybe one day, you will find it in God.

     But you know, those doors we shut to keep the world out, to keep ourselves safe and secure — those doors can’t keep Jesus out!

     And that’s what the first disciples learned! If Jesus is strong enough to conquer death, he’s certainly capable of passing through a locked door! And that’s what he does, entering into the disciples’ midst, breathing on them, declaring the peace of God, and sending them out into the world to continue his life-giving mission!

     None of us can keep Jesus out! He’s going to slip in, somehow, and set us free from fear and doubt.

     He’s alive, and he’s going to live in his followers!

      He lives in us…. Jesus is here! Jesus has walked right through the doors of fear, trampled down the doors of doubt, and dwells with us for all eternity!

     We are NOT powerless, and we CAN move forward in faith, and we DO have reason to hope!

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and now dwells with us! Never doubt in him, and never doubt that you are loved and cared for - always.

                                  Amen and Amen.

A PRAYER FOR THE DOUBTING THOMASES

Gracious and loving God, you are the Guiding Light in our world of uncertainty. 

You are the Power that brings peace out of chaos.

Today, we stand before you in awe of your eternal goodness and love for us. 

We are here, still basking in the joy of your resurrection and presence. 

And we ask forgiveness for wandering from you in our own self-sufficiency 

when we think we alone can create lives filled with hope, love, joy and forgiveness of others. 

In our humility, forgive us for our foolishness.

Forgive our doubts about your goodness and presence and thank you 

for encouraging our questions that serve to pull us closer to you in faith. 

Especially, thank you for guiding us to answers that continue to comfort and strengthen us.

May we always feel your presence. 

May we always know you encourage our questions and provide us with the Way to truthful answers. 

And may you walk with us as we share the Good News that you live among us.

On this day, we pray for those among us and those afar, who are suffering in any way today. 

We know that you also suffer when we feel pain, anxiety, loneliness, depression, 

and estrangements from those we love. 

We know you are always working to heal those wounds and burdens we carry.

Be with all those this week who are grieving the loss of loved ones, of situations that they cherished, 

and relationships they no longer have.

May the power of your Holy Spirit bring light wherever there are shadows in this world. 

May your Light bring peace to places where peace is hard to find; 

Comfort to those who are uncomfortable, 

and Love to those who feel unlovable.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer. Amen.

And God Says: "I Told You So"

I’m sure you’ve heard the term: "helicopter parent”? It used to be a trendy term a few years ago to describe the way parenting has evolved into a form in which adults tend to “hover” over and around their kids … totally, of course, out of love and a desire to protect them. Children today are being protected from dirt and germs and skinned knees.

   Well, like a lot of you, I didn’t have one of those sets of parents called helicopter parents …I had a Mom who, when she wasn’t working her hands to the bone scrubbing something or making a meal, would be sitting at the kitchen table calmly saying to me:

     “Well, Rosemary, what did you expect?”

     I still have the spoon with a big chunk melted out of it that I put in the light socket and the memory of Mom picking me up off the floor on the other side of the room saying:

      “Well, Rosemary, what did you expect?”

   Well … I didn’t expect THAT or I wouldn’t have done it!

   We’ve all said it to someone. My hunch is that every language, country and culture on the face of this planet has a similar phrase. And anyway, it sounds a lot better than the old: “I told you so!”

       “Well, what can you expect?”

   Life has a pattern. We know that what goes up, will come down. We know that spring and summer WILL come eventually. We know that on a sunny day, the sky is blue … and we know that the sun will rise every morning – whether we can see it or not that day.

   Our life has certainties. And it gives us comfort and peace that in our world today, we live with some certainties.

   Do you know what a miracle is? One of the definitions is, that a miracle is a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

   A miracle is something that has gone against the expected laws of nature. It’s something we don’t expect … we may pray for a miracle … but even in our prayers it’s a hope that the unusual will happen.

   Mark 16:1-8 that is in the lectionary for Easter Sunday, 2021, begins with a description of the two Marys walking toward the tomb of Jesus that third day. … Well, they sure didn’t get what they expected.

   Mark tells us they “bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.” They were on a mission … even though they KNEW he was dead and gone, they were going there to show their love for him and that they weren’t ready to let him go yet.

   They expected to find a body wrapped in a shroud; They expected to feel all the anger again at the people who did this to a person they loved; They expected the grief to come flooding back once they got there and saw his shroud lying there.

They knew the drill. They would make their visit. Pay their respects. Do the anointing with the spices they’d brought.

That’s what they expected.

   The last thing they expected that morning when they went into the tomb was “a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side.”

   And the last thing they expected him to say was, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus … who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”

   They weren’t expecting that.

   But that’s what Mark says happened. And the church has been telling this hard-to-believe story ever since. A story about something we never expected to happen in a million years … happening.

   Our God raised a dead Jesus and, in that incredible act, reversed the order of things. And so now, we can believe that the river runs backward -- from death to life, from war to peace, from tears to joy.

   We will keep telling this story. Because the knowledge that “Jesus is alive again” makes all the difference in how we live our lives, how we face tragedy and challenges, how we overcome our fears, how we learn to forgive others, and how we face the future.

   Easter gives us hope that the way things have always been will not always be.

   Author and Rabbi Harold Kushner says that the most repeated phrase in the Bible includes the words, “Don’t be afraid!” sometimes translated as “Fear not!”

   They’re the words spoken to Mary by an angel about Jesus’ conception; they’re the words spoken to shepherds by an angel about Jesus’ birth. And now, these words are spoken to the women at the tomb about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

   We need not fear. We CAN have hope that all things are possible. We CAN expect the unexpected. Jesus Christ told us so!        We were told to expect the unexpected from a benevolent power that is beyond our understanding.

   I’d say that’s an awfully exciting promise. Especially when we live in God’s good world. Especially when we are created and loved and sustained and forgiven by a God who is with us – every day and in every way. Thanks be to the God of many names. Amen and Amen.


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