Jeremiah 31: 1 – 6
Psalm 118: 1 – 2; 14 – 24
Colossians 3: 1 – 4
Matthew 28: 1 – 10
Bare branches to budding leaves; icy ground to green grass; frigid winds to fresh spring breezes—Lent is a season of transformation.
During this deeply reflective church season we find ourselves moving through the days with some intention of a deep personal change or commitment when we have walked through the 40 days and emerged on Easter morning. We begin in the shorter dark days of grays and browns and slumbering life and end with the warmth and color and fragrance of spring in the air.
In many ways, the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life take an entire cast of characters through a radical, life-altering space of time and experience. Any one chapter of their individual experiences with Christ would not have resulted in the Life Transformation that they experienced at his Resurrection. Without being called, without hearing the parables, without witnessing the miracles, without developing high hopes, without a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, without a gut-wrenching turn of events ending in betrayal, crucifixion and death, these lives would not have been so radically altered, and the hope that was discovered in the empty tomb would have had a different impact. It took these folks living their entire lives for a difference to be identified.
This year as we write, we are acutely aware of how much of our daily experience shapes our faith and understanding of grace, of Resurrection and of the Kingdom of God. Forty days are not enough; it is the journey of a lifetime and each moment further refines our faith. One set of convictions is probably not enough for our range of experiences. As we journey through our own wildernesses, enter into various promised lands, and stand before various burning bushes, we relive the experience of Israel, in covenant with a God who is faithful, living out a commitment as forgiven people through a new covenant in Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
It helps to really place ourselves in the shoes of those who witnessed a risen Jesus. It wasn’t just his followers who experienced the Resurrection. It was also his detractors…the Roman guards paid to be at the tomb, the priests who had set Jesus up for a fall, the people in the streets who didn’t know what to believe as it all unfolded before them, the angry mobs, the joiners…
The Jeremiah text this week is a prophesy borne on the lived experience of Israel. Through the wilderness, through the entrance into Canaan, through the Judges and the Kings and the fall of the temple and years and years of living dispersed as foreigners in foreign lands, the Israelites have looked with hope toward their restoration through the will of God.
The Psalm is joyous and victorious. The reference to the cornerstone once rejected by the builder reminds us that the Israelites in their history were often underdogs. We can almost hear the tambourines referenced in Jeremiah as the synagogue hears the Psalm.
Matthew’s gospel describes the drama of Christ’s death and the revelation of Resurrection, risen saints going out from their tombs to see their families. There are dead men walking, there are earthquakes, there is darkness. Two Marys discover an empty tomb. As if they haven’t seen enough, they are met by earthquakes and an angel whose appearance is like lightening. It is believed that Matthew’s gospel was written for a Jewish audience. The melodramatic telling of the story of death and Resurrection, from the point of the veil being torn in the tabernacle (Matthew 27:51) to the discovery of the empty tomb, hearkens back through words and images to the same images that surrounded Moses as he received the commandments and established covenant with Yahweh in Exodus .
To the early readers/hearers, these images would have been sort of “embedded” in their faith. They had heard stories of Moses and the prophets and they had been steeped in the history of covenant. We can almost hear their “ah ha” moment as the folks following Jesus put the stories of their childhood together with their experiences of the events of the present moment.
Paul is addressing the Colossians with a challenge to look beyond their earthly existence. Yes, the death and Resurrection of Christ seems out of this world. Right. And so, as followers our minds need to be set in a “higher” place. Again, Paul is fulfilling his favorite role as Encourager. He is saying that if they really believe all that Christ said, then they need to live in to that by setting their minds (and hopefully the rest of their lives will follow) on God as revealed to them through the example and teachings of God. He seems to be helping people recognize that the commitment to Christ means that things are different now…their lives are transformed in to something new.
+So what do we do differently because of Easter? How do we live as “Easter people,” changed by the experiences, teachings and actions of one man who was the Son of God?
+We have our own covenant with Yahweh, a covenant forged through the Easter experience. God is faithful. Are we?
+When we are faced with something surprising, unexpected or unknown, do we have enough background information – enough life experience and story – to “go and tell” like the women did when finding the tomb empty?
+How do your experiences, day by day, week by week, year by year, reveal the nature of God and Jesus to you?
+Are you able to “go and tell” like the women did?
God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today
raise us up and renew our lives
by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer: The Psalter of The Liturgy of the Hours