My friends, as Easter Sunday dawns on us, we still find ourselves in that new and strange place, living with the coronavirus in our midst—a nasty bug that has the power to kill, literally, and at a time when we would choose to be with each other; we must separate ourselves to keep each other safe!
This pandemic has called for each of us to be creative as we attempt to stay connected. You may have done the type of “fasting” during these Lenten days that called forth the best in you, in the form of reaching out to others who may have needed a call, an email, a card—from YOU! And if you didn’t do any of those things yet, there are six weeks of Easter time still coming! 🙂
Jesus has indeed risen, Alleluia! Glory be his forever and ever! Alleluia!
Loving God, Creator of all, today is the day of Easter joy. This is the morning on which Jesus appeared to the people who had begun to lose hope and opened their eyes to what the Scriptures foretold: That first he must die and then he would rise and ascend into his Abba’s glorious presence. May the risen Jesus breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of bread and follow him in his risen life. Grant this through Jesus, the Christ, the Only Begotten, who lives and reigns with you and the Spirit—one God, forever and ever. Amen.
- Acts 10: 34, 37-43 Psalm 118–“This is the day our God has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”
- 1 Corinthians 5: 6-8
- John 20: 1-18
As you know, our parish each year at this time celebrates either the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday Mass, depending on when our monthly Saturday Mass falls. Had we been able to meet this year, it would have been on Easter Sunday and so I decided to use parts of both the Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday readings to give us a focus for this beautiful day that apparently, before day’s end, here in Minnesota, is supposed to be a full-blown, wintery storm!
Many of the readings from the Easter Vigil are what some might call, “salvation history,” but I would like to call it, the story of our God’s love for creation, culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, our brother. I will simply lift up a line or two from the readings that I would have used for this service for us to hold on our hearts:
- In the creation story from Genesis; we hear that God looked on all of creation and said that it was very good. For that reason; I chose not to speak about another of the choices for the Vigil, that of the story of Moses fleeing the Egyptians and God drowning them in the Red Sea. It seems that as the prophets become more involved in the story of the Israelite people, God becomes a much more loving figure and certainly the God of Jesus, was.
- In the reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear, “come to the water, all who are thirsty.” This is a good image for us to think of during this time of pandemic when we so “thirst” for normalcy—which includes companionship with others who we need now, strangely, to separate from in order to protect each other.
- And in the reading from Ezekiel, we hear, “You will be my people and I will be your God.” A thought that comes to me in this regard is the knowledge that our loving God stands with us at this time, more than ever.
- We see the compassion of God expressed in the gospel selection from Matthew in the Vigil Service, as twice we hear, first from angels and then from Jesus, “Don’t be afraid.” I like to ponder these words, especially from Jesus as we find ourselves afraid at times in new ways now, more than ever before, as we encounter something that we don’t understand and for the time being, can’t really fix.
- The epistle from Paul to the Romans speaks in a somewhat cloaked fashion of sin and the truth about being Jesus’ followers—simply that it will mean we have to leave sinful ways behind, striving to be our best selves.
But that will come soon enough—now is the time for joy in the fact that Jesus is still with us. That he is truly risen! Let us hold on to that thought—that Jesus is truly, “still with us” as this will support us through this time of unknowing.
We move then to the readings of Easter Sunday to complete our thoughts for this glorious day. The Easter gospel comes from John 20:1-9, but I think it is important not to stop after verse 9 but to continue on to verse 18 as it includes the beautiful encounter between Mary of Magdala and Jesus in the garden. The reading shouldn’t stop after verse 9 as the story simply isn’t complete at that point! The reading for the Easter Vigil stops short too and that is why I always add verses 8-10 to that reading.
It is significant that these faithful women who stood by the cross to the very end would be the first to see Jesus in his risen state and I think that only an all-male hierarchy would set up the readings in this way, completely discounting the women!
Another point in this gospel that is most significant especially for those who may find it hard to believe in the resurrection and might say, “The body was simply stolen will find an answer in the way John describes the scene at the tomb. [Simon Peter] observed “the linen wrappings lying on the ground and saw the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” Exegetes tell us that if one’s intent was to steal a body, you would hardly unwrap it first and certainly not take the time to fold up a piece of cloth covering the head!
John also gives us another interesting tidbit in his account of the resurrection—when Mary of Magdala first encounters Jesus, now risen, in the garden—she doesn’t recognize him! We might ask—how can this be? Again, exegetes tell us that one apparently doesn’t appear the same in resurrected form as they would, if they were merely sleep and awakened.
The same phenomenon seems to be true in Luke’s account of Jesus joining the disciples the next day on the way to Emmaus. Just as Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until he did something familiar—saying her name, the disciples on the road didn’t know him either until he likewise did something familiar—when he broke bread with them.
So, my good friends, hopefully, these few thoughts you can carry on your hearts on this Easter morn as we all think anew on what it means to be an Easter people! Hopefully, before too very long, we can again unite and sing our Alleluias with each other! A peace-filled and joyful Easter to each of you!
Prayers of the Faithful–response–“Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially the least among us—let them be foremost in our minds and hearts, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus”
- O Risen Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
3. Jesus, risen Savior, you who were a healer in every way, freeing people’s minds, hearts and bodies of illness of every kind, grant us health in these same ways, and most especially now as our city, country and world struggle with the coronavirus, we pray—
Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
4. Risen Jesus, you who have said, you will never leave us—help us to desire a close relationship with you and strive to form that closeness by taking time each day to communicate in our own way, we pray—
Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
- Risen Jesus, our brother and friend, give hope to those who are suffering now due to the virus, from illness, grief in loss, the economy—show us all the way through this painful time, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
6. Risen Jesus, help us to throw out the “old yeast” in our lives and replace it with the new bread of justice and compassion for all, we pray—
Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
- Risen Jesus, in your new, resurrected life, continue to be our constant model of one who lived very simply upon the earth, and show us new ways to live likewise going forward, we pray— Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
8. Risen Jesus, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially as a result of Covid19—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Hear us O Risen Jesus.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause—we pray, then response
Let us pray:
Jesus, you have truly risen! Alleluia! Be the strength we need each day to be people of the resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world. Give us the strength and grace to do what we can to make our world better—help us to be the change we want to see. Let us truly be Easter people of joy, compelled to live justly, with mercy and goodness in our daily lives. We ask all of this of you, our loving Savior, Creator and Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray
Prayer after Communion (Again, let us remember that in the absence of the physical bread, we indeed are “bread” and we must share that with others)
God of Love, watch over your Church and bring us to the day of the resurrection promised by this Easter sacrament. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.