Easter Series – Week 3

Readings for this week March 21 – 25
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Easter 16 - Booklet Front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Day 1 – The Time of Death

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 27:57-61
In between the horror of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and the miracle of his resurrection and the empty tomb, is a silent tomb. Jesus is dead. Hopes are dashed. Some people mourn the death of their friend and their dreams, and the death of the loyal, loving people they thought they were. Others neither know nor care.  Friday has been and gone. A body lies in a tomb. Life is gone, with nothing new in its place. Saturday comes and Jesus is still dead. So much for him and his promises.

There was a period of death for Jesus. He did not just die and then automatically spring back to life, a gone-one-minute-back-the-next event more akin to something from a magician’s stage act. Part of Jesus’ Easter experience is death, the fullness of death, the absence of death, the unavoidable committing of himself into the hands of God as he falls into the place where all must go but from where none return.

What are we to make of the silent tomb? What are we to make of Easter Saturday, the day in between, when God is silent and Jesus is dead?

Because death is part of his followers’ Easter experience and our Easter experience too. And not just at Easter, although Easter Saturday is a reminder that there are times when it seems that God is absent; when it seems like nothing has changed, or can ever change; when things are most hopeless. And that time is often brought home to us in death, whether the thought, or reality, of our own or someone else’s. Sometimes we do find ourselves in the midst of Easter Saturday, in the midst of death, and though we may not wish to, it is a day that must be walked on the way to Resurrection Sunday.

Question to Consider
When you think of the time that Jesus spent in the grave, what do you think of? Why?

Prayer
Loving Father, sometimes you seem so far from me. But even in the darkness of death I know you are there, even if I cannot see or feel you. Give me strength to make it through my Easter Saturdays. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – He Is Not Here

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 28:1-7
“He is not here.” Four very simple words, nothing out of the ordinary about them. We have probably heard them many times, in many different contexts, usually based around situations when someone is not home when visited or not around when called up on the phone. For us, such usage implies that the visitor or caller simply has the wrong place; they came to or called the place they expected the person to be, the most likely place to find them. They just got it wrong. With a bit more information and a slight change of plan, contact can be made and the person reached.

But in this passage “He is not here” is a shocking, world-shaking, gut-wrenching thing to hear. It is inconceivable that Jesus could be anywhere else. He is dead, he is buried, the mourners themselves were part of the burial. There is nowhere else for him to be. His body is in the grave – this is the way of the dead.

Imagine how horrible that initial “He is not here” must have been to the grieving mourners come to anoint the corpse of Jesus. The body of their loved one gone? What has happened? What would you think if you went to visit the grave of a recently deceased friend or relative, only to be told at the cemetery gates “He/she is not here”? Has there been an accident? A landslide? The grave desecrated, the body stolen? Grave robbers? What has happened?

Question to Consider
How do you think the women were feeling on their way to the tomb? Why might “He is not here” obscure the angel’s next sentence “He is risen”?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the God of the impossible, the God of surprise, the God we sometimes lose sight of because we don’t expect to find you in the people and places you dwell. Help me look further and deeper to see those unexpected times and places where and when you are. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Living Story

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:1-3
This is Paul’s origin story, his story of the origin of the people of Jesus. This is where we come from, says Paul, and this is what the community is founded upon – the crucial, all-important bedrock that defines the community’s existence. And this momentous foundation, this glorious new thing that God has done, is just the most recent – and wholly decisive – moment in a much longer story, a story found in the scriptures of Israel, the very scriptures that help explain why this event is so important.

The foundation is Jesus himself, and the transforming event that opens this next chapter of the story is the resurrection. The resurrection is the key for Paul, that will help tell the struggling Corinthians (and us, and all other followers of Jesus) who they are and whereabouts in God’s great story they currently are.

The Corinthians are in danger of forgetting the story and their place in it. Throughout this letter Paul has been trying to get them to see where they fit in the story, how Jesus was Israel’s messiah, and that they (and us), as messiah-led resurrection people, have an important part to play in the way the story will unfold from this point on. You are the messiah’s people, he tells them, living in the power and promise of his resurrection. Don’t forget that. Take it on board. Live in the light and power of his resurrection every day and all the little things that are currently distracting you and tripping you up will suddenly become clear. The resurrection changes everything – if you will let it.

Question to Consider
How does the resurrection change the story for you?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the resurrection of your son and what it means for us. Help me live each day in the power of the resurrection, offering myself to others in love, and inviting them to take their place in your story. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – This Is Real

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:4-11
The resurrection is an astonishing event to contemplate. It cuts against the grain of everything we know and experience as human beings. Death is final. There is no return. It is not the way of things for a human life to end, only to continue on afterwards.

But it happened. As incredible as it seemed at the time – and still seems now – it happened. This is something that Paul is at pains to point out to the Corinthians. He is passing on what he received, he is telling them exactly what was passed on to him, by the people who were there, who witnessed what had happened and reported what they saw, amongst whom – belatedly – he includes himself. All of them can corroborate what he is saying.

Paul is not some sort of lone ranger apostle out on his own, making up his own rules and his own Gospel. He is part of a community – one large community made of many scattered smaller ones – with a history and tradition of its own. A tradition that it seems many people were determined to question and undermine, especially when it came to the veracity of the resurrection.

So Paul tells the story again, and grounds the story in reality. The truth of the Christian story is not some nebulous, eternal truth wafting aimlessly and unfettered through the air. These are real events that happened, that were witnessed and reported.

Question to Consider
What do you think the disciples made of Jesus’ earlier statements about his resurrection? What is important about the fact that, at this point in the story, an explanation is still to come?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for all that you are and all you have done. Thank you for Easter and for your son. My words are inadequate – may my response be my life, given back to you in gratitude for your son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – If No Resurrection, Then…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
If the resurrection is not true, then all people are to be pitied. For if no resurrection, then this life – the here and now, this place, these bodies, this existence – is all there is. And therefore the only life that so many people have ever known and will ever know is a life of unremitting pain, poverty, anguish and loss with no hope of escape.

If no resurrection, then no chance for God to right wrongs and offer comfort to the oppressed and rejected, so many of whom are no longer here and therefore beyond any help that may be given here and now.

If no resurrection, then no judgement, which at first glance might seem somewhat appealing, but without judgement there is also no mercy and no justice either, as these things come together.

If no resurrection, then no promises of God can be believed – no promise of eternal life, no promise of new creation, no promise of all things put right under the sovereign lordship of the Creator God.

And we are to be pitied even more than all others. For if no resurrection, then all that we believe is founded upon a lie, and all that we preach, speak, act, live is founded upon the same lie. The resurrection is promise, is hope, the revelation of the heart of God’s plan for the whole of creation.

The empty tomb, the discarded grave clothes, the risen body of Jesus, the wounds in his renewed flesh – the resurrection is real, it is true, and all that it signifies, entails, promises, is also real, is also true.

Question to Consider
How would your life be different without the reality of the resurrection? How does the resurrection play out in your daily life?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, thank you for the promise of the resurrection. Thank you that you are a God of promise, who offers hope and life for all people and all creation through your son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)