Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
A Prayer Written by Max Lucado.
We’re still hoping we’ll wake up. We’re still hoping we’ll open a sleepy eye and think, “What a horrible dream. How could this have happened?”
Just a moment ago moms were packing school lunches. Just a moment ago chefs were planning the day’s menu. Just a moment ago arenas were noisy, brides were walking down the aisle, and neighbors were discussing the weather.
In just a moment, everything changed. A phantom disease invaded our peace, our plans, and our security. In a heartbeat our language and behaviors were upended. Even young children understand the term “social distancing,” “quarantine,” and “Covid-19.” Grandma isn’t allowed visitors in her nursing home. Workers are telecommuting, zooming, and skyping in their baseball caps and slippers. Handshakes and hugs have been put on indefinite hold.
This strange season has introduced a level of fear we haven’t seen since 9/11. Fear of what might come. Fear of touching. Fear of exposure. Fear of what we can’t see.
We are anxious, Father. And so we come to you. We don’t ask you for help; we beg you for it. We don’t request; we implore. We know what you can do. We’ve read the accounts. We’ve pondered the stories and now we plead, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again.”
Remember Joseph? You rescued him from the pit. You can do the same for us. Do it again, Lord.
Remember the Hebrews in Egypt? You protected their children from the angel of death. We have children, too, Lord. Do it again.
And Sarah? Remember her prayers? You heard them. Joshua? Remember his fears? You inspired him. The women at the tomb? You resurrected their hope. The doubts of Thomas? You took them away. Do it again, Lord. Do it again.
You changed Daniel from a captive into a king’s counselor. You took Peter the fisherman and made him Peter an apostle. Because of you, David went from leading sheep to leading armies. Do it again, Lord, for we need counselors today, Lord. We need apostles. We need leaders. Do it again, dear Lord.
What we’re seeing on the news, you saw on that Friday so long ago. Innocence interrupted. Goodness suffering. Mothers weeping. Just as the darkness fell on your Son, we fear the darkness falling on our friends, our family, our world. Just as our world has been shaken by a disease, our world was shaken the day the very child of Eternity was pierced.
You saw it. But you did not waver, O Lord. You did not waver. After your Son’s three days in a dark hole, you rolled the rock and rumbled the earth and turned the darkest Friday into the brightest Sunday. Do it again, Lord. Grant us another Easter.
We thank you, dear Father, for these hours of unity. Selfless acts of service and kindness warm our hearts. Strangers see opportunities to share with others. Our medical warriors are working together, at personal risk, to care for the rest of us. We thank you for their remarkable commitment.
And we see the world turning to you, Father. People encouraging people with scriptures and reminders of your sovereignty. We read posts urging us to respect each other, care for each other, and look up. We confess we have been anxious, but because of you, we have hope.
We ask, Father: let your mercy be upon all who suffer. Grant to those who lead us wisdom beyond their years and experience. Have mercy upon the souls who have been hurt by this disease. Give us grace to help each other and faith that we might believe.
And look kindly upon your church. For two thousand years you’ve used her to heal a hurting world.
Do it again, Lord. Do it again.
Through Christ, Amen
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, come now, let us worship.
The darkness is fading. Dawn is on the horizon.
The women are gathering. Their tears are still falling.
But soon the clouds will part
and grief will give way to astonishment!
Soon the weight of doubt and fear will be lifted
and the joy of our Lord’s rising will fill our spirits again!
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Who was Mary Magdalene?
The name Mary Magdalene only appears once in any of the gospels prior to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, every evidence is given that she was close to Jesus. Jesus not only appears to her after his resurrection, she is one of the select few women coming to his tomb to anoint his body after his burial. After the resurrection, she embraces Jesus once she realizes who he is. Jesus has to tell her to not hold onto him.
Luke is the gospel that cites Mary Magdalene’s presence before the crucifixion. In Luke 8 we read that there were some women in the group that was traveling with Jesus as he went preaching through the cities and villages. Each of these women had received healing from Jesus. In Mary Magdalene’s case, he had cast out seven demons. Mark also cites this event, when describing Mary Magdalene in her encounter with Jesus after the resurrection.
But there are other women named Mary in the gospels. Is it possible that one of these are the same as Mary Magdalene? Opinions are divided. Some scholars and traditions identify Mary Magdalene and Mary, the sister of Lazarus as being the same person. Others insist they are distinct persons.
If they are the same person, it is interesting to note that the same Mary who anointed Jesus feet in John 12 is also one of the ones who is coming to the tomb to care for his body after the burial. Mary is extremely faithful! She remains when others have fled or are in hiding. This faithfulness is the reason that she is among the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection. Whether she understands or not, she is still there. Because she is there, she is the first to recognize that her Lord still lives!
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
by John Wesley
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Joyce Rupp shares this poem about summer drought, our doubtfulness,and the power of God’s grace:
Hope Continues to Bloom
yesterday I went to view the dead,
instead I found the living.
my inner fibers stirred wonderingly
as I discovered green beans in abundance.
all those long, heat-filled days,
over a month without moisture,
and there those green beans were,
blooming and bearing bountifully.
I stood and gazed at their resilience,
remembering my own dry days inside
when it seemed not a green bean was left
on the withered vine of my scorched life.
I pondered my own long stretch of drought
without a soothing drop of consoling life.
I saw that my roots, too, had gone down deep,
seeking the secret soil of endurance.
I know now that hope continues to bloom
in the valley of desolation and dryness,
that within my arid, breathless space,
greening life has power over death.
standing before my inner garden
I see how faithfully the unfelt Source
took care of me, feeding my roots
as I sipped unknowingly.
In this way God’s grace nourishes and strengthens us. Even in the moments when we feel driest, God is still with us and caring for us. Let us bring our offerings to God in thanksgiving, celebrating the faithfulness of our God.
Thank you for your ministry and sharing.
An appropriate scripture for this time is from the book of Jeremiah. The people of Jeremiah’s time were going through trauma. Jeremiah was frustrated with their behavior for many chapters but ultimately his tone changes and he prophesies God’s promise that they will be built back up from the devastation they have endured. They will again feel joy and they will begin to plan for the future again, planting vineyards on the hills even in the midst of exile and pain.
Jeremiah 31: 1-6
At that time, declares the Lord,
I will be the God of all the families of Israel,
and they will be my people.
The Lord proclaims:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness.
As Israel searched for a place of rest,
the Lord appeared to them from a distance:
I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.
And so with unfailing love,
I have drawn you to myself.
Again, I will build you up,
and you will be rebuilt, virgin Israel.
Again, you will play your tambourines
and dance with joy.
Again, you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
farmers will plant and then enjoy the harvests.
The time will come when
the watchmen shout from
the highlands of Ephraim:
“Get ready! We’re going up to Zion
to the Lord our God!”
(based on Jeremiah 31)
God of new dawns, new awakenings, new life,
we hear your voice this morning saying,
“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
On this Easter day, you tell us we will be rebuilt and made new.
In gratitude we hear you, Living God, and we believe you.
And so we will celebrate the gift of new life in Christ,
even in the midst of fear.
You give us eyes to see through tears,
songs to sing with throats tight with emotion.
We know you help the weary rise up out of the ashes.
Give us the courage to be your light and hope in this world today.
Adapted from www.worshipdesignstudio.com/series by Dr. Marcia McFee
My Easter Prayer for You
God bless you this Easter
With mercies great and small,
As we ponder new ways
To answer His call.
For though we are anxious
With life’s current days,
May we move ever forward
Sharing Christ’s life-changing ways.
- You are invited to share a photo from your preparations for this morning’s service! These photos will be collected into an album that will be posted on our church website as another way to gather in celebration of Jesus and his resurrection! Please send your photos to email@example.com.
- Our Drive Through Prayer Walk will continue to be available at the church on Easter Sunday, from 8AM to 8PM, or until weather forces us to pack it up. Thank you to the many people who helped put this together! Scriptures and resources (and a preview) for the walk can be found at https://pleasantvalleyalive.org/wp/drive-through-prayer-walk/.
- We have a list of volunteers that are ready to help you by running errands (picking up groceries, medication, etc.). Please call the church office, your deacon, or our Administrative Assistant, Anne Bowman, at home to make arrangements.
- The Church Board is inviting those who are able to make donations to our Community Needs Fund. If you are receiving a Government Stimulus Check that you do not really need, this is one way to get the funds to those who do need them. We have received a couple of inquiries for help at the church so far. We expect this to accelerate in the coming weeks.
- Thank you to all who are contributing to the life of our congregation in so many ways during this challenging time! From music, to communications, to tackling administrative challenges, people are contributing in many ways! The most important of them is prayer. Please be in prayer for the church and its ministry as we navigate this ever-changing road together.
- Please be in prayer for the health of our church and our neighbors, and especially those who are working to keep the rest of us healthy in so many ways. May God’s care be expressed ever more strongly in our communities now.
- The next Sr. High youth check-in and Bible Study will be online at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, April 14. Youth and parents can check their email for more information.
- Jr. High Gathering will be online next Sunday, April 19, at 6:00 pm.