Saturday, April 4, 2015

Follow To The Tomb

Sunrise Service

Afraid. Yet filled with joy.

Matthew 28:1-10

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

 Enjoy the song and then we'll get to the message.

Early morning.
I'm not a fan of early mornings. I'm not a fan of getting out of bed, really, no matter what time it is.
Even though I am writing this long before the Easter sunrise, I know already how I'm going to be dragging my rear. My boy on the other hand... He can't wait for the clock to get to 7. That's when he knows he's allowed to get out of bed. Upon the news he would be getting up at 6, my boy runs through the house shouting and cheering. I have no idea whose child he is.

I wonder whether any of the women involved in the scripture were naturally early risers. It says it was dawn. The sun is barely in the sky. Maybe just the first small edge of the sun has started to break the horizon. If getting out of bed is hard in the first place, then imagine trying to get up with the weight of grief already on your back. Other accounts of the events that have transpired up to this moment have shown weeping and tears. They have buried their Friend. Their Messiah. The One they put their hopes and dreams on. Their Savior. Imagine having to drag yourself out of bed after that day and night.

That groggy walk to the grave this morning would surely be an eye opening experience, however. Even the hard to wake up would be wide eyed and attentive. An earthquake is said to shake the ground. It is said an angel of the Lord came down, rolled back the stone, and then sat upon it. Allow me to unseemly break topic here and say that I hate it when my wife comes in and bugs me when I'm trying to sleep. She has my son programmed to help her in her endeavor to jar me awake and get me out of bed. They will play music on her cell phone. They will sing and shout. They will try to pull the covers back. They will get the dog involved. Brutus finds his way up on to the bed and sticks his wet nose in my face or ear. It's all fun and games until the dog gets involved.

Have you been to a place like this? Have you ever been to a place where you just wanted to waller in your pity and loathing? It seems from the Gospels accounts that the women and people coming to the tomb are doing so out of homage. They are coming to pay their respects. They are not coming here expecting a miracle. Their Savior has died. And, with him has died the chance for miracles as well. The truth in moments like this goes along these lines. God does not need us to expect a miracle before he brings one our way. Are you bothered by the unseemly attempt to jar you out of your state of loathing and pity? Would like to just waller in it for a while? Some of us would. I recall an old country song by a woman named Terry Clark. She sings this song about the ups and down of a relationship going down an argumentative path. She really hits home about how we can feel when in the midst of the moment.

I'll never leave, I'll never stray
My love for you will never change
But I ain't ready to make up or get around to that
I think I'm right I think your wrong
I'll probably give in before long
Please don't make me smile
I just want to be mad for awhile

God knows how we feel. We just want to be left alone.
But, he comes anyway. He brings the thunder and the lightning when we aren't looking for it.
The scripture here says it was too much for the guards. They lay there motionless, like they are playing dead. We took the kids to see the movie "Home" earlier this week. The story is about a race of blob like creatures known as the Boov. Seems like they are constantly on the run from their nemesis, another race known as the Gorg. There's a scene where they call out their brightest minds in the Boov. One of their solutions to over come the Gorgs is to just lie down and lay still. Maybe the Gorg won't see them. The Boov who thinks up the idea just lies there, slightly moving it's eyes. They revisit that Boov several times in the course of the movie. And, there it is. Just lying there. Hoping nobody sees it. Couldn't we put ourselves in the shoes of the guards? God, in his awesomeness, has visited us. And...we just try to not move and... not make any sound. No sudden movements. Just making sure God doesn't notice me over here. Don't need that kind of attention. Just leave me alone.

Fear. It's crippling. It's debilitating.
We don't want to move. We don't want to get up. Depression is a real illness that can create harm, not just for the patient, but for family and friends who interact with the person as well. I know the feelings as the ailment runs in my family. I know what it's like to be afraid to go out into the world. To feel so crushed by the hurts and pains of life that you feel like you cannot go on. And, then, to feel the "BOOM". To be picked up off your feet and set upright. God, in his awesomeness, can do just such miracles. To pull us out of our tombs and back to new life again.

Do you know what it's like to be afraid?
These women do. They have witnessed the presence of an angel, the holy messenger of God, and lived to tell about it. They came to the tomb depressed, angry, mourning. Now, they are afraid. But the presence of this messenger gives them something that they can stand up with in the midst of their fear.


How can you be afraid and joyful at the same time? The two adjectives don't look like they go together at all. They are headed in opposite directions. The angel tells them that they have nothing to fear. The Savior, this Jesus, has risen from the dead. All is right with the world. The pain and suffering they endured, that he endured, was all just a shadow. The real truth is here in the empty tomb. "Come and see the place where he lay."

There's nothing there now. These very women were the ones who brought spices and helped with the wrapping of the body. They saw it put here to rest. They know, personally, the pain of seeing the stone rolled into place. The feeling of certainty that death had won was all too real. The sting. The hurt. The cold stark reality was turned on it's head in an earth-quaking moment. Who can explain it? When we can't explain a thing,well, that can cause us to be afraid. It is right on point to be fearful of what we don't understand. With the fear came joy, though. Joy, because their Savior was not there. They were told he was alive. If that's true, then we can see why there is joy. Anytime we are told that something is the opposite of what we thought - a critical diagnosis from the doctor, a surely expected grade from a tough class at school, a job prospect we think for sure we will not get - then we see the reversal of fortune. Sadness goes to joy. Dark clouds drift away. All we needed was one moment to experience the thunder and lightning. To feel the earth move under our feet. To feel the sky tumbling down. To hear our name called one time.

That's joy that will cause us to run.
I will cause us to snap out of our downcast demeanor and find someone. We need others. We need to tell them what has happened to us. What we experienced. What we saw. How God pulled us up and out of our depression. To share how good it feels to be blessed. To help someone else through their trouble and hard times. You can't do that unless you know what it's like to be afraid and joyful at the same time. Don't know how that feels? Put yourself in a place where God can use you and you'll understand. Stop down at the gas station some day and just let God use your voice and your words. Go into a nursing home and let God make you a blessing to someone else. You might be afraid. You won't know what to expect or what will happen. But, the joy that comes from being available to God is what overcomes the fear. Fear and joy in the same breath.


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