Dennis Sepper, Burnsville, MN
- What did you expect when you got up this morning? Was it pretty much what you expect every morning?
- What affect do those expectations have on what you see, hear and experience?
What Did You Expect?
February 3, 2017—Sulphur, Oklahoma. A’layah Robinson had a tough start to life. She and her two brothers were born to a mother who was a drug addict and placed in foster care. Once there, like many foster kids, they bounced from house to house with various foster families. A’layah and her brothers had no real home and no one they felt they could trust. That was until A’layah and her brothers were adopted by the Robinson family.
With a real home and parents who loved her, A’layah blossomed and flourished. Even though life was now secure and good one thing bothered her. A’layah realized that while in foster care her brothers never had one toy that was their own. A’layah decided she had to do something about that. So, with her parents blessing she started serving lemonade from a stand called “Lemonade for Love” with the goal of raising enough money to provide a toy for each child in foster care in the state of Oklahoma.
A’layah’s vision caught the imagination of many people, so many that between the lemonade stand, a Facebook following, and a GoFundMe page A’layah now provides a string drawn backpack that contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, a blanket, a stuff bear toy (of course) and a bible so that each child in foster care “can feel special and learn about Jesus”. A’layah wants to share the love she feels from God and from her parents with as many children as she can. Oh, and did I mention that A’layah is six years old.
When young A’layah experienced the love of God and Jesus through her parents and through her faith community, she was transformed from a child who had little hope and the prospect of an uncertain future to a young girl who couldn’t help but share the Good News through her service to other foster children.
- What was the element that transformed A’layah’s life?
- Was A’layah doing something super human or extraordinary or was she using ordinary things that were within her reach?
- Do you think A’layah is transforming the lives of others because of the love she has to share? How?
Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day
Matthew 28:1-10 or John 20:1-18
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
In both Gospel texts for today Mary Magdalene, either alone or with the other Mary, heads to the tomb of Jesus. There is no talk of anointing the body of Jesus with spices
as in Mark 16 and Luke 24, so there is no concern about moving the stone sealing the tomb. They go simply to pay their respects to Jesus. Their expectation is that the stone will be in place and Jesus’ body will be inside. The death of Jesus shook them to the core and all they could do was weep.
But then their expectations were shattered. In Matthew’s account there was a great earthquake (in the Bible, always a sign that God was at work), an angel rolls the stone away, has a seat on the stone, announces that Jesus has been raised from the dead and invites the women to look inside the tomb to see for themselves that it was empty.
In John’s account, Mary sees that the stone has been rolled away. Assuming that someone has stolen the body of Jesus she runs to get Peter and the other disciple. When all of them arrive back at the tomb and enter it, they see that the death shroud of Jesus has been neatly folded (even the Risen Jesus made his bed…a good lesson for all of us!)
At this point all we know is that the body of Jesus is gone. Matthew’s angel gives us a promise but that is all. In both Gospels the moment it all sinks in is when the risen Jesus appears to Mary. In Matthew’s Gospel it is in hearing the greeting of Jesus in his own voice that prompts recognition. In John’s account it is when Jesus calls out to Mary by name that she believes in the resurrection of Jesus.
In that moment all expectations have been torn apart. Jesus is alive. Life has conquered death, love has conquered hate, grace and forgiveness has conquered judgment and all that Jesus told and taught his followers is true and trustworthy. The resurrection of Jesus transformed the life of his followers in ways great and small. We see this happening in the biblical book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament.
The same is true today, for the Risen Jesus is alive and with us. Because of the resurrection of Jesus our human expectations are torn apart and our lives are transformed by the love and forgiveness of God. We are given hope and the opportunity to be set free from feeling unworthy and undeserving of God’s love. We are set free to not worry about our standing before God and thus free to serve others. As Jesus declared in John 8:36 “When the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.
The resurrection of Jesus does not take us out of this world; it transforms this world through love and hope. There will still be questions, there will still be pain and suffering, and we will lose loved ones to death but because of Jesus we have hope for new beginnings including the beginning of life eternal.
Christ has Risen! Christ has risen indeed! This Easter Sunday we remember just how much God loves each and every one of us and we celebrate the love of God shown through the risen Jesus.
- In John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, Mary Magdalene does not immediately recognize Jesus (she believes him to be the gardener). After spending so much time with Jesus why do you think Mary did not recognize Jesus? What did it take for her to realize it was Jesus?
- In Matthew’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, the author tells us that the women “left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy” (verse 8). We might understand their joy but why would they feel fear? Why does the resurrected Jesus say “do not be afraid” (verse 10)?
We have now spent six weeks in the Church year season of Lent. On Easter Sunday there will be a transformation of our worship. We sing hymns and songs of praise, alleluias will abound, and there will be flowers in church–all to symbolize and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Young A’layah Robinson was transformed by the love of Jesus, her parents and her faith community. That love overflowed to others especially to foster children because A’layah had the experience of being one. It wasn’t a big deal, she simply wanted to provide a toy, a small toy to others but that small gesture brought huge results.
On this Easter Sunday are there ways you and/or your faith community can show forth the transformation brought by the resurrection of Jesus? Take a moment to think about you own life experience (and how you answered the third question about A’layah project) and plan a way to celebrate the love of God by reflecting it to others. It does not have to be something superhuman, just a small gesture of love can make a world of difference and transform the lives of others by the love of God.
God of Love, on this day our human expectations fade in the announcement of the good news that Jesus is risen from the dead and lives with us forever. Open our hearts and minds to the transformation which your love can bring and set us free to serve you and our neighbors with joy. With thankful and grateful hearts and lives we pray. Amen.