Contributed by Jocelyn Breeland
Warm-up Question: If you could be a groupie, which celebrity would you follow?
President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Europe, the first of his presidency, created a public frenzy that recalled his visit to Europe during the 2008 presidential campaign.
True, there was a lot of real work to be done this time, at the G-20 summit and in meetings with British, Russian, and other heads of state. Pundits (an expert, commentator, or opinion-leader) are divided over the value of what was accomplished. Most agree that the tone of the gatherings was more productive than would have been possible during the Bush administration.
Based on the news reports, Americans could be forgiven for thinking the trip was more a tour by American royalty than an opportunity for serious work on the critical issues of our time.
The screaming crowds that greeted Mr. Obama and his wife at many stops provided plenty of “distraction” for the news media. Reporters seemed transfixed by the first couple’s every move, especially Mrs. Obama. Breathlessly, they reported that she touched the queen! That she wore a sweater to Buckingham Palace! That she got emotional while speaking with a group of adoring school girls!
Of course, some maintain that, despite the conspicuous display of admiration, not much of importance has changed in the relationship between the U.S. and its European partners. Yes, there were adoring crowds, but there were also large violent protests.
- Should European public opinion matter to Americans?
- What is it about President Obama that inspires such adoration?
- Are those who put President Obama on a pedestal setting themselves up for inevitable disappointment?
- What are your impressions of President Obama and his wife? How do your impressions shape your expectations of President Obama’s leadership?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 12, 2009 (Easter Sunday).
(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.)
- Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
- Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (24)
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
- Mark 16:1-8 or John 20:1-18
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
Jesus’ followers were frightened and confused by his death. They’d served with him for three years, so the confusion didn’t result from not knowing Christ well enough, but from not yet comprehending the way he had transformed their lives. On Easter morning, Jesus gave the disciples the key to understanding what the prophets of the Old Testament had foretold, and what he had been trying to explain throughout his ministry.
The story is simple; its meaning is earth-shattering. The tomb is empty because Jesus, once dead but now alive, has left. Skeptics said someone must have moved the body. But the miraculous resurrection isn’t the only (or even the most important) headline of this tale.
The amazing story that God begins to reveal on Easter morning is what Jesus’ victory over death means to each of us. It’s as if he gave us a beautifully wrapped present at Christmas, and at Easter we get to open it and see what’s inside. Later, as we grow in faith we, like the disciples will understand and appreciate this gift more and more.
Because God sacrificed his son for us, we have the assurance of eternal life. We can be sure that our creator, who can bring life from death, can protect and reclaim us no matter how dire our situation. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins are forgiven. With this certainty, we can boldly do whatever God calls us to do.
On Easter morning, the disciples were grieving and fearful. But we, who know the rest of the story, truly the greatest story ever told, can joyfully express our thanks to God for this gift. Alleluia! He is risen!
- What in today’s Gospel makes the greatest impression on you?
- Mark 16:8 says the women said nothing about what they saw, because they were afraid. What of?
- If the disciples had fully understood what happened Easter morning, how do you think they would have reacted?
- How is your relationship with Jesus different from that of a celebrity groupie?
Jesus Christ, the rock star, is going on. Create the official tour t-shirt. What words or images would appeal to Christians? What would draw the attention and appeal to non-believers?
Almighty God, this week we are celebrating your greatest gift to us — the life and sacrifice of your son Jesus. Words alone cannot express our intense gratitude. But in our songs, in our prayers, and in the way we care for each other and the world, we praise you, and glorify you. Thank you for continuing to walk with us everyday. When we’re in trouble, comfort us with the assurance of your love, and the promise of life everlasting. In the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns, now and forever. Amen.