Sermon for April 18, 2021 by Guest Preacher, Karen Cooke
Emptying Power by Amy Persons Parkes
with adoration and awe,
we stand before an empty tomb
with thanksgiving and gratitude,
we bow before an empty cross.
Help us to recognize the barren cross and the open tomb
as symbols of your victory over suffering and death.
Grant that we may know the power of your resurrecting love
breathing life into our dying,
sprouting seeds of love within our barren hearts,
and sweeping away the cobwebs
of resignation and apathy in our minds.
show us in the emptiness of our lives,
the fullness of your glory.
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
“Our Eternal Transformation” by Kaitlin Wernet
After reading the incredible details about Jesus’ ascension, I’m the first to claim my role as the story’s spectator, taking a step back to watch “The Resurrection and the Life” do His thing. Because that’s what you do with a miracle, right? You stare, applaud—maybe even cheer—and retell the tale to your wide-eyed grandchildren. It would seem our place is to stand in awe and wonder at what it might feel like to suddenly spring forward, being catapulted from death into life.
But because His grace toward us was not ineffective, we don’t just marvel at the power of the resurrection; we feel its rumble in our own hearts.
Christ doesn’t want us to be courteous bystanders of His work on the cross. His hope is not for us to watch and wonder what it would be like to be raised by the glory of the Father. He came so that we could join Him and go wading in the resurrection waters with Him.
Christ’s eternal transformation isn’t just a miracle to be proclaimed—it’s a change we get to feel and experience. Because we are joined in His likeness, when He is raised, so are we.
We join Him in defeating death.
We join Him in a heavenly home.
We join Him in grasping grace.
We join Him, and He transforms us.
We can find ourselves there with Christ in His resurrection, actively walking out the newness He purchased for us. He died and returned to life so that we can too. Christ’s resurrection purpose is to make us resurrected people.
If there were ever a reason to cheer, friends, this is most definitely it. May we be resurrected people today, seeing ourselves as we really are: dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
*Edited for length. Original post by Kaitlin Wernet found at http://shereadstruth.com/2016/04/05/our-eternal-transformation-who-are-we-now/
Reading: Mark 16
“The Empty Tomb on Good Friday” by Jeff Christian
We go to the cross knowing how this is going to turn out, knowing that the empty tomb is only days away. No one anymore feels the disappointment and shock of the cross that they felt on that original Good Friday. And that is where Mark 16:1-8 gives us a clear sense of direction, a story about the resurrection of Jesus, even on Good Friday.
Mark originally ended at 16:8 with visitors to the tomb running away, bewildered at what they can only imagine happened to the body of Jesus. Little did they know that the living Jesus would soon give them a brand new mission. But with Mark ending his Gospel with such open-ended uncertainty, it reminds us that both the cross and empty tomb shape our lives of good news in Christ.
We are not mere spectators at the cross. Jesus did not die “for us” in the sense that we are uninvolved recipients. No, Jesus at the cross modeled how we take up our own crosses and die to ourselves. This visit to the empty tomb in Mark 16:1-8 on Good Friday links the death and resurrection of Jesus to that model, not only showing us how to die to ourselves, but how to live the full and abundant life Jesus promised in so many of his teachings, healings, and his very life that continues to this day.
And immediately, we run with the women today from the empty tomb, even on Good Friday, to once again begin this good life in Jesus.
Reading: Mark 15
“A Prayer of Lament based on Mark 15” by Lindsay Marolf
Where are you, oh God?
Why does it feel so dark here?
Don’t you remember when triumphal shouts filled the streets?
Don’t you remember when healings happened?
Don’t you remember when sharing a meal together was meaningful?
Well, where are you now, Father?
Where have you gone?
Hour by hour my pain increases.
Hour by hour my strength decreases.
Hour by hour…until at last I am completely drained.
Oh God, where are you?
What wrong have I done?
Nothing seems good anymore.
Food isn’t even an option-
And drink tastes like vinegar.
So where are you, God?
Why have you forsaken me?
Please come back- please don’t leave me hanging.
I feel insulted, laughed at.
I have nothing left to say.
Are you gone now, God?
Did the darkness drive you away?
God… my body can’t take it anymore.
My lips are full of helpless cries.
I have to let go.
As I feel torn into two- from top to bottom,
I realize that you are in fact who you said you are.
As I come down from the heights of pain,
I realize it is you who wraps me tightly and lays me down to rest.
As I curl up and am placed in my dark hole,
I realize that you see where I am hidden.
And I realize…
Maybe you yourself were present in the darkness.
Maybe you yourself were also left hanging.
Maybe as I was torn apart,
you were too.
Maybe as I let go,
you let me fall into you – darkness and all.
Maybe as I yelled in anguish about your absence, you heard.
And you stayed near me.
Maybe as I remain and wait in the darkness,
you remain and wait with me.
And maybe, just maybe, you are setting me up for resurrection after all.
Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
Reading: Mark 14
Thoughts on Mark 14 by Rachel Held Evans
I’ve always felt the strongest connection to Jesus’ first disciples when I read about their various responses to the events of Passion Week—the confidence following Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the fear after his arrest, the doubt and despair in the shadow of the cross, the surprising joy of meeting the resurrected Lord.
Little details remind me of the ups and downs of my own faith journey, like how Peter, James, and John slept through their rabbi’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, how Peter tried to take matters into his own hands by cutting off the Roman soldier’s ear, how the men didn’t believe Mary, Joanna, and Mary when they first reported the resurrection, how Thomas needed more proof.
I think Mark’s description of the Apostle Peter after the arrest of Jesus best summarizes my own experience of doubt. As Jesus faced trial, and as the disciples began to fear that Jesus was just another man and their ministry with him just a waste of time, the Gospel reports that Peter “followed Him at a distance.” (Mark 14:54)
Most Christ-followers have experienced some form of Good Friday doubt—that overwhelming fear that maybe we’ve gotten it all wrong, maybe we’ve wasted our time, maybe all we’ve worked for and believed in is meaningless. Most have been through a time or two when we’ve cautiously followed Jesus at a distance.
The good news is that Easter is just a few days away. The good news is that, like Peter, we are always given another chance to tell Jesus that we love him.
Reading: Mark 13
“Be Faithful, Endure, and Keep Awake” by Paul Riddle
I have heard integrity defined as “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” That phrase comes to mind as I consider Jesus’ words to his disciples in Mark 13.
Tensions were high in Jerusalem. The conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities was accelerating toward its climax. Jesus was doing his best to prepare his disciples for his impending betrayal, death, and resurrection, and to prepare them for the persecution they themselves would face because of their association with him.
Their training was just about complete, and their commitment to Jesus would soon be tested in the crucible of extreme adversity. The foundations of all they had known would be shaken. How would they respond?
Jesus left the disciples with three charges: 1) Keep the faith. Be the people I have formed you to be. Live the way I have taught you to live. Be people of mercy and compassion; stand with those who have no one to stand with them. 2) Endure. Whatever hardships may come, for however long they may last. Remember I have gone before you. Follow my lead. 3) Be alert. Don’t get caught napping. Be ready for What Comes Next.
These three charges sustained the first disciples through the trials that soon confronted them; they sustained the first readers and hearers of Mark’s gospel, facing persecution later in the first century, and they have sustained followers of Jesus through good times and bad for over two millennia, down to our own time.
And now it’s our turn. How will we respond? It is up to us.
Prayer by Ted Loder
from Wrestling the Light
to be a bold participant,
rather than a timid saint in waiting,
in the difficult ordinariness of now;
to exercise the authority of honesty,
rather than to defer to power,
or deceive to get it;
to influence someone for justice,
rather than impress anyone for gain;
and, by grace, to find treasures
of joy, of friendship, of peace
hidden in the fields of the daily
you give me to plow.