Easter 2017 – Lloyd Menke

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By Rennett Stowe from USA (Easter Lilly) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Easter Scripture is Matthew 28:1-10.  It can be found here.

What would it take to shake your world?

“This is the way it is.  I just have to accept it..”  She said to me as I tried to comfort her after the sudden unexpected loss of her son.  Accepting things as the are can be one of the biggest challenges of grieving.  Unfortunately, death is a part of life. a sense of loss and the pain of grief cannot be escaped if one dares to love.

Maybe it’s good that most of us don’t focus on death too much.  Death is a hard, cold fact over which we have no control. What’s the point of focusing on it?  Grieve and accept it. Don’t whine. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Accept it and move on. Accept that walking through the valley of death is part of life. Our turn to take the walk comes sooner or later.

And so, we find the women coming to the tomb on Easter morning.  The men have all scattered in fear or are overcome with grief.  “It’s really hard to keep going, to find the energy to move.  I have trouble just getting out of bed in the morning.” a man told me after his daughter had died.  Death can freeze us and take over everything.

None-the-less, the women come.  Matthew tells us they come to see the tomb.  Most likely they come to grieve.  To be near the body of this man they had come to love.  Then the earth moved.  It shook.  And what happen next must have shaken the women.

Imagine for a moment what it was like to been one of the women.  Imagine that what Matthew records actually happened.  What would have been like to be them?  How would you feel?

Imagine, you have gone to the cemetery to visit the grave of a loved one.

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Lloyd Menke (own work), Lakeside Cemetery, Hastings, MN

You get there, and the grave is open.  The dirt covering the grave is gone, the vault and the casket are open and there is no one inside!  And then, an angel appears and tells you your loved one is alive.

Wouldn’t that rock your world?  Wouldn’t you be frightened? Wouldn’t your understanding of reality be shaken?  If the dead don’t stay dead, what else can’t you count on?  Who could you tell?  Wouldn’t everyone think you are crazy?  How do you even begin to make sense of such an experience?

Matthew says this is what happened to the women.  An angel appears, rolls back the stone and sits on it.  The guards become like dead men.  And the angel tells the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay.”

Wouldn’t that rock your world?  Wouldn’t that shake your understanding of reality? Wouldn’t it cause you to wonder what’s possible and impossible?  Wouldn’t it cause you to wonder whose really in control of the future?

Paul tells us that we who are baptized have been joined to Christ.  We have been united to Jesus in a death like his AND a resurrection like his.  The same earth shaking – world rocking power that was present that Easter morning is present now with us. And the message shared by the angel and then repeated by Jesus himself to: “… go to Galilee; there they will see me.” – is also a message for us.

“Go to Galilee.”  Galilee is the region of the gentiles, it is Matthew’s way of saying Jesus will meet us in the world – in the midst of life – with all of its ambiguity, conflicting values, joys and sorrows.  It is out there – in the midst of your work week, your family, your interactions with your neighbors that we should expect to see Jesus show up.

1988_Spitak_earthquakeBy U.S. Geological Survey – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20745530

On December 7th, 1988, the earth shook.  What happened next must have left the people of Armenia shaken.  Imagine what it must have been like for them. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake almost flattened most of the country, killing 30,000 people in less than 4 minutes.

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By LoMit (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

How do you even begin to make sense of life when everything around you is in ruins?

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By LoMit (own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http:creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.00], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wouldn’t your understanding of reality be shaken?  Wouldn’t it cause you to wonder whose really in control of the future?

(The following story is taken from Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement Fifth Planting: 100 Stories of Hope, Humor & Healing, ed. by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R.,  Paulist Press, New York, copyright 1998.  Shared by Mark V. Hansen)

“In the midst of the utter devastation and chaos, a father left his wife securely at home and rushed to the school where his son was supposed to be, only to discover the building was flat as a pancake.  After the initial traumatic shock, he remembered the promise he made his son, “No matter what I will always be there for you!”

Tears began to fill his eyes. As he looked at the pile of debris that once was the school, it looked hopeless, but he kept remembering his promise to his son. He began to concentrate on where he walked his son to class at school each morning.  Remembering that his son’s classroom would be, at the back, right corner of the building, he rushed there and started digging through the rubble.

As he was digging other, forlorn parents arrived, clutching their hearts, saying, “My son!”  “My Daughter!” Other well-meaning parents tried to pull him off what was left of the school saying, “It’s too late! They’re dead!  You can’t help!  Go home!  Come on, face reality. There’s nothing you can do!  You’re just going to make things worse!”  To each parent, he responded with one line, “Are you going to help me now?”  And then proceeded to dig for his son stone by stone.

The fire chief showed up and tried to pull him off of the school’s debris saying, “Fires are breaking out, explosions are happening everywhere.  You’re in danger.  We’ll take care of it.  Go home.” To which this loving, caring Armenian father asked, “Are you going to help me now?”

The police came and said, “You’re angry and distraught.  It’s over.  You’re endangering others.  Go home.  We’ll handle it!” To which the father replied, “Are you going to help me now?”

No one helped.  Courageously proceeding alone because he needed to know for himself. “Is my boy alive or dead?” he asked. He dug for eight hours … twelve hours … twenty-four hours … thirty-six hours … then, in the thirty-eighth hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name, “ARMAND!”

He heard back, “Dad!?!  It’s me, Dad.  I told the other kids not to worry.  I told ‘em that if you were alive, you’d save me, and when you saved me, they’d be saved. You promised. No matter what, I will always be there for you!’ You did it, Dad!”

“What’s going on in there? How is it?” the father asked.

“There are 14 of us left out of 33, Dad. We are scared, hungry, thirsty, and thankful you are here.  When the building collapsed, it made a wedge, like a triangle, and it saved us.”

“Come on out, boy!”

“No. Dad! Let the other kids out first, ‘cause I know you’ll get me! No matter what, I know you are there for me.”  (This story is taken from

I see resurrection power in this story.  I see Jesus at work.  It seemed crazy for this father to believe that he would find his son alive.  In the midst of the devastation – as the hours ticked by – all he had to do was take a look around.

So what about the other 19 children in that classroom, and the other 30,000 lost in the earthquake?  What about your loved one that you visit at the cemetery?  Is it all that much crazier to believe the power of the resurrection is at work for them as well?

Is it all that much crazier to believe Jesus is at work removing the stones from our hearts one by one?

Is it all that much crazier to believe that like this father Jesus will keep his promise?  We have his promise that he has gone to prepare a place for us.  And that he will come again to take you to himself, so that where he is you will be also.

Resurrection power is not limited to just now – or –  to just then.   It has been unleased in the world.  Whether in this life or the next, expect Jesus to show up.  He has promised.
Happy Easter.

Amen.