Easter Service 2018:
By Rev. Elaine Bomford
“Rise, Beloved Christ”
by Bonaventura (1217-1274)
Rise, beloved Christ, like a dove rising high in the sky,
its white feathers glistening in the sun.
Let us see your purity of soul.
Like a sparrow keeping constant watch over its nest of little ones,
watch over us day and night,
guarding us all against physical and spiritual danger.
Like a swallow, swooping down towards the earth,
swoop down upon us and touch us with your life-giving Spirit.
Reading The Gospel of John, 20.1-18
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.
Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.
They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which mean Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”
And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Reflection: Rev. Elaine Bomford
This morning’s Reflection is called “Resurrection 101.” Easter is a Christian celebration with pagan roots; it branches off from the Hebrew celebration of Passover. This morning, I invite you to focus with me on the Christian meaning of Easter. People have been debating about the meaning of Easter for centuries. This reflection is my attempt at a brief, simple explanation of Easter and the Resurrection,
for all ages.
No matter what age we are, Easter is a holiday that tells a story we can’t completely understand with our minds. We can try to understand it with our hearts and imaginations. Some stories aren’t meant to be
understood completely. They just stay with us over the years and we think about them differently as we grow. The story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is like that, and the Easter story is too.
Loved by many
Many people loved the Rabbi, or Jewish Teacher, Jesus during his lifetime. There were men, women and even children who were his “followers” - he loved children especially, and he said every person
must become like a child in order to be fully alive: Every person should cherish within themselves a lively sense of wonder, and innocence, and acceptance. Jesus taught that God is within us, and God is among us when we care about each other. God is all around us, in the Lilies in the fields, the birds, and all of nature. He spoke up for the poor, he healed people and made them feel whole again. Jesus said we shouldn’t judge each other, and when people were with him they felt blessed and glad to be alive. He had a special light
and power that drew people to him - from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem, through his youth when he showed the Rabbis in the Temple how wise he was, and as he went through the countryside teaching and
healing the people.
Some said he was the Son of God. Jesus said we are all Children of God. By this he meant, I think, that the Creator loves each one of us just as much as your mother or father loves you. God loves us just as
we love our own children, and others in our lives. Our Creator loves every being.
Non-violence and Forgiveness
Jesus was put to death because so many people were drawn to him, the Romans, the religious leaders, and other rich and powerful people in the city of Jerusalem thought he might cause a revolution. But even
when he was arrested and the rulers of the country were immeasurably cruel to him, Jesus was nonviolent and forgiving. He embodied nonviolence- and he was a great inspiration to folks like Gandhi and Martin Luther King who also taught and lived nonviolence centuries later. He still an inspiration to people of all ages who take a stand against violence.
After Jesus was killed so cruelly - by being put up on a cross, like many other brave Jews during that time - the people who loved him were immensely sad. It was like the light of the sun had gone away forever. All his teachings about loving one another seemed to have died with him; teachings about compassion seemed useless in such a cruel world. His followers were empty, hopeless.
And then, they began to feel his presence in a very real way - as real as the person sitting next to you. This morning’s reading from the Gospel of John is the story of the first time someone felt his
presence. Mary Magdalene, who was one of his closest followers, had gone to the place where he was buried, which was a garden. She expected to visit his grave, and to commune with him there. But she
discovered that Jesus was not in his grave - he was, instead, very much alive in her imagination, in her heart, and her vision. She was seeing in a special way. The impression she had of him was so strong,
it seemed to her that he called her name, “Mary.” Her deepest longings and her most beautiful dreams, all her hopes and even her fears were caught up in that moment when her teacher said her name: “Mary.” And then she recognized Jesus, and she knew that although his body was dead, he was still right there with her. She recognized her teacher -- “Rabbi.” She wasn’t afraid - she was amazed.
Other Easter Stories
Other Easter stories speak of Jesus walking with his followers after that first day in the garden, and teaching and conversing with them. It seemed to the early Christians that he shared meals with them, and
some saw and even touched him. Because he was still with them, they came to understand in their hearts and minds that the love Jesus had for them, and they had for him, and the truth he taught about loving
each other, were all stronger than death. LOVE is stronger than death.
Then, the Easter stories say, Jesus went away and sent the Holy Spirit to be with us - the Shekinah, the Spirit of Life, the presence of love. This Spirit is the loving breath of life that was in Jesus and is in us also, and in every living being.
Folks understand the Easter stories about Jesus walking and eating with people in different ways. Some Christians believe they mean he was really there in his body. Other Christians believe they mean he
was (and is) with us as a spiritual presence, and he is with and in every one of us. We do know that something very important and miraculous happened - and still happens - to the people who loved
Jesus, and that it was enough to convince them that Jesus’ spirit and what he taught lives on even though he was put to death. This event is called “the resurrection.”
Unitarian Universalists believe Jesus was a wise teacher who talked about loving ways to live and healed people in his lifetime; this is enough for most UUs - he was a good man.
A Sense of His Presence
For people who are Christians, including those Unitarian Universalists who are Christians, the sense of his living presence with them every day is very real, and this spirit brings his teachings to life. So the resurrection, however it is understood, is important to Christians because the living presence of Jesus is like a special light that shines in our hearts and changes the way we understand
everything that happens to us.
In one sense, the Easter story is not so hard to understand. Every one of us loses someone we love sooner or later in life, and generally it is sooner. When a person or an animal we love dies - or even a
tree or a fish - we feel so empty. The Easter story, and Jesus’ resurrection, teaches us that the love we feel for those who die never ends and when someone dies, their love for us does not end either. This is the miracle. Love is stronger than death. This is the lesson.
May the presence of love fill us with the light of new life. AMEN