Matthew 28:1-10 – Fear Not

Death Swallowed Up in Victory

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”

With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.” (CEB)

The Resurrection of Christ from death has changed everything – especially when it comes to fear.  In this season of Eastertide, we discover and explore the vast implications of what it means to possess a new life.  Because Christians serve a risen Savior, this newfound awareness brings courage and confidence.  Fear isn’t something we can simply exercise willpower over.  Rather, fear begins to give way to the presence of God among us.  Consider just a few of the many references to this in Holy Scripture:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” So, we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV)

Believe it, or not, the Bible tells us 365 times to not be afraid.  Maybe that’s not a coincidence that we can quote a verse every day of the year about our own fearfulness in the face of so much of the world’s cruel circumstances.

When it comes to fear and bravery, God does not so much command us to be courageous, as he wants us to draw from the great reservoir of bravery within.  That is, God has already created us strong, as creatures in his image.  We just need to get in touch with what is already there.  And the reality of Easter awakens and calls forth that life.

We can act with boldness and overcome fear because Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation.  He is the One which enables us to draw from the deep well of courage….

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testing we do, yet he did not sin. So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT).

You and I really can face the fears in front of us.  You can surmount the adversity you are in the middle of – not because of some words I say, but because Christ has risen from death.  He’s alive, and his presence makes all the difference.

St John Chrysostom
“Let all therefore enter into the joy of our Lord. Let rich and poor dance with one another.” –St John Chrysostom

The following is an Easter homily from the fourth-century preacher St. John Chrysostom to the Church of Constantinople:

“Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!”

Click Because He Lives sung by Guy Penrod as we are reminded that the living Christ makes all the difference today.

Colossians 3:12-17 – A New Set of Clothes

White Shirts

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)

Easter is to live forever in our hearts.  The great message of the Resurrection is: We now have opportunity to experience new life, free from sin, death, and hell.  Oh, it isn’t that we never need to deal with evil; we very much do.  The difference is that we now have a new awareness of our spirituality.  And with awareness comes choices.  If we aren’t aware of our feelings, our spirit, and/or old nature, well, then, it’s as if we operate on auto-pilot – losing altitude in an immanent descent into tragedy.  When we are aware of our inner selves, then we mindfully ascend through the clouds to join Christ.

We can make choices about what to wear.  With awareness, we look in the mirror and see that the grave clothes need to come off.  The old raggedy garments of pride and hubris, greed and immorality, selfish lust, jealous envy, spiritual gluttony, unholy anger, and complacency get taken off and tossed in the garbage.  We then go to God’s expansive walk-in closet and choose the bright raiment of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and grab the beautiful coat of love which covers it all with such dignity and honor.

It would be super weird to try and put the new clothes over the old raggedy grave clothes.  That’s not only gross, it’s downright wrongheaded.  Practical Christianity always involves two actions: taking-off and putting-on.  Human willpower and/or ingenuity tries to live a virtuous life while ignoring the vices.  This will not do for the Christian.  The endearing qualities we so desire to possess cannot be obtained without first dealing with the crud of sin which clings to us like so many stinky dirty clothes.  To put this in theological terms: the cross and resurrection go together.  Sin must be put to death before a victorious life is put on.

Once we have acknowledged sin, let Christ take it all off, and put on the new clothes.  Then we’re ready to hit the town in style.  We walk out the door with a tremendous sense of peace, knowing God in Christ has cleaned us up.  We stroll into the world with lips whistling and a song in our hearts – singing with gratitude for what the risen Christ has accomplished on our behalf.  After all, we just put on very expensive clothes and it didn’t cost us a dime.  In fact, we’re so darned thankful that we don’t just talk to others, we sing our words to them – even though we can’t carry a tune.  It doesn’t matter.  Our coat of love compels us.  Easter is bursting forth from the tomb.

Almighty and everlasting God, you willed that our Savior should take upon him our clothing of death upon the cross so that all humanity would have the privilege of wearing humility, gratitude, and love.  Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of Christ’s life, and, also be made aware of our participation in his glorious resurrection, in the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Click Easter Song which was written by Annie Herring in 1974 and made famous by Keith Green a few years later.  The California Baptist University choir and orchestra perform this version.  May your Easter blessings multiply.

Colossians 3:5-11 – Eastertide

 

Eastertide

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (NRSV)

Today’s New Testament reading impresses on us the necessity of choosing life.  On the Christian Calendar, Easter is not merely one day – it is an entire season.  It’s a time to focus on living into a new reality through intentionally putting to death old unhealthy practices and adopting new healthy life-giving habits.  It is the season we call “Eastertide.”

It could very well be that you have never heard of the word “Eastertide.”  Eastertide is a significant season in the Church Year which spans fifty days until Pentecost.  That’s a hefty seven weeks of bringing the new life we enjoy to the forefront.  Eastertide’s spotlight is to recognize and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, thus, exult in our own new life in him.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: “Why do we need to have some liturgical season about Christ’s resurrection?  Shouldn’t we be living like we recognize this every day?”  Yes, of course we should.  Yet, consider this:  If we only sing songs of resurrection on Easter Sunday; only occasionally direct our attention of Christ’s resurrection outside of Easter Sunday; then, perhaps it is sage to bring a highlighted focus to the resurrection in a special season.  Just as we would likely not think of taking only one vacation day in the year for renewal, so it is necessary to take more than one day to enjoy Easter.  If nothing else, Eastertide gives believers an opportunity to let Christ’s resurrection percolate in our hearts so that we become people in real life who exhibit an alive-spirit.  And, God knows, we could use much more of that in our congregations and our world!

If life, eternal life, and the necessity of being alive are all needs for us, then it only makes sense that we would want to take advantage of what Eastertide has to offer: A deliberate look at Christ’s resurrection, exploring its implications and impact for us.  Simply assuming we all know about resurrection will not do, any more than my wife simply assuming I love her without looking her straight in the eye and telling her so.

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Without Eastertide, there’s a sin-as-usual kind of approach to life with a sort of shoulder shrug that says, “Meh, what’s a guy to do?”  Instead, we have the hope of vibrant everlasting life because Christ has risen from death.  We have the hope of individual renewal, corporate revitalization, and worldwide revival because there is a risen Savior.

Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to engage in some renewal practices or even make a few simple changes that show signs of life.  Here are just a few ideas for lifting Christ’s resurrection into the next few months:

Pray for revival of spirituality.  Christ brings life, so praying for revival is a deliberate way of connecting with God.

Squarely address practices of the “earthly nature” which are death-dealing.  Gossip, back-biting, slander, and an entire host of sins of the tongue kill and murder people.  Simply sluffing-off someone’s acerbic speech as “that’s just the way they are” will not do, unless you want to exist in a pro-death culture.

Promote life-giving practices.  If sins of the tongue bring death, using our speech for encouragement, love, mercy, forgiveness, and building up one another promotes growth, health, and life.

Proclaim resurrection.  I believe the church is meant to be the hope of the world because Christ is the risen Lord.  This is the time for Christians to profess the resurrected Christ and how the spiritual life makes a difference in life.

Start that new ministry you always believed would make a difference.  It is the season to take a risk.  After all, if you have eternal life can you really fail?  Host a new virtual small group.  Take initiative to up your knowledge of technology.  Use your time at home to read some significant books and start an on-line book club.  Those are my ideas. I’m willing to bet you have some idea(s) rolling around inside you about blessing the world.  Now, during Eastertide, is the time to turn that idea into reality.

Focus on your daily habits of spiritual health and life.  If you would not think of skipping meals for days at a time, then consider the erosion to your soul and/or your church when folks don’t read their Bibles on a regular basis or pray with any kind of consistency.  This is also a wonderful season to explore new spiritual practices you haven’t tried or considered before.  Stick to a plan.  It will not only bring growth to your own life, but will impact those around you.

Just keeping the word “Eastertide” in front of us for the next few months can be a simple yet powerful way of reminding us that God, in Christ, has ushered-in new life.  Let the reality of Christ’s resurrection take root in your heart to such an extent that life itself informs all your thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting.

In the joy and hope of Eastertide, we pray:

That You, our risen Savior, may fill us in this season with the joy of Your life-giving resurrection.

That You, Compassionate Savior, will enable isolated and persecuted churches to find fresh strength in the good news of Easter.

That You, Loving God, may grant us humility to be subject to one another in Christian love.

That You, Lord God our Provider, may give necessities for those who lack food, work, or shelter.

That by Your mighty power, Almighty God, war and famine may cease through all the world.

That You, Great God of Mystery, may reveal the light of Christ’s presence to the sick, the weak, and the dying, to comfort and strengthen them.

That, Steadfast God, according to Your promises, You will raise at the Last Day all who have died in the faith of the resurrection.

That You, Consuming God, may send the fire of Your blessed Holy Spirit upon people of every nation and ethnicity, so that we may together bear faithful witness to Christ’s resurrection.

Heavenly Father, You have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your dear Son: Grant that, as the death of Jesus has called us to life, so may His continual presence raise us to eternal joy.  Amen.

Click Christ is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed by Keith and Kristyn Getty to keep the Easter songs coming.

“I Have Seen the Lord!” – John 20:1-18

“Christ is risen!”…  “He is risen, indeed!”

Welcome friends.  Simply click the video below and let us celebrate the Lord Jesus Christ’s victory over sin, death, and hell by means of a mighty resurrection.

You may also view this video on TimEhrhardtYouTube

To extend our recognition of this glorious day, here are two links for you:

I’ve Just Seen Jesus sung by Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patty is an oldie, but still a wondrous goodie.

Hallelujah Chorus arranged by Quincy Jones is one of the most celebratory arrangements you’ll find on this classic Handel song.  Sung by the Singin’ Black and White choir, if this doesn’t bring you to life, you still think Jesus is a gardener.

Finally, here is the full version of the original hymn written by Carolyn Gillette (sung at the beginning of the video):

This Easter Celebration (to the tune of “The Church’s One Foundation”)

This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.

We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.

We’re distant from our neighbors — from worship leaders, too.

No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.

 

No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.

O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?

With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place

we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.

 

Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room

but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.

Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see —

who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.

 

In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:

Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.

Each Easter bears the promise: Christ rose that glorious day!

Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.

 

We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be

a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry.

In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,

we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.

 

Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864 (“The Church’s One Foundation”)  (MIDI)

Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com     New Hymns: http://www.carolynshymns.com/

This new hymn is a prayer to be used in Easter 2020 worship services, while most churches are closed and people are remaining in their homes because of the pandemic. It can be used for online worship or in online written communications from a church to its members. Permission is given for free use.

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