With All Your Heart Worship Series: BELIEVING
Easter Sunday — April 21, 2019
The story of resurrected hearts and new life begins early in the morning, just before dawn. In the stillness, in the darkness, Mary made her way to the place of death. Probably carrying spices to anoint Jesus’ body, she persisted through the darkness; persisted in doing the necessary work of preparing him for burial. Her beloved One—the one who healed the sick, offered forgiveness of sins, and gave new life within the reign of God—was dead. And in the stillness, in the darkness, she made her way to a stone of shattered dreams and broken hearts.
Our Lenten journey has ended, and we have finally made it to Easter! Every year, we are asked to tell the same story over and again: gaping tomb, confused mourners, unexpected and unbelievable encounters with angels and a gardener. Every year, the story moves us along from searching in sadness, to shocking disbelief, and finally to joy. And every year, we meet the challenge at the heart of Easter Sunday: to persist through fear and darkness, to believe beyond what we think we know, to welcome Christ in unexpected places and faces. Every year, we decide if we will allow our hearts to be transformed by the promise and the very presence of Christ; if we will trust in our own coming into life again and again. But it isn’t just once a year that we get to decide. Every day, every day, you must decide whether hope is stronger than despair, whether love is stronger than death. That’s what this story is about.
Every year, people whom we haven’t seen since last Easter file into shiny pews on Easter morning in their Easter finest and take in the overwhelming smell of lilies and the sound of a full choir. Some of our people know this story so well that they could recite it by heart. Most probably know the general gist without remembering the details. And for a precious few, this may be their first time to hear the story at all. Still some preachers will lament that they never have anything new to say on this holiest of all holy days. You may feel like you’ve worked all the angles this story has to offer for the last 10, 20, or 30 years. On this day, however, you have one job: to proclaim resurrection!
Tell this story like lives depend on it, because they do. Tell this story in a way that will bring those that still live in death to the hope of new life. Tell this story not as a tale of the past, but of the rising that is happening right now, right here. Tell this story with your own heart in your throat. Above all – just tell the story. With. All. Your. Heart.
Tell the story of Mary Magdalene who came with a broken heart to the tomb just before dawn and saw the beginning of a transformed life. Tell the story of the two disciples who ran for their lives, hearts pounding toward the empty tomb, and who went back to their homes “believing,” but not understanding. Tell the story of God’s messengers who sat among discarded graveclothes and questioned Mary’s tears. Tell the story of the risen Christ who hung around the garden, so Mary wouldn’t be alone in her confusion and fear. Tell the story of the risen Lord who calls Mary’s name and at once transforms her broken heart to a burning heart. And perhaps, if you tell the story, then new generations of people can go back to the ones they love and proclaim as Mary did on that first Easter morning, “I have seen the Lord!”
As you prepare to preach resurrection, remember that it’s in the darkness that the dawn of morning light comes. It’s in the darkness that we discover the stone has already been rolled away and the love of God has been let loose in the world. It’s not very hard at all to see the darkness in the world. The darkness is ever-present and is all too real for those who sit in our shiny pews. And the story we have to tell doesn’t discount the darkness. But rather it affirms that resurrection has the power to transform a graveyard into a garden brimming with new life. Resurrection has the power to break open tombs and tear down walls. Resurrection has the power to transform the rocky wildernesses of our hearts into instruments of grace. Resurrection has the power to show death for what it is: “the possibility for love to come again.”
The resurrection of Jesus is not the ending of the story, but the beginning of many hope-filled risings to come. And because the Love of God will come, again and again (and again!), to raise us out of death, we have hope. It’s just a whisper now, but if you sit in the stillness and the darkness, you can hear it calling you to rise—hope.
We turn our hearts with hope this day to meet the risen Christ with us, within us, and within the love between us; within the unexpected that inspires us. We acknowledge that God is with us in our birthing, our living, our dying, and our rising again. Then, like Mary, we must each decide whether hope is stronger than fear, whether life is stronger than hate, and whether love really is stronger than death . . . every day, every moment, with all our hearts. That is what resurrection is.
Cheryl Lawrie, “When the Inevitable is No Longer Sure.” 2010. https://holdthisspace.org.au/when-the-inevitable-is-no-longer-sure/
Rev. Todd Pick is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, serving in the Central Texas Conference. He is a pastor, poet, and painter. He has contributed many articles on worship, creativity, and beauty to Worship Arts Magazine. In addition, his art and poetry were featured in the December 2018 issue of Magnet Magazine, a Christian publication in the UK. Todd is an accomplished artist who has created stage visuals for many United Methodist conferences, including the 2012 and 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a featured worship expert on Dr. Marcia McFee’s Worship Design Studio. Holding a Master of Divinity from Drew Theological School, he was artist-in-residence there from 2007 to 2009 and was twice awarded the Hoyt L. Hickman Award for Liturgical Studies. Todd and his wife, Jennifer, enjoy a partnership in life and ministry. Together, they enjoy writing, planning worship and leading workshops and retreats across the country on multi-sensory worship.
Rev. Jennifer Pick is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church serving in the Central Texas Conference. She is a pastor, worship planner, biblical scholar, and writer. She has a Master of Literature in Biblical Studies from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. She has studied biblical archeology in Greece and Turkey through Cambridge University. Rev. Pick graduated with a Master of Divinity from Drew Theological School with an emphasis in Early Christianities. She is a recipient of the Lawrence E. Toombs Prize for Old Testament History, the George R. Crooks Prize for excellence in Homiletics and the Warren Memorial Prize for excellence in Greek New Testament Studies. Rev. Pick was a Ministry Fellow through the Fund for Theological Education, where she studied holy space and Christian pilgrimage throughout Europe. With a particular passion for incarnational preaching and worship, Rev. Pick has found creative ways to engage facets of emergent worship within large and small congregational settings. She draws upon all the senses in liturgical movement and ritual to create worship experiences that involve whole-bodied devotion.