Message from Pastor Alessandri April 16, 2020

April 16, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

April 16, 2020

Christ is Risen! Alleluia
(He is risen, indeed! Alleluia)

“We don’t believe in the empty tomb. We believe in the Risen Lord.” Bishop Bill Gohl said that in his Easter sermon and I’ve been pondering it ever since. It struck me as a powerful truth that I’d need to unpack this Easter season. Yes, we believe the tomb where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion was found empty when the women came that first Easter morning. But our faith is not based in emptiness. Our faith is rooted in the overflowing, life-giving truth that Christ was raised from the dead, never to die again. In that truth of the Risen Lord, we find riches upon riches not emptiness. A Risen Lord proves that sin, virus, nor death is more powerful than the love of God. What does it mean to you to trust in a Risen Lord, not an empty tomb? I’m still digging in that questions. I think there is yet more to discover about being a child and a people of a Risen Lord.

CARING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING THIS COVID-19 TIME In yesterday’s Herald-Mail, the director of the Washington County Mental Health Authority, Rick Rock, and Lisa Hughes, who shares a counseling practice with Rock, offered these suggestions for coping with the coronavirus that has put “normal” on hold.
1) Most of us humans need structure. Keep some of the daily structures you followed before Covid-19.
2) Social distancing does not mean you have to be socially isolated… reach out to those who are usually a part of your social network (ex. family, friends, co-workers, people you usually meet regularly at *church, book clubs, bible study)
3) Limit time spent following the news in social media and on TV and radio. “In a way, it becomes sort of traumatizing to people,” Rock said.
4) Instead of focusing in on news events, Rock suggested people adopt the sentiment of the often quoted part of the serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  “What you can control, put your energy into those things,” Rock recommends.
5) “You need to just focus on the day in front of you… You want to get up. You want to approach your day like you have something to do. You want to get out in the sun. You want to take a walk,” Hughes said.
6) Since we are experiencing many losses (*movement, touch, interaction with friends, worship at our church, etc.) you might find yourself amid the “five stages of grief” – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most often folks will find they move back and forth through the stages. “Feel what you need to feel,” Hughes said, “But the fastest way out is through… It will actually go away faster if you don’t avoid it.”
* the examples are mine
“Mental Health: ‘Focus on the Day in Front of You'” by Mike Lewis, The Herald-Mail  April 15, 2020

I’m taken back to the Bishop’s sermon quote where I started.  If we only see these days as “empty,” without purpose or meaning, we might as well be in a tomb. But we are children of a Risen Lord. We are precious in God’s sight. In our daily lives we give praise to God in all we do. In our daily lives we seek God’s light and word. Each day we are to be God’s light for one another. That isn’t empty living. It is resurrection power. How do we live lives of praise and service to a living Lord even now in what seems like very limiting circumstances?  That IS a purpose for each day. Live in the light and love of our Risen Lord, my dear sisters and brothers in Christ. Christ IS risen and so shall we.

The Peace of the Risen Lord IS with you!
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD

Read: John 20: 19-23 (first portion of the gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter)

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Reflection       (Prepared by Pastor Dave Kaplan)
Huddled behind locked doors – this was no social distancing for fear of an invisible virus.  Jesus’ disciples were hoping in this way to distance themselves from a very visible threat – the religious and political authorities who just a few days before had arrested, convicted and crucified their Lord.  How long they would need to stay there, when it would be safe to resume their normal lives, how they would go about that process were all uncertain and terrifying issues.  To complicate matters – an additional uncertainty: two of them had been to the tomb that morning and found it empty.  And Magdalene told them she had actually seen Jesus alive!  If only…but for the time being, they needed to feel secure behind locked doors.

Those locked doors, however, offered no security at all!  In an instant the room was invaded – not by officials crashing through doors and walls, but by the risen Lord Jesus himself, who suddenly appeared in the midst of his frightened followers.  “Where were you when I needed you?” he yelled.  No – his word to them was comfort, reassurance, blessing: the familiar Hebrew greeting Shalom alechem – “Peace, wholeness, well-being be with you.”  Then he showed them his hands and his side to strengthen their faith and help convince them that he really was alive.  At that point Easter truly dawned upon them and they rejoiced – Alleluia!

But there was more than reassurance on that first Easter evening in the upper room.  Along with it was a preview of Pentecost.  Jesus breathed on his disciples just as God had breathed on a lifeless lump of clay at creation, just as the prophet Ezekiel had called breath to come into a lifeless community in the reading a few weeks ago, so now Jesus breathed the Spirit into this doubtful-but-beginning-to-believe, fearful-but-beginning-to-rejoice, lifeless-but-beginning-to-discover-resurrection band of followers.  And with the Spirit came new life and power – the power boldly to emerge from locked doors in order to witness and heal and forgive, to find real security in the Lord who sends his followers out in spite of, in the midst of, fears that would shut them in.

During this strangest of all Easter seasons isn’t that where we find our joy and strength and security as well?  Sure, we need to practice distancing and wash our hands for the health and safety of all.  But we don’t need to huddle behind the locked doors of our own fears.   Jesus walks right through them with his greeting of peace to comfort us, the breath of his Spirit to empower us, the commission to receive and share his forgiveness to guide us, and soon and very soon we pray, the meal of his living presence with us to assure us that no threatening power, microscopic or macroscopic, can ever separate us from his saving love.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to surprise us in the midst of our doubts and fears.  Continue to breathe on us your Holy Spirit so that we might be courageous in sharing the good news of your self-giving love and risen presence especially in this fearful time.  Amen.

Practice: The next time fear or anxiety seem to invade, imagine Jesus appearing right there. See the scars on his hands, feet and side. See the love in his eyes. Hear him banish those fears and anxieties. No locked doors or windows, no virus or fears can stop him from coming to be with you.

Music:
“On Eagles’ Wings” ELW #787  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXfu01zfqb0
“What A Fellowship, What a Joy Divine” (ELW #774)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaXJQD0Xixk
“Be Not Afraid” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMuhI7htOh0