A Word from the Pastor:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church:
Here’s my Easter Sunday sermon. I regret to say that it is not for you. But it is for you to share with a friend, neighbor or family member who does not worship on Easter Sunday.
Easter Sunday Sermon
A funny thing happened on my way to Easter Sunday worship today: The Herald, Zion’s church newsletter became my pulpit. If you are not surrounded by Easter lilies and choirs with morning sunlight falling through stained glass windows then, “Blessed are you.” In fact, if Christ’s rising from the dead sounds like so much nonsense, you are in good company. When women, the first preachers of the Easter event told their story to the apostles and disciples, “these words seemed to them an idle tale.” Why should it be different for you?
Whether you are submerged in your Sunday newspaper or coming down from your sugar high after bingeing on chocolate bunnies --- here’s an Easter sermon you deserve to hear.
I use the word “deserve” intentionally; it is stronger than “needs,” as if the gospel were an unpleasant medicine you have to swallow. It is more like, “You’ve got to hear this!” “For God so loved the world….” You are loved. God loves the whole world, this beautiful, battered, fragile, fractured world. This is the good news of Easter: the One who is love, was raised from the dead, and his Spirit is now loose in the world. It’s not only life, but love that is stronger than death.
For Easter to be Easter, love needs to embrace our deep hurts, broken hearts and dying spirits. Easter calls us into the opioid crisis; homelessness; resurgence of white nationalism and racism; death penalty; families torn apart by detention/deportation; suicide; hate crimes; mistreatment, sexual harassment and assault on women; red air day; dying alone; 17 minutes of silence.
Like the first Easter morning, we join the women at the tomb, the realm of death. But we do not remain there. Death may have the last word, but it is not the final word. Easter compels us to see signs of new life even in places where life is diminished and dying.
Viktor Frankl remembers Jews in death camps who, though condemned, walked among others, comforting them, giving away their last pieces of bread. In the midst of death, they chose life. We see it on children’s posters, with drawings that call us to celebrate the beauty of God’s good creation. Emma Gonzalez, called us into the heart-wrenching six minutes and twenty seconds in Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. Still, with broken hearts, we March for Our Lives. First Unitarian Church and SLC Sanctuary Network stand for welcome, providing safe haven and new life for a mother and her children. Follow Pamela Atkinson (Utah’s Mother Teresa) as she tirelessly organizes new ways for us to love “our homeless friends.” Feel the compassion shared by volunteers, sitting with hospital patients who have no family or friends as they near end of life. Come visit this community of faith in Zion. Here you will meet Art Sutherland, a tireless advocate for those who are poor. Enjoy Verna Hanson’s heart-felt greeting. If you are lucky, you will be on the receiving end of her chocolate chip cookies, shared in times of celebration and sorrow.
Thank you for listening. By now you may have noticed that Easter is about life with a love that is stronger than death. Easter love reaches deep into our broken world and loves our broken hearts into new life. Choose love and life. But, know that you are loved, even if your Easter means eating another chocolate bunny.
A Word from the Pastor:
Halloween has its trick-or-treating. Valentine’s Day has its boxes of choco-lates. But Easter chocolate rabbits rule the day. In the week before Easter last year, Americans bought $823 million in crème-filled eggs, chocolate rab-bits and colored marshmallow Peeps (Nielsen data). Furthermore, 67% of our nation’s adults consider Easter “a religious holiday” versus 42% who say it cel-ebrates Jesus’ resurrection.
We offer another narrative. The faithful who observe the days prior to Easter will reflect on the final days of a journey that seems to end with a brutal exe-cution. Death by crucifixion remains among the most gruesome and humili-ating state sanctioned killings to this day. Astonishingly, in one account of the proceedings, as the soldiers pounded nails into his battered, tortured body, the condemned man prayed that God would forgive them, for they hardly knew what they were doing.
This young man tortured to death by the empire, whose friends later said that they saw him alive, taught that the most faithful way for living included loving even one’s enemies. Now, this One raised from the dead, and his Spirit, the Spirit of truth, is loose in the world. Certainly, it shows that life is stronger than death. But could it also be that love ---- unconditional, sacrificial love ---- is stronger than death?
That’s a message worth pondering, especially in our divisive nation and world. If our reliance is on being right, on bombs, bullets and hate, then we may as well settle into a chocolate bunny Easter celebration. Or, we could get a life, a new life, praying grace to love that difficult-to-love person next door, across the aisle or on the other side, wherever that is.
In and through our Crucified and Risen Lord, Jesus Christ,
A Word from the Pastor:
Ash Wednesday is hard. It is profoundly awkward to mark one another with ashes: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Every year I am taken aback by the oily black crosses smudged on the foreheads of babies and our oldest members, on the heads of young adults with their hopes and dreams, on the heads of spouses and colleagues, black crosses on those carrying in silence the burden of illness or addiction, smudges of ash marking endings that are beginnings and beginnings that are endings.
The meaning of the day is not to leave us standing in fear or shame or shock or despair, covered as we are in one another’s ashes. The day is not about judging us into obedience, or trying (again) to change or to get it right.
Ash Wednesday is about putting our life and our death into God’s hands. We simply take all that we can name and all that we are afraid to name; and we bring it to God. “All of this we commend to you,” we pray. One poet (Jan Richardson) says:
“Did you now know what the Holy One can do with dust?
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking we are less than what we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear. “
Ash Wednesday is about our God, who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. It is about our God who takes us, with whatever we bring into the day’s worship, with whatever we face and whatever our path when we leave, and gives us a new way forward.
in and through Christ,
CONNECTING THROUGH GRACE
We are a Reconciling in Christ community. All are welcome!
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rocky Mountain Synod
ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
8:15am Awakening worship service
9:15am Education Hour & Sunday School
10:30am Traditional worship service
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, our Sunday schedule will be:
10:00am worship service