May 3, 2020

Service for May 3, 2020 – “Illumined and Healed!

(Based on 1Peter 2: 19-25)

Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me;

Place in my hands the wonderful key that will unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.  (Clara H. Scott, 1895)

     This Easter was unlike any other that I can recall.  I do not believe that there has ever been an Easter Sunday when I did not attend a worship service.  Even as a child, I can recall the new dress, “bonnet” and patent leather Mary Janes I received each year for the Easter Church Service.  But this year was different.  I donned my jeans and comfy slippers, and I binge-watched Easter Services and TV specials.  Among them I watched the movie epic, King of Kings, and later that day, the rock opera “Jesus Christ, Super Star”.

     It’s not as though I didn’t know the plotline and the full story of Jesus, as I sat and watched these shows for hours, my eyes glued to the screen.  My faith journey, my ministry, and word that I have ever preached come from deep in the heart of this Jesus story…and my unwavering belief in its truth.  But this year, this year, there was something new and special about this “old” story for me.  Let me offer this “something new” as a gift to you today.

     Let me begin by sharing two important definitions with you.  The first is the definition of sympathy.  Sympathy is having feelings of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.  We sometimes become sad when we learn of the difficulty or sorrow of a friend or family member.  The second definition relates to empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and deeply share the feelings of another.  When we experience empathy, we place ourselves into the situation of another person, and we see and feel circumstances through their perspective.

As we have all suffered through the gambit of emotional circumstances created by the recent outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19, I have felt an uncanny sense of empathy for others and their circumstances.  It is not just a deep sorrow, but a deeper understanding of the human condition and need involved.  It has created a deep desire in me to care for the many that have been so deeply affected by personal or financial struggles and losses, health issues and even the death of loved ones.  The pangs of human need and loss have been so greatly magnified in these days that my sensitivity has been heightened, and I can feel them with every breath I take.

     Early on Easter morning, as I awoke, I recalled the scene of the empty tomb. I remembered that Jesus overcame our sin in his death on the cross, and he rose to new life to show us that nothing in all of creation—even death—can separate us from the love of God.  Then, I heard the death toll of COVID-19 for that day.  It was a sobering reminder of our human weakness and of the times in which we live.  It was a palpable and saddening reality for me on this particular Easter Day.  Later, as I watched the movie King of Kings, Jesus healed the sick, forgave sinners, and preached good news to a people sorely in need of it.  I realized how deeply we, too, are in need of Jesus today.

This is especially true for those facing difficulty and loss.  I agonized through the time of Jesus’ passion and death as if I was there and seeing it for the first time.  What an unjust suffering he endured for such a just and righteous cause.  And, I rejoiced with Mary, when Jesus spoke her name just beyond the empty tomb during their encounter on that first Easter morning.  Christ is alive! Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord! Alleluia, Alleluia, give praise to his name! (UMH #162- Donald Fishel, 1973.)

     This year, Easter came just in time.  Jesus’ resurrection brings us hope and the promise of abundant and eternal new life, even amid the trials and tribulations we are living with each new day.  Perhaps now more than ever we need to be reminded that Jesus’ resurrection proves the power of God’s unfailing love for us—it conquers even sin and death.  Peter’s lesson calls believers to go forth in Jesus’ name, enduring, persevering through the injustices we encounter along the way.

So, Peninsula United Methodist Church, let us be an Easter people, joy-filled and journeying onward in Christ’s mission of mercy, care and love for all who we encounter along our way.  By his stripes we have been healed—let us offer others healing love in Jesus’ name.  Amen.