There’s been a recurring question popping up a fair mount lately, “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” The questioners of course are trying to make comparisons between the leadership of our country and between two very different administrations. In trying to answer the question, we’re quick to remember that four years ago, the world was firmly in the grasp of a pandemic primarily defined by unknowns and uncertainties. For our devotion today, I offer the concluding passage of the sermon that I preached for Easter morning, four years ago:

The vision Mark describes of the kingdom of God is filled with hope, and healing, and cooperation, and compassion.  And it’s a vision meant for all of God’s people. And it sounds pretty good to people who are hungry or hurting or alone or blind or crippled or pushed aside or forgotten.

And now the story also includes betrayal and confusion and conflict and incarceration and inquisition and sentencing and execution and death.  And it’s hard to tell where Jesus’ story stops and our starts.  Because death is all around. 

It’s no longer an intellectual exercise, like, “yeah, we’re all going to die sometime.”  No, somehow, it’s as real as it’s ever been.  All thanks to a pandemic that the experts predicted but the politicians wanted to ignore.  And the world has changed.

And we walk along with the three women, carrying spices for a proper funeral, and we wonder, “who will roll the stone away?”  And everything we don’t know about the future is wrapped up in this one question.  But here we are, walking ever closer to the tomb.  Just taking it one step at a time.

Are we able to keep walking because we actually know how this particular story goes?  We just listened to it read aloud once more.  We’ve heard it every Easter morning, in one form or another.  The stone is already rolled away.  And more importantly than that, the tomb is empty!

Mary and Mary and Salome don’t have to wonder who will roll the stone away.  And they don’t have to wonder if all that Jesus had been telling them would be true. 

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:6-7)

An Easter proclamation from a young man in a white robe, just for Mary and Mary and Salome, who were still putting one foot in front of the other, trying to do what still needed to be done and not knowing who was going to roll the stone away.

And this is your Easter proclamation, from a not-so-young man in a white robe: Don’t be afraid!  You think this is the end.  You think that unfinished semesters and missed birthday parties and empty store shelves and essential workers without enough protective gear and rising infections rates and bungling decision makers are the final word.  You think that a global pandemic with an uncertain resolution is the only reality that gets to define your story.

But this tomb is empty too.  Death is not the end.  God is not buried away on the other side of a stone too heavy to roll back.  God’s story has a future and that future includes you.  This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God.  And this is the beginning of the good news for you. The tomb is empty.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

May God’s peace find you today. -Pastor Peter

Let us pray… God of new beginnings, give us the courage to face the fear of the unknown future, trusting that, just as your story has not come to end, our story continues and will be made all the more glorious together with you. Amen.