|Ms. Patricia R. Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries|
To one and all: the staff of the Connecticut Conference wishes you God’s blessings in this Holy Week, and an Easter celebration filled with the joy of Jesus’ resurrection.
This week's author is Patricia R. Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!
For me, Easter truly begins when the pastor says: "Christ is Risen!" And the community of faith responds: "Christ is Risen, Indeed!" As a child, those words, shouted aloud in the company of my church congregation, filled me with joy. They meant triumph over the long Lenten season that had so recently concluded with the sad, somber days of Holy Week marking Jesus' Passion and death. They also meant a church filled with sweet-smelling Easter lilies and wonderful special music, Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies when we got home, new dresses and hats, and a mom's Easter ham with pineapple and cloves after the church service. Christ is Risen...! Yes indeed, bring it on!
It was not until I was older, of course, that I ever reflected on just how radical this claim of Resurrection must have seemed to the people of Jesus' day -- and how it must seem to people of OUR day, if they are not already believers. Grown-up, intelligent, thinking people believing that a human being died, rose from the dead, and was the Son of God, a Savior. Oh my.
Certainly, it is one thing to revere the ideas of a wise, good, even saintly living person, but then to claim that this person has risen from the dead... Well, if any person today made such a claim, you can imagine the reaction.
In the Revised Common Lectionary for Easter Sunday we are given two Resurrection accounts to choose from -- one from Matthew and one from John. Both feature the empty tomb and both have the risen Jesus speaking directly to women who have come to the tomb. In the account from John, however, there is more detail and more "story" about the human reaction to the empty tomb and to the realization that the personage that the women have encountered is, indeed, Jesus the Christ. It gives us a chance to imagine how we might have responded if we'd been there, too.
That's important, because living as we do, 2,000 some years after the actual event, it's pretty easy to simply accept the Resurrection as a given -- as a concept -- rather than a startling reality to be grappled with personally.
The Epistles suggest (1 Cor. 15:1-8) that in Jesus' day individuals who had had significant interaction with the risen Christ were so convinced of their claims that in response many devoted their entire lives to proclaiming what they had seen, and some even died for it. Their testimony about the Risen Christ was powerful, and those who heard it -- people like the Apostle Paul -- in turn told others. Aided by the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection story -- the Gospel -- was a story told with great effect. Lives were changed, the Kingdom of God was extended, "and the word of God continued to spread; the number of disciples increased..." (Acts 6:7a).
Is Easter the marking of an historical event for us as Christians, or the proclamation of a radical resurrection faith? What is our experience of the Risen Christ?
Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are God's forever and ever
St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)
the Rev. Charles L. Wildman, Interim Conference Minister, as he journeys to visit with the Connecticut Conference’s partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea.
the family and friends of Claire Matthews, grandmother of the Rev. Jennifer McGlinchey Gingras, associate pastor of the Monroe Congregational Church UCC, who died on April 10 at the age of 102;
the family and friends of Jose Batista, custodian at the Wildemere Beach Congregational Church UCC in Milford, who was killed by gunfire on April 7 at the age of 68;
the family and friends of Vivian O. Gronback, mother of the Rev. Karen Johnson, pastor of the First Congregational (Old Stone) Church UCC in East Haven, who died on March 25 at the age of 94;
Bunnie Meyer, wife of the Rev. Tom Meyer, pastor of the Putnam Congregational Church UCC, as she recovers from serious back surgery;
Mark Watkins, Music Director/Organist at the First Church in Windsor UCC, suffering from kidney failure and being evaluated for a transplant;
Deborah Taylor, wife of the Rev. Wendell Taylor, pastor of the Congregational Church of Burlington, UCC, who is being treated for lung cancer;
Gail Joslin, former staff member of the Connecticut Conference, who has been diagnosed with advanced liver cancer;
Charles Miles, a member of the local planning team for the 2007 General Synod, recovering from injuries suffered in a fall on December 26;
Ken Esposito, health care organizer with the Christian Activities Council, being treated for cancer;
Bonnie Odiorne, spouse of the Rev. Dr. Raymond Odiorne, who is suffering from vision problems;
US Army Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Carroll, son of the Rev. Carla Dietz Carroll, associate pastor at the United Church of Rowayton, UCC, and her husband John Carroll, who is stationed in Afghanistan; Sgt. Carroll and his wife have a young son Charlie;
the people of Japan and across the Pacific suffering from the earthquake and tsunami on March 11: the injured, the grieving, the homeless, those who labor to aid them, and those struggling to prevent nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station;
the people of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories: may they have justice and peace;
the people of Haiti and the people who seek to aid them;
the Conference's partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery and their communities on the Korean peninsula, with prayers for peace;
this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, confronting the loss of a job, or working to find just resolutions to the crisis; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck, particularly in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Colombia.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Rev. Eric Anderson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To give to the aid of those affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, visit: http://www.ctucc.org/donate/
Center Cong'l Ch., Inc.
IN The Rev. David Buchan
PE The Rev. Raymond L. Shoup
MM A. O'Brien
CE Ms. Karen S. Albanese
Y Mr. Jay Potter
United Cong'l Ch
P The Rev. Rhonda D. Myers
Trumbull Cong'l Church
IN The Rev. Paul F. Goodman
CE Ms. Selina Tiesler
Y Ms. Debra Rosati
Unity Hill, UCC
P The Rev. Judith M. Cooke
PE The Rev. Harold C. Smith
The Cong'l Ch of Union, CT. Inc.
P The Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle
PE The Rev. LaVerne M. Kelson
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The Spirit Calendar: April 18, 2011 by Ms. Patricia R. Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries