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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 28:1–10             

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (NRSV)

“Do not be afraid!” That phrase is the first phrase out of the angel’s mouth to the women at the empty tomb. We hear it shortly after we read of earthquakes and lightning-like angelic appearances. The guards had already fainted out of fear. And yet “do not be afraid” is the first thing the angel says? “Do not be afraid.” While that was not the first thing the risen Jesus told the women, it was the second thing. After telling them hello, he then told them they did not need to be afraid. Rather, he needed them to lean into courage and to spread the word that not only was he alive, but he was already getting to work in Galilee. The disciples were to join him and to participate in his Easter work as soon as possible.

“Don’t be afraid!” That is what God consistently tells us through the beauty of worship, with the warmth of the sun, by the smile from a stranger, in the embrace of a loved one. “Don’t be afraid!” On this Easter Sunday, may we do our best to live fully into those words. For God still invites us into that courage that will have us feeling both fear and great joy, all mixed up at the same time. God is not finished yet and neither are we. Thanks be to God!

Holy God, we do feel this odd mixture of fear and great joy when we think of who you are and who you call us to become. So on this Easter Sunday, fill us again with your courage. Remind us again that you are already on the loose and at work. And then, help us to proclaim “do not be afraid” to all those we meet along your Way. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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