Last week Vice President Pence described the week in this way. He said "This week will be a week of heartache and hope." Of course he was referring to the coronavirus....the pandemic that has gripped us all in one way or another.
We, too, in the church experienced a week of heartache and hope. We went from the heartache of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and an empty Saturday to the hope of Easter Sunday - Resurrection morning.
In today's gospel story, the two Mary's (Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Clopas) go to the tomb to say goodbye to Jesus once more. When they get there, there is a huge commotion: an earthquake and an angel descending from heaven. The angel rolls away the tombstone - right in front of their eyes and sits on it !!! (I find that a sweet and humorous note in scripture). The angels appears like lightening and his clothes are whiter than snow. The guards guarding the tomb are so afraid they shake and fall down like dead men. ( I would too.) The angels speaks to the women "Jesus is no longer here. He has risen. Go to Galilee. You will see him there." Of course, they go. They probably run. Halfway there Jesus meets them on the road with a startling "Greetings." They stop short, recognize him, fall to the ground and take hold of his feet. I can hear them shouting "You're alive. You're alive."
I can almost feel their hearts pounding and hear their breathless breathing. I would be breathless with a pounding heart too. Wouldn't you? This story of two courageous women is the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ. That event, two thousand years ago, brings you and me together today. We are the heirs of that moment.
They go from heartache to hope: a present heartache to the hope of a different and new future.
We, too, in this situation with the coronavirus are between heartache and hope. People have lost their jobs. Some are losing their business. Health care workers are risking life and health every day. People are dying. We have a serious separation from loved ones; family and friends. Heartache and hope perfectly describe our situation. How do we get through it? How do we face it and overcome it?
Paul tells us how in the Colossians reading for today. (See above) He tells us that our lives are "hidden with God in Christ Jesus". What does it mean that we are hidden in God's heart and God is hidden in ours? In chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, Jesus prays to his Father in heaven "I have given all believers the glory that you given me ; that they may be one as we are one.......I in them and and you in me". Jesus is saying that he lives hidden in the hearts of believers. The Kingdom of God (His Kingdom) is hidden in our hearts - and that's how we get through this crises and every other.
When people ask Jesus to tell them about the Kingdom of God he responds in parables. Here are a few;
The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed HIDDEN in the field that when it grows it is the largest plant and becomes a tree big enough that birds can nest in its branches.
The Kingdom of God is like a treasure HIDDEN in a field. When a man finds it he sells all he has and buys the field.
The Kingdom of God is like yeast HIDDEN in the dough that becomes a loaf of bread to feed many.
The Kingdom of God is like a net that when let down into the lake brings up all kinds of fish.
Jesus used nature to get his point across. I will too.
I would say the Kingdom of God is like the catepillar - who plods along on the ground, forms a cocoon and inside the cocoon works HIDDEN until the cocoon opens and a magnificent Monarch butterfly emerges.......a creature that can fly thousands of miles to Mexico.
The Kingdom of God is like an oyster buried deep and HIDDEN in the sand and works until the shell opens and it emerges as a pearl.
The Kingdom of God hidden in our hearts works and works and brings
life out of death
hope out of despair
joy out of sorrow
resurrection out of crucifixion
The two Mary's and you and I and every Christian know that there is no more tomb. There is only new life in Jesus Christ who lives hidden in our hearts and strengthens us each and every day. As Paul says in the Book of Philippians chapter 4 "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
We have heartache in this life - but there is always hope....hope in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I want to close with a personal story of heartache and hope. On Tuesday of Holy Week our almost 14 year old chocolate lab, who we've had since a puppy, had a tragic accident. She died in terrible pain. We rushed to the vet - crying and semi-hysterical. The vet put her on the table and suggested we put her to sleep because she was suffering so. Through our tears we agreed. She was gone in seconds. I turned to the vet and asked "Do you believe in doggie heaven?"
She looked me straight in the eyes and answered "Is there any question? If there is heaven for us there is surely heaven for our beloved pets. Olive is now a puppy again, playing again with other puppies and running without pain."
In one hour I went from terrible heartache to deep hope. The two Mary's went from terrible heartache to a lasting hope. All of us celebrate today the truth
that through Jesus our precious Lord we go from this life (often heartache) to eternal life ( everlasting hope. )
THANKS BE TO GOD WHO GIVETH US THE VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.