Church Within
Easter Service of the Year 2001

Offered by

Minister Judy Girard     [visit]

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4-15-2001 Easter Sunday Service of the Church Within #238
Today's Service is offered by: Minister Judy Girard

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Light And Life Garden Update
We've made a lot of Progress at “The Garden” so far this Spring! I've been concentrating primarily on the upper acre at the entrance and surrounding the residence. The driveway is now double-wide, although still 2/3rds dirt… when it's dry ;-), and can safely accommodate even a motor-home. The first stage of grading for a road down to the second level is completed. It is Fairly Steep and until we get a whole bunch of rock laid over it, it is a one way road… down ;-). Fortunately I needed the Tractor down at the bottom of it for tree planting and stump removal <G>.

Our First Fruits have now been planted and should be productive in a year or so. Already Planted are the bareroots---4 Plum trees, 1 Rainier and 3 Bing Cherry trees, and a 5 variety Apple tree. Next week I will be planting the 2 varieties of Pear tree and 2 varieties of Blueberry bush that we have waiting in line. I have yet to get Raspberries to plant but hope to soon.

Any further fruit planting beyond that, this year, will be done by Visitors.

Hope Many of you will get a chance to Visit us this year. The Food is Good, Free, and the Jacuzzi is always Hot.

Welcome by: Pastor Daniel
Greetings my Beloved Sisters and Brothers, and welcome once again to the Church that is Within.

A Joyous Easter to you All!

(From the NASB – Deuteronomy 30:19)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.

(From the revised New American Bible - Luke 24: 1-3)
At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of Jesus.

(From the NASB –Luke 24:13-16)
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about the things that had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

(From the NASB John 10:10)
…..I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The Sermon
Sr. Joan Chittester, a Roman Catholic, Benedictine nun, recently wrote a beautiful reflection on Easter, which appeared in a national publication I receive. Before I offend the non-Christian and/or non-Catholics in the audience, please listen to what she had to say. I think it is applicable no matter which spiritual path you have chosen. If you are on a journey, this message can be applied to you. Many thanks to Sr. Joan's inspirational contribution to this service.

She says: “ The old news about Easter is that it is about the resurrection. The new news may be that it is not so much about the resurrection of Jesus as it is about our own.”

That one statement, followed by her own reflections really gave me reason to stop and ponder. The tomb in which Jesus lay has been empty for a long time. In what tomb do I still reside? Am I more attached to the tomb, to death itself, than I am to life? Do I want to really live? Am I willing to leave behind the burial cloth, the things that bind me in my life, the living death I am sometimes willing to endure and live in this new life which Jesus has to offer?

I come to the tomb early in the morning. I have come expecting to find the body of a beloved friend. I have journeyed to that point. At the tomb, I meet believers and unbelievers; supporters and those who are at best, skeptical. I am shoulder to shoulder with those who have betrayed my friend. And I am deeply aware of the ways in which I have betrayed him myself. I meet those who have journeyed with me and those whose paths are radically different. The journey I have been on has led me to hear the story of the prodigal son, the story of the transfiguration on the mountaintop, the story of the man born blind and the story of the woman at the well. In these, I have heard about loving without regard for the price. I have heard about one's life being totally transformed by just one encounter with this man called Jesus. I have heard the story of the unconditional love of a parent toward two pretty unlovable children and have heard about and experienced my own blindness and heard about the desire to see.

I have heard questions and have questioned myself what it means to follow this Nazarean named Jesus. Do I intend to live my life differently as a result of my encounters with him? Or, do I just continue on my way and follow in name only? The answer has to do with rising out of the tombs of our lives. We often live lives of somewhat empty ritual, become complacent regarding human suffering and accepting of the social sins which surround us and in which we participate. Our tombs of death and destruction are crying to be emptied.

The tomb contains those on death row; it contains those whose lives I have not respected. It contains wars both little and big, conflicts between friends and enemies. It contains the words of hate, prejudice and anger, which are quick to form on my lips. It contains my judgments and those walls I build to protect myself from those with whom I am not comfortable. It contains those children who somehow have learned that it is okay to terrorize and even kill other children. The tomb contains those who verbally and physically abuse others. The tomb contains me and my whole life.

Like the women who go to the tomb, we need to really look at whether, once our lives are touched by Jesus, will we rise and do life differently? So differently in fact that perhaps our friends will not recognize us in our rising from the dead. Why is it that those with whom Jesus was most intimate did not recognize him? Was even his life so transformed that he was not recognizable? What would it take for my life to be so transformed that I would no longer be recognizable to my friends?
As a culture we have looked for fullness of life in some very interesting places. It is those same places that have become the rags that enshroud us in death. We have looked to money and status, to our possessions, to drugs and alcohol and food, to relationships and sex, to television and consumerism. We have been blind and adulterous and dead needing to be raised. We find ourselves caught somewhere between the tomb and the stone that has covered it. We want to believe the tomb is empty and that there is more to life than what we have experienced. Yet, we live in a world of racism and sexism and consumerism. We live in a land of prejudice and fear. We have taken as the gospel truth the half-truths our media and even our religions profess to us. We have come to believe that a weekly television show about survival is real and that it represents life. We have taken our creator and made God small and limited like we are. We have become blind and deaf and dumb in an effort to adhere to some doctrine or another. We have missed the point of the resurrection, of the empty tomb, entirely. We run, like the apostles, to see for ourselves because we do not believe those who have gone before us. We do not trust the proclamation of others if we cannot shrink those experiences into our small little boxes of faith and belief. We not only miss the message, but we reject the messengers. We make ourselves the measure of God's love for us and we miss the bigger picture.

Our faith is not limited to our private experience of God. We are called to expand our thinking and our beliefs outside any box. God is bigger than we can imagine. It is that kind of rising to new life which may be far more important than the resurrection of 2000 years ago.

The resurrection to which Easter calls us is our own. We must prepare to find God wherever and whenever God is. We must be prepared to find God in some very unexpected places. To see God in ways we never expected to, to hear God in words we thought we would never hear and maybe don't want to hear. We must open our hearts to fit around God and stop shrinking God to fit into our puny little hearts and minds. We must release the voice and presence of God. We must let God out of the tomb and into our lives. This demands that we let go of those social phobias, which keep us protected from one another. It means that we will reach out to one another –to everyone—to gays and women and men and immigrants and illegal aliens and prisoners and the poor and blacks and yellows and browns and strangers and children. It means listening to those to whom we do not usually listen—to women and angels in particular (those voices that are strangely lacking in most religious traditions). It means emptying tombs and contending with those whose beliefs are different from ours, and with whom it is not apparent that we share anything.

Easter becomes a day of decisions more than a day of celebration. What is to be decided is whether or not we will rise from the deadening grip of this world's burnt out systems to the life-giving time of God's coming again.

The Prayer
Loving God and Father of us All,
        You have sent many to us to show us new ways to live. Today we celebrate the life of Jesus, who showed us a radically new way to live. We are called to live filled with life, leaving behind those things that bind us up and keep us from new life. Help us, today, to decide to choose life.

God's Abundant Blessings,

Judy Girard, Minister
The Church Within

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