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Easter, Resurrection and Reality

Easter, Resurrection and Reality

Happy Easter!
Jesus in Stained Glass

The Resurrection of Jesus

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

-Luke 24:1-12

Jesus is Risen. He has Risen Indeed Alleuia!

In case you weren’t aware. Jesus was dead. So when we talked about the Resurrection it should shock us. It should be so astounding we scratch are heads a little. Today and Every Sunday we celebrate this great mystery of faith: that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.

The mystery of the Resurrection is so profound that we spend a whole season of the church year talking about it.. Even then I don’t think we quite understand what the impact of Jesus Christ Rising from the dead means to us. I can tell you the one thing I do know. Jesus was not a Zombie or Vampire, because a Zombies and Vampires are the walking dead. Jesus is very much Alive. And When the risen Jesus meets the disciples he bears the marks of his death on the cross. He is not a new being but the same Jesus who was died and is now Alive. When talking about Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we must proclaim and be clear. Death and Resurrection are not just mere metaphors or similes. What happened and what we celebrate is a reality that changed human history.

Christ’s Death and Resurrection break through this reality and boldly declare that Death and Sin do not have the last word. That God did not abandon us but came to love us and prove the creator of the universe can create something new in us. Before, “Death” was it, final, finite, done, no start over. And because of Sin, death was our inevitable end. However through Christ we find life. In Jesus who conquered death and the grave we receive promised life. This new life starts now because through the cross in which Christ endured, Sin and death no longer have a hold on us.

Just look at the past week’s headlines and you will find death and sin all around. It can be easy to turn cynical and lose faith in humanity and even God. But, God has called you to this place today to hear the Good News of the Risen Jesus. To hear of Christ’s victory of death and sin. To hear and know that not even death can separate you from God’s Love.  If you have doubts about who Jesus is or whether this whole resurrection thing is real. You are in good company. Those first disciples were not expecting a miracle. Their Hopes and dreams died with Jesus on the cross.

We are reminded in the scripture lesson today that the Women were not expecting the risen Jesus. As the Angels ask the women. “Why do you search for the living among the dead? He is not here, He is Risen.” These women weren’t searching for anyone living. They were looking for a very much dead and stiff Jesus, one to whom they were bringing spices and oils to cover up the smell of death. We give the Disciples a hard time about not believing Jesus was alive but they weren’t idiots, people being raised from the dead didn’t just happen. They had just seen Jesus die on the cross, in agony and pain. They were sad, heart broken, scared and still had not wrapped their heads around Jesus being dead.

Here is the hope we find in this among these people. That Jesus shows up, even to doubters. That he continues to show up again and again as we continue reading Encounters of the Risen Jesus throughout the Easter season. This is beginning of the disciple knowing that Jesus is Alive. We don’t have to get this great mystery right away. Jesus continues to reveal himself in the midst of doubts and fears. The hope is that the Risen Jesus brings new hope and dreams that are greater and bigger than the ones left on the cross. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen!!

Reflection on the Easter Narrative

Reflection on the Easter Narrative

Double_Take
Self-Reflection

As I was sitting and listening to the passion narrative read during the Good Friday service. I began to realize that I am not as familiar with the story as I should be. There were points where I thought; that’s not how I remember it or is that in the wrong order. Of course, the four gospels have different narratives of the Passion but it got me to think. How often do I speak about or refer to the Bible with what I think I know, or from what I remember? How often do I take the time to actually deeply know how each gospel portrays the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I have to confess that I do not read the Bible as much as a should. I often rely on what I think I know. The sin of relying on the memory of Christ’s story is that we can turn the story to fit our needs. We can fill in the blanks spots of our memory with our own version.

As Christians were claim the narrative of Christ but do we really know it? Do we deeply contemplate this story and make it a part of our own story and lives?  I don’t think we do. Throughout the Old and New Testament we are reminded to remember, the Passover is a reminder of God’s grace and mercy on Israel and their deliverance. How often did Israel forget and have to be reminded by Prophets. (Anyone know what that number is? I guess the point is that is was a lot.)

As we celebrate Easter we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That his death as an act of love bought us freedom from sin. We should not relegate his story to mere myth, We should make sure that this story is authentic and accurate. We should not only refresh our hearts of the Salvation Christ brings to the world but also our minds. In the first half of Duet 11:18 it says “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds.” Human memory fails. If the story of Christ shapes and forms our lives, we should know it. It should be the one story we cling to and want to know as accurately as possible. So take a deep look at the Story of Christ, at this death and resurrection. Maybe you’ll find something that surprises you, maybe you’ll have a double take.

I wonder how the world would change if us Christians actually knew the Gospel story rather than assuming we did?

Slovak Easter

Slovak Easter

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia. And Happy Easter.

Mark Molter
Slovak Easter

Well here is my March Update. My March was spent mostly in preparation for Easter or Velka Noc. I was great to experience some of the very unique customs and celebrations. March was also filled with many guests and fun.

I have continued to teach English in school. I find it one of the most challenging things I do here. I try to plan exciting and interesting lessons but every week it is a gamble. Sometimes they seem interested and other times not. As my Slovak is getting better it makes teaching more difficult because they don’t want to speak English. Despite this frustration I keep trying, they are learning probably more than I think. I have also been teaching drum lessons to several of the kids. This is also a challenge because sometimes they kids show up and sometimes they don’t. I have to remind them to come often. When they do show up I enjoy it.

The weeks leading up to Velka Noc were a fun time in youth group. We took the time to read the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. We then made an illustrated timeline. It was amazing how many things we forget. We sometimes think we are familiar with story of Easter that we forget to remind ourselves of the details. It took us 2 weeks to read, draw and discuss the events. For me, it helped to get a better picture of the passion of Christ and just how great Christ’s love is for us. I can only hope that the youth somehow got as much out of it as I did.

Good Friday or Velky Piatok was a big service. We had about 400 people at the service. The church was packed. I sang with the choir and heard the kids’ choir sing. They had the brass ensemble perform and some people play guitar. It was fantastic. Communion is served only at larger events and significant times during the church year. It took about an hour for everyone to receive it.

The Saturday of Velka Noc, or Biela Sabotu, we had more youth than usual. Mostly from young people returning from school for the holiday. We played a quiz game about the events of the Resurrection and immediately after. With questions like, how many times did Jesus appear to his followers after his death? How many people saw Jesus Alive? The answers aren?t simple and it sparked some lively debate and thorough searching of the bible for answers. From what I have found Jesus appeared at least 5 times and he appeared to at least 20 people according to combined facts from all the gospels. Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.

The Monday after Easter was filled with a very unusual tradition. The tradition involves young men getting girls wet and then hitting them with green branches called a Korbača. The girls then give the guys Chocolate and a Ribbon to be proudly displayed on the boy’s Korbača. Basically, this only process is a huge flirting ritual. I had one of the youth guys make me a Korbača.

Flo, one of the other volunteers from Germany, was leaving early Monday morning. We waited until midnight and went to visit Zorka, who is the vicar and lives next door in our building. We knocked on her door and when she opened it, she was rather surprised. Nothing quite like being splashed with water and being hit by Korbča and then reciting the rhyme goes with it. “Šibi ryby mastny ryby, kus kolača od korbača” She then gave us a ribbon with her name on it and chocolate.

After Zorka we travel to another house that at 3 young ladies living there. When the first girl answered the door we surprised her with water. She then told us to wait so she could get her sister. At the same time the mother Shouted, “Already, it’s so early, quick give me your water buckets, I’ll go fill them.” It was quite a shock to see the mother and the other girls helping us. After all the girls had gone through the ritual we were invited in for coffee and snacks and each girl gave us a ribbon for our Korba?a. Well it was early in the morning so no one else was up so, we went to bed. Later in the morning at a more reasonable hour I went around the village with some of the other young men participated in this ritual at several other houses. It was a fun day and I met many nice girls.

They also traditionally have a small service. The Pastor arranges for all the doors to be locked except for one. Then when all the ladies file out of the Church he can hit them with his Korba?a. Apparently they considered it Good Luck, and wishes for Health and Beauty in the future when they are hit by a Korba?a. With the women being treated like it is often said they boys should watch out the next day but usually nothing happens.

March was also filled with a variety of Guests. Flo’s family arrived to spend Easter weekend in Vrbovce and then go to the High Tatry. It great to meet new people and see the family of people I work so closely with. His mother father and 2 younger sisters were quite a joy. Zorka and I were invited to join in their family Easter egg hunt/walk after the Service on Easter. When Flo and his family left for the High Tatry another group of guests arrived the next day. Oli had spent his Easter in Germany with family and arrived back with his Pastor and 2 friends. They spoke decent English and Oli was able to translate well. I also have been picking up a little German too so that helped. We had some interesting conversations about life in Slovakia. They were here in Vrbovce for about 3 days before they returned. After all these big events I was feeling a little tired and wanted to return to a somewhat normal routine.

Well, what I have I learned this month? I learned how Slovak’s celebrate Easter or Velka Noc. I learned and strange tradition of hit girls with sticks the day after Velka Noc. I have also been learning about patience and catching God’s plan. Much like the Disciple’s after Good Friday, I sometimes think, “Where is God?” When I’m frustrated with working on something I see no end to or I’m teaching English with kids who really have not interested or when I have to chase to remind kids to come to youth group or drum lessons all the time and then they don’t show up.
The disciples heard everything Jesus said but they just weren’t sure what was next. On Easter and many times after Jesus reminded them, “I’m here! I’m Alive”.

We too need to be reminded that Jesus died for our sins but he is a Living God. When the 2 women went to take care of Jesus’ body in the tomb, they met an Angel who said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” We must ask this question to ourselves when we are frustrated or lack vision. The fact that Jesus was resurrected as he promised makes all his other promises more real. How can a dead God keep his promises? He can’t but Jesus is Alive.

I am reminding myself of God’s Grace everyday that he is working, he is living. I may not see results of my work now or even in a few months but God is there, walking with me through all my joys and frustrations.

Lord,
Thank you that we worship you, a Living God
One who keeps his Promises
Help us to remember
You are Alive and walking with us
This is not another figure of speech, it is True
You showed yourself to the Disciples
And later gave of yourself to them your Holy Spirit.
We are your Disciples too!!

In your Holy Name, a name that has power of the living and the dead
Jesus Christ

God’s Blessings and Peace be with you,
Christ’s Servant in Slovakia

Mark Molter