EASTER SUNDAY–April 12, 2020

“WHAT NEXT”

Matthew 28:1-10

“We are in an unprecedented time in our lives.”  In recent days you have been hearing this phrase over and over again.  You may even be getting tired of hearing it.  We simply could not have imagined this happening in this day and age.  A pandemic that has virtually shut down not only Illinois and the United States but the whole world.  No one was prepared for this.  We may not like it but we are starting to get used to it.

I want to take you back, for a moment, to when it first started.  I want you to remember the unsettled feeling you had when you were first told to shelter in place, the uncertainty, the profound sense of loss, the surreal feelings you felt.  Maybe you could not even believe this was happening.  The helplessness you felt and the feeling of not knowing what to do.  Many of you have had to learn things that you never imagined you would need.  You are not alone if you felt that you were totally unprepared for this event.  It has certainly been a learning experience for all of us and not one person is exempt from it.  It has become a necessity to learn these new skills.  We are moving into a new norm.  Life will never be the same.  Maybe you are saying to yourself, “What is going on here?”

I imagine that this is what it was like for the disciples on that first day of the week after Jesus crucifixion.  Jesus is gone.  Their daily and weekly routine has been upset.  They were wondering what had just happened.  Their future was uncertain and they had to have felt an enormous sense of loss.  Just like now, they must have felt that what was happening was surreal.  Their expectations had just been shattered.  This was not supposed to happen to Jesus.  He was the Son of God.  He was a King.  He was able to heal and teach and cast out demons.  The disciples must have been saying to themselves, “What is going on here?”

If that were not enough, things have just gotten even weirder.  The women just discovered that Jesus body was missing.  Where was it?  Had someone stolen it?  They report this to the disciples.  But then they added an even more amazing piece of information: some of the women had reported seeing Jesus.  Wait, “What is going on here?”  Have these women lost it?  This cannot be happening.  The disciples must have been totally confused.

I imagine today some of you are also feeling confused.  You may be asking yourself, “What is going on here?”  Has everyone gone totally bonkers?  This is the 21st century.  A plague of epic proportions is not supposed to happen these days.  Things like this simply are not supposed to exist in this day and age.  Who would have even considered things like social distancing, sheltering in place, wearing face masks when you go out?  “What is going on here?”

Fortunately, we know what happened to the disciples.  The Bible records how the disciples navigated this new norm of theirs.  But their new norm has always been our norm.  We know nothing of what it was like before Jesus was crucified.  We lack an intimate knowledge of what life was like during Jesus time.  But today, we are learning something about it took for the disciples to adjust to a new norm.  But things did not end there, things continued to get stranger as time went on.  Yet, they got through it.  They did more than just get through it they thrived and grew and spread the word throughout the world.

As I look forward to the future, I see a new norm on the horizon for us.  How that will look, I don’t exactly know what the future will be like I cannot tell you right now, but what I do know is that our lives will be changed.  Some of the things we have started will continue to be a part of our lives.  Some of the changes will continue while others will go away after a while.  What’s more, is that we can expect more changes as we move on.  It took the disciples some time to figure things out and it will take us some time to figure out our new norm.  It will require trust.  The disciples had to trust and depend on each other and on the Lord to get them through.  We are going to have to depend on each other and we will need to be patient and wait on the Lord.  Just as God saw the disciples through their changing norms, he will also see us through our changing norms.

The disciples’ future was uncertain in those first days, weeks, and months, just as now, more than ever before, our future is uncertain.  The disciples had fears and doubts.  It was their fears that made them lock themselves in a small room and we all know Thomas as the doubter.  We too have fears and doubts, these feelings are to be expected.  But God has a plan.  He had a plan then and he has a plan now.  We will continue to question, “What is going on here?”  “Are we going through our own Easter?”  “Are we experiencing our own resurrection event?”  I cannot answer those questions, but what I can say is the same thing Jesus attempted to express to the disciples in their hour of greatest need: be patient, be vigilant, be prepared.

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