April 1, 2018

By Bishop Grant Hagiya, Los Angeles Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church

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 […] Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

In reading this passage anew, I am struck by the place “fear and being afraid” is mentioned in the passage: four times! Either the folks are in fear or being told: “do not be afraid” again and again. Death has that power over us, and fear is a natural reaction. Not much has changed from the time of Jesus to now, for there is widespread fear across our globe, and leaders are manipulating from the standpoint of fear.

Our global ecological crisis, the rise of intolerance and Neo-Nazism, school shootings, nuclear war, and the possibility of violence in our own neighborhood has created an atmosphere of fear. Because our fears are so great, leaders are using it as a manipulation strategy to election and pushing for their own agendas. Instead of “do not be afraid,” we are being told “be very afraid, and I have the answer that will make you safe.”

Unfortunately, no human being can enable our safety, and the only one who we can turn to who has such power is God. This is why this passage is so striking, for God through an angel and Jesus himself says again and again: “Do not be afraid.”

Why are we not to be afraid? Because Jesus has been resurrected, and in such an act, death itself is conquered and new life awaits for all. This is the good news that we have been waiting for. This is the culmination of our story: Christ lives, and because he lives, we will live also!

Notice the line in verse 8: the women leave the tomb “with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.” Their fear does not leave them, but they are also filled with great joy. None of us can eliminate fear from our lives, but as Christians we also carry with us the great joy that is Jesus Christ.

What remains for us is to run and tell the world why we are filled with great joy. It remains our mission and our hope.

Prayer: O Loving Lord, as we are filled with both fear and great joy, enable us to love despite our fear, and move us to act because of our great joy. Remind us not be to be afraid, and let us share our great joy to the world. Amen.



March 31, 2018

By Rev. Myron Wingfield, Executive Director of Connectional Ministries, California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church

Matthew 27:57-66

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. (vs. 61)

Begin by letting that simple, silent scene take shape and sink in. Then read the entire passage – Matt. 27:57-66 – and I think you will note how starkly that one line sits there all by itself, like the two Marys, sitting there all by themselves in the middle of this story.

In a 1993 interview, Cornel West (author, activist, and professor at Harvard Divinity) shed some light on this Mary and Mary scene for me. He was asked by the interviewer, “What does your deep religious belief say to you when you see…cruelty and crimes against humanity?” West replied, “Well, as you know, this is the Easter season. I speak as a Christian. I look at the world through the eyes of the cross and I see the blood that flows. I see the death with no dignity. I see the soldiers making fun of the person who died. I see the loss of hope. I see the darkness…on that good Friday…and yet…even given that Saturday, with Easter possibilities seemingly foreclosed or held at arm’s length…and yet…there are the small victories: those who get up every morning and love their children, project a future, those…who are struggling against the grain, the Davids against the Goliaths….”

Seven years later, in yet another interview, West described himself as “a Christian who is wrestling with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.” He said, “Most American Christians are post-resurrection Christians….In other words, they’re concerned with the winner….We have to come to terms with the relative impotence of good. We are looking for some power, we’re lured by some possibility, but Good Friday is real…and that Saturday…was real….” To be a Saturday Christian, he says, is “to wrestle with the distress, the death, disease, despair on that Saturday, looking for possibility by means of stepping out on nothing and landing on Something [capitalization of Something mine].” Mary and Mary were the first SaturdayChristians.

Martin Marty, another great thinker and a generally hopeful person, was approaching the Christmas season several years ago and found himself feeling hopeless and complaining among friends about the depressing state of the church and the world. One of his good friends reminded him that another great thinker, Pascal, once said something to the effect that the church lives best and most faithfully when it has nothing in the body of hard evidence, nothing in the sociological, political, or economic data, on which to rely for hope, and must lean instead and entirely on the promises of God. And a funny thing happened – Marty turned to begin reading the Christmas letters and cards he and his wife had received that season. He writes, “Alongside stories of death, depression and debilitation there were newsy stories about college kids who are not binge drinkers but binge volunteers. About missionaries who have spent years quietly caring for AIDS orphans….About pastors [and congregations] being of real service to God’s children in out-of-the-way places.” He continued, “As I read these letters, I found no reasons for optimism, but I did found reason for hope. In the promises of God, on which the church and the people rely, there is reason for hope – a little, innocent, lower-case hope, but still hope.”

And that is why today we read, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”

Suggestion for Prayer: Sit quietly with Mary and Mary, listening and watching for the yet Unheard and yet Unseen.