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Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Erin Jean Warde

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Getting ready for Sunday (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8)

In this Sunday’s reading from 1 Thessalonians, we hear an explanation of what evangelism might look like.  We hear how the gospel approaches us, on the lips of servants.  We read this: “… though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”

I have both been a recipient of the care of a nurses and doctors, and I have visited enough hospitals to see others receiving the care of nurses and doctors.  Yes, this care can be tender, but can also be quite firm.  While a nurse may have a gentleness of spirit, an ease in conversation, and a true care for their patient, they have a directive to give the medicine and care prescribed.  And it is not prescribed by the patient, but by the doctors and nurses, who—in this situation—are trusted to know best.  In many cases of illness, we learn the adage “it will get worse before it gets better” in bodily form. 

The gospel can also approach us in this way.  The gospel is tender in its eternal love and comfort, but it is also quite firm in its conviction and call.  While we might be approached with gentleness of spirit, ease in conversation, and true care for one another, the gospel is not shy in its directive to transform the hearts of the world through the powerful truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  It is equally clear in its proclamation that we, too, face death before our resurrection.  And our baptismal covenant is not shy to call our entire lives, as individuals and as the Church, into this powerful and challenging gospel work.

1 Thessalonians also reminds us why—with all its challenges, with all its history, with all its complexity—we would continue to share the gospel at all.  Because “so deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.”

True evangelism, then, is a sacrificial act.  We continue to share this gospel, because we share in the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, like we also share in the great resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Evangelism is not a conversation, it is a conversion, but within it all parties are changed.  If we want to be evangelists in this age, encouraged by the weight of the water on our foreheads, we will have to be ready to give our own selves, knowing that when we share this profound gospel of love, it is because we need this gospel just as much as anyone else.  

We also must recognize that the gospel is not an empty collection of words; like Jesus became incarnate, the gospel must show up in our lives in both word and deed.  God calls me to share the truth of Jesus Christ, because I always need to hear it myself.  I cannot share the gospel if I do not confess my own sins, know my own brokenness, and recognize all others around me as my equals.  To do anything less would be giving, but not with my whole self.  I, too, need this tender gospel care, but I need the firm direction of the gospel just as much.  1 Thessalonians reminds me to love fiercely and to share out of that love sacrificially, and I must do so with the humility of a woman who first had to hear the gospel herself.

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Getting Ready for Sunday by The Rev. Erin Jean Warde

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From George Herber's poem "Easter" 

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But though was up by break of day,
And brought'st thy sweets along with thee.

Sunday March 27, Easter Sunday Year C—John 20:1-18

In the gospel of John’s account of the resurrection, Mary finds herself at the food of the tomb, grieving over the loss of Jesus.  We can imagine that she might be coming to the tomb this early morning as a part of thechevra kadisha, or the group of faithful Jewish people who prepare bodies for burial.  In Jewish belief, cleansing a body meant being made unclean, and by being made unclean one would place themselves on the margins of the power structure of their world, at least until they experienced the ritual cleansing that would restore them to wholeness once again.  Regardless of social rank, we can also imagine that this uncleanliness is a mark Mary is willing to take in order to honor the life and ministry of the Jesus that she loves and that she grieves.  This explains the shock of finding an empty tomb, and then telling the other disciples about his missing body.  In the very first part of today’s gospel, the disciples and Mary all see that the body of Christ is no longer in its tomb, and all but Mary are said to have believed, but then returned to their home.

Mary stays, and weeps.  I imagine her grief, as she realizes that the last act of honor she had prepared to give him, the act of cleansing his body for burial, has been taken from her.  As she talks back and forth with the angels, and the mysterious gardener whom she cannot recognize, she continues to ask and ask again for the body of Jesus.  It is possible that she is so blinded by a great desire for closure that could come through cleansing his body, that she cannot recognize Jesus standing in front of her.  Finally, Jesus calls her by name, and she knows who he truly is.  We see here a focus throughout the gospels: that while Jesus is focused on heavenly things, it is a struggle for Mary and for the disciples to see the truth of heavenly things.  In that moment, her focus was on his dying body, but finally she sees that he stands before her resurrected.  Additionally, she does not encounter the dead body of Christ that will make her unclean, and instead is made whole through his resurrected presence.

When Jesus enters the world as the resurrected Christ, he shows up first to Mary, a woman on the margins of society.  Just as he did in his ministry prior to death and resurrection, he calls the least of these to be the ministers of the gospel.  It is significant that in John’s account of the Easter story, it is a woman who proclaims the resurrection of Christ.  The words “Alleluia, Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia, Alleluia!” are uttered first by Mary, and through her ministry that truth is heard throughout the regions.

The Rev. Erin Jean Warde is the Associate Rector for Christian Formation at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration-Dallas.


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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.