Psalm 150
Romans 12: 9-13
JOHN 20: 19-23

April 19, 2020 THE PANDEMIC YEAR

Think a moment … actually pause and listen a moment … can you hear the resounding shouts filled with joy? HE IS RISEN … HE IS RISEN INDEED?

Did you have the courage amidst our social isolation … amidst your quarantine … to open your door last Sunday and shout HE IS RISEN!!! Jesus Christ is Risen!! He LIVES!!!!

Shouting the Easter message is so good for our souls … HE IS RISEN … the SON OF GOD is ALIVE and doing quite well thank you! Friends … strangers … neighbors … family … I have some shouting to do … we have some shouting to do … to overwhelm the world with Easter’s message … it’s a message of love … it’s a message of hope … Paul wrote it in Romans “Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic … to be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord” … can you jump church? Can you clap your hands? Can you swing your shoulders in your wheelchair? Can you shine your best EASTER SUNDAY SMILE? Can you shout it out; dance it out; love it out loud … JESUS LIVES … GOD LOVES … Hope is alive through God … for you Bible purists out there … this is the Bible at its core … love and celebration not division for your sake or because you don’t like certain people for who they are in their image of God but joy because you get the love message! Taking on God’s love and dancing out into the streets … if you have breath PRAISE THE LORD as loud as you can!

My goodness friends the psalmist couldn’t be more clear … LET EVERY LIVING THING PRAISE THE LORD … even you heavy metal enthusiasts … PRAISE GOD WITH CLASHING CYMBALS!!!

So … wherever you are right now … old or young or in between … can you join me not quietly … not passively but energetically right now. … HE IS RISEN … let me hear you … HE IS RISEN … PRAISE GOD … shout it as loud as you can PRAISE GOD … JESUS LOVES … JESUS LOVES… I want our Zoom and Facebook feeds reverberating because of you and your voices … shock the folks next door … heck shock those you are with. And, smile as you shout the truth … HE IS RISEN … GOD LOVES … And, Jesus loves me! And, Jesus loves you … there is hope in that; there is a future in God’s arms.

Did you even consider opening your door last week to shout out your praise for God so that someone could hear you? Or, friends is that just a historic occurrence in your rear view mirror from some church service in the past … were you too afraid even amidst these days when loneliness is exasperating us … when isolation is touching us … when the times we are living through are more in need of love of God than at any time in our collective life times … when shouts of unity of a love message need to be heard because those ugly ugly voices of division can still be heard when we put our ears too close to the electronic monitors in our homes. Is it that hard to do what the Bible tells us to do … SHOUT … PRAISE and be ENTHUSIASTIC? LOVE all of our neighbors not just some?

Did you take the time to hear the concert last night … did you invest some of your moments in the moment when all three major networks said yes to unity … yes to love … yes to honoring the heroes who save lives? If you did you heard Stevie honor Bill Withers by proclaiming we can lean on this blind singer and to survive we must lean on each other … the reflection of the heroic work of our nurses, doctors, and medical teams who throughout the world are whispering to their patients … “lean on me when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend” all the while hoping that they can actually help their patients carry on. One person mentioned that for some the last loving face and voice they will ever hear is that of a medical team member they didn’t know but those docs and those nurses are bravely caring and loving strangers saying I love you.

But, the resonance of Bill Wither’s lyrics is a reminder to those of us who shouldn’t need a reminder … to those voices screaming let me go unprotected … open the flood gates to disease because its all about me … I think that this global pandemic has reached the point for each of us … at least for this pastor that “it won’t be long t’ill I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.” I am there right now … and I have a feeling some of you are too.

Jesus Christ did not come to divide the world friends … that might come as a surprise to some amongst the loud voices who seem intent to driving the stake into the heart of civilization by finding their power in being on one side rather than for all sides. We need to embrace each other … we need to be ready to be embraced and the greatest love of all time is there for the taking … its there for the living … we only need to make a decision of where do we go? Do we celebrate Him … do we shout HE IS RISEN for all to hear or do we consider it our little secret?

And, so on this first Sunday after Easter … I need to ask the question is EASTER in your rear view mirror of past holidays wrapped away neatly in your closet or have you discovered this Holy Season that you need the love of God as expressed by Jesus Christ more than ever before? That 365 every year you need to be an Easter person?

So, Stevie morphed Lean on Me right into Love’s in Need of Love today. If you get a chance today pause and listen to Stevie’s powerful song but last night we again heard him sing “LOVE’s in need of LOVE today … don’t delay … send yours in right away.” And, that’s where we are this morning … and the fact that we have kept that universal love buried in the tomb for all too long should make this Easter … the season when we unleash God’s truth with a renewed fervor … we are all in need of love to thrive … the message is clear … the Creator … God … Jesus Christ … you, me, and all of our neighbors … the healing comes with the love … recovery and progress require it. It takes and will take love … right away! And, then in each day to come … time to truly be the love generation don’t you think … I am tired of the division built upon name calling.

When John Legend’s fingers touched the piano keys last night and Ben E. King’s familiar melody began it was almost a prayer ‘When the night has come and the land is dark … and the moon is the only light we see …” then Sam Smith joined singing “No I won’t be afraid … no I won’t be afraid just as long as You stand by me.” You see, that love song for me is a prayer for all of us … if we allow God’s love in … you see friends this is an active role that we are required to take on … we can’t continue to ignore and deny and then wonder why God doesn’t lift us up … We need to call out to God just like the song … STAND BY ME … STAND BY ME … STAND BY ME …. Because God is answering us ‘Whenever you are in trouble STAND BY ME’’

It’s right there in the Gospel lesson of this day … the disciples were behind closed and locked doors … they were afraid … not a single one of them was sticking his head out to see the moon that night. But then Jesus came into their midst … Jesus the Christ … Jesus the Rabbi … Jesus the Friend … Jesus the Son of God … Jesus Savior to the World.

Church doesn’t just hearing the name Jesus make you want to shout and sing and praise … HE IS RISEN … HOSANNA HOSANNA in the HIGHEST!!! YES!! YES WORLD … I have a Savior who is alive .. GOD LOVES ME and GOD LOVES ALL ….

Oops, sorry about that … it’s just that the name Jesus should make us all happy and ready to shout and share and sing and praise … alright back to the history lesson. Have you ever felt isolated? Kept your doors shut so others couldn’t get it? Worn a mask in public … ok, you better be wearing a mask while keeping your social distance … back to the history lesson .. those disciples were afraid that night; they were afraid that if they stepped out from behind their locked doors that they might lose their lives.

So, Jesus stepped in. They had seen Him live through days, weeks, months… they knew He had died on the cross … He had taught them but through the Easter Resurrection as He came into the room and stood among them it was PEACE in the midst of trouble that Jesus brought. It was PEACE with a foundation of God’s love that Jesus delivered. And, in that peace Jesus was also providing a teaching moment for them and for us.

Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Forgive …” And, here we are today … God sent Jesus into that room to deliver peace that comes out of God’s love. But those of us who get that message have an assignment its to go out into the world and bring that loving peace to others.

Last night Jennifer Lopez sang the great Barbra Streisand song … “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world … we’re children needing other children … first be a person who needs people. “ And, I thought about those of us who have faith; who get God’s love through Jesus Christ … do we put the faith in front of us … do we showcase with enthusiasm the love we have experienced from the Holy … the hope for the future … or is it just something we just look back on? People need people of faith offering hope and love and forgiveness … people sharing what they have not hoarding it because that’s what Jesus taught to share; to love … the message of faith is not to build up our castles on earth and let others do for themselves … that’s the world’s teaching but Jesus reminded us again and again to love and to care for people … all people.

Paul in his letter to the early church in Rome made it clear … “Contribute to the needs of God’s people … welcome strangers into your home … bless people who harass you … love each other like members of your family; love should be shown without pretending. HATE evil and hold onto what is good. Be the best at showing honor to each other. Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic … be on fire in the Spirit AS … YOU. … SERVE … THE … LORD!”

Oh, and Paul says … “stand your ground when you are in trouble and devote yourself to prayer.” GOD SAYS ‘STAND BY ME … whenever you’re in trouble just STAND BY ME .. friends its Biblical … it’s part of our faith walk … SHOUT YOUR PRAISES … DANCE with JOY … PRAY because God is with us …

And, as last night’s concert ended from around the world the conclusion was prayer … together for the world not jealousy claiming separation but lovingly declaring WE ARE ONE … Jesus calls us to be in UNITY as one … let’s share the love so all can be one and they sang … from their corners of the world united not divided … Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Lang Lang, and John Legend. THE PRAYER

Oh Dio Che tutti sai, ricordati di noi … Oh God; you know everything, remember us. Teach us the way … we are your children the Light that You have. I pray you will be my light. Nei coure restera Remain in our hearts and watch us where we go. Help us to be wise when we lose our way. If You guide us You will save us. We dream of a world with justice and hope. Everyone give his neighbors a hand. Symbol of peace and fraternity the strength it gives to us. It is our desire that everyone finds love around and within itself. That is my prayer, we turn to You. It is the faith that You have rekindled in us. I feel it will save us.” Let this be our prayer …

I pray that the Easter of 2020 has rekindled in you the love of God … a love to share … a love directing you and each of us how to live … our opportunity of giving our neighbors hope and help as best we can. Being those people others know they can lean on no matter who they are, no matter what they look like and even no matter what they believe.

Through the love expressed on EASTER morning if we put our faith and the love we have experienced with God in front of us in our days to come we can change the world …

Right now let’s face it … we are all PEOPLE needing other people but if you are one of the people who have found God … know God … love God and have experienced God’s love through Jesus Christ then put that love out in front of you each day … let God’s Holy Spirit guide you in your life.

Now go and shout it out … dance it out … and find your joy in living for Jesus Christ sharing what you have with the world … after all that’s the Biblical thing to do!


© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ