Easter Sunday–The Stone Is Rolled Away

By Mary Etta Copeland

This is the final post in our Lent/Easter series. To read past posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the tag cloud at the right.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…. As she wept…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus… but after hearing his words “Mary”, …she went to the disciples with the news ‘I have seen the Lord!’” (Selections from John 20: 1 – 18)

JESUS MAFA. Easter - Christ appears to Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48389 [retrieved March 6, 2017].

JESUS MAFA. Easter – Christ appears to Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48389 [retrieved March 6, 2017].

Throughout my just-completed 50 years as a choral director at the high school level, students became acquainted with my many quotations from a variety of sources. One with lasting impact comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Today we’ve arrived at a most significant point in our annual Christian pilgrimage, and while we celebrate amid great joy, the question to consider is what difference will this make in the coming year.

“Oh, my gosh! Look at all those Easter eggs,” said my four-year-old grandson, Jonny, as he looked out the window of a high-rise hotel. What those young eyes were seeing was not Easter eggs, but rows and rows of silk flowers marking graves in a cemetery. This memory from almost two decades ago brought two insights to my mind for this day of Resurrection: the excitement of what a child thought he saw, and the symbolism of the egg that we now recognize on this most holy of days.

While not specifically portrayed in the resurrection account, the egg has come to represent that huge stone blocking the tomb’s entrance and rolled away by the angels. I’m moved to recognize and admit to those stones which might be blocking the entry to living out God’s plans for our lives: stones of negative thoughts, such as “we’ve always done it this way,” or “what if it doesn’t work?” I am reminded of the distrust and fear we sometimes have of what God can and will do in our lives, churches, and AB Women’s Ministries Ministries groups; our blinded eyes and deafened ears to meanings of God’s plans and calls on our lives. I am reminded of the negative thoughts such as “I’ve done my share;” self-pride; indifference; selfishness…on and on come the echoes of stones blocking the living out of God’s call on our lives.

When we can actually recognize these stones blocking the fulfillment of God’s plans for each of our lives, in obedience to God’s call and with God’s leading, we can “roll the stones away!” With the same awesome excitement seen in the eyes and voice of a child, our lives can live forth that same echo…not just on Easter Sunday, but 365 days a year!

Mary Etta CopelandMary Etta Copeland is president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of the Central Region.

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Palm Sunday–Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

By Renée Langley

This is the sixth in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Morgner, Wilhelm, 1891-1917. Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54247 [retrieved March 6, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wilhelm_Morgner_001.jpg.

Morgner, Wilhelm, 1891-1917. Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54247 [retrieved March 6, 2017]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wilhelm_Morgner_001.jpg.

Matthew 21: 1-11; Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

“Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This shout of praise is found in Psalm 118, as well as in the Gospels. In Matthew the people proclaim this when Jesus enters Jerusalem. It is a celebratory moment when the people recognize and receive their King. It is the culmination of the sentiment found in Charles Wesley’s Advent hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

For all of us who have waited to hear from God, who have longed for a sign of hope in troubled times, it is a word of liberation to be able to say, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

But we who are followers of Jesus Christ also know that the joy of Palm Sunday will be followed by challenges to Jesus’ authority, his arrest and trial, his crucifixion and death – all in the space of less than a week from the cheers of this glad day! Such is the sad story of humanity, that joy can be turned to sorrow, that victory can be turned to defeat, that life can turn to death.

Of course, Good Friday is not the end of the story, either! Beyond the seeming defeat of Jesus comes the great good news that he is triumphant even over death. Perhaps we judge too quickly the people who shouted, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” on Palm Sunday. They did not fully understand who this “prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” really was. None of us comes to faith in Jesus fully mature, completely understanding what Jesus means to us. The development of faith and comprehension always takes time.

So, as imperfect followers of Jesus, let us lift up our praises this day to the One that came gently into Jerusalem, and let us celebrate that this day is filled with joy for the coming of the Savior, the King, into his own. Like the people that saw Jesus over two thousand years ago, we do not understand everything that he is and that he represents. But we can shout with others across time and space, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

renee-langleyRenée Langley is president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Michigan.

Fifth Sunday of Lent: Focusing on What’s Important

By Meghan Cubbison

This is the fifth in a series of posts for Lent. Click on “Lent” in the tag cloud on the right to see other posts in the same series. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get updated posts delivered straight to your inbox or feed reader.

Based on Romans 8:6 (NIV)

National Gathering for Girls 2016

Being a girl who ministers to girls in a society like ours comes with its own victories and challenges, especially when teaching others about self-confidence when you have none. Even when I was asked to apply for the convening position of the AB GIRLS National Leadership Team, I often compared myself to past convenors, convincing myself that “I could never do that.”

Growing up in a Christian home, Lent was always something I was aware of and at least thought I understood. But looking back on my later childhood, I see that it was more of a game to me to see what I could give up the longest, rather than using it to reflect on Christ and my personal relationship with him.

This year, I seemed to go down a road that is becoming more traveled than not, by taking something on rather than giving things up; because, let’s face it, I usually make it a week before giving into my normal cravings of chocolate or soda. Plus, being a senior in high school I wanted to do something that actually meant something to me. So, having been struggling with a lot of negative self-talk lately, I took on the challenge of trying to find a new positive thing about myself.

In all reality, I think many of us are guilty of falling short by trying to conform our minds and the way we see ourselves to the world’s standards. But I’ll tell you from personal experience, this rarely makes the case better. For instance, when I try to work out in order to fit into a certain piece of clothing my friends will like, I usually give up within the first 30 minutes; I have no true motivation. The same thing is applicable during the Lenten season. If we go with “norms” of giving up soda or chocolate because we feel obligated to participate, we aren’t taking advantage of this time set aside for us to grow in our faith. So, instead, it’s important that we focus on what’s really important during this time: our relationship and understanding of God, and then we will be transformed by God’s spirit.

Meghan Cubbison is the 2016-2017 convenor of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS, American Baptist Women’s Ministries. This is her second year of service on the team.