Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter 2021

 April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday

(Colossians 3:1-11; John 20:1-9)

She checks her social media around 10 times a day. Twitter and Facebook are her main sites, but she also looks at Google for news. Since the start of the pandemic, her habit has increased significantly.

“I’m a doom-scroller,” she admits to the Healthline website. Yes, this 26-year-old speech therapist confesses that she has a problem. Doom-scrolling is a new term used to describe the act of endlessly scrolling down news apps, Twitter, and social media, reading all the bad news. “The pandemic has exacerbated these habits in many ways,” says a New York psychologist, “including the fact that there is no shortage of doomsday news.”

If doom-scrolling is part of your daily routine, you are not alone. Twitter use has jumped 24 percent since the start of the pandemic last year, and Facebook is up 27 percent.

The problem with this habit is that it can lead to higher stress. We think that keeping up with the latest news will lessen our anxiety, but it increases it. Doom-scrolling is an “unsatisfying addiction,” says one clinical psychologist. Instead of making us feel safer, it raises our level of fear, anxiety and stress.

But we are not the first to experience this. Journalists admit that they have been doing it for years, and the three women who visited the tomb on Easter morning were some of the very first doom-scrollers.

Mark tells us that when the Sabbath was over, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”

What were they feeling? Doom and gloom. Their Messiah had been killed in a humiliating death on a cross. His body had been laid in a cave-like tomb, and a large stone had been rolled against the door. They were feeling grief over the death of Jesus, stress about the future, and anxiety about how they would remove the stone.

As they were walking along, they had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” Anxiety is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come, and that’s exactly what the women were experiencing. Many of us have felt this way over the past year. Minute by minute, their mental health was eroding. But when they arrived, “they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.”

Their doom-scrolling was met by an act of stone-rolling. Finally, some good news!

But as “they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.” They didn’t expect to see anyone, (other than their dead Messiah, of course) so they were startled. The man said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised.” Their doom-scrolling had been focusing on bad news, but the words of the young man gave them reason to hope.

Then the man told them to go “tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” The young man changed their focus from doom and gloom to a new possibility for the future. He promised them that Jesus was going ahead of them, and that they would see Him in Galilee.

So the women fled the tomb, filled with terror and amazement. Since negative emotions can be hard to overcome, Mark admits that “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Yes, the fear that had been gripping them was not easy to throw off. It took time. And what was true for them is also true for us.

You can turn off Twitter with the flip of a switch. But escaping doom and gloom is not always that simple.

Experts say that the solution to doom-scrolling is to break out of the “vicious cycle of negativity.” That’s the message for the women and for us, when we see large stones in our path and feel alarmed. The good news of Easter is that God has acted in our lives to break the cycle of negativity. We are invited today to see that the stone has already been rolled back, to believe that Jesus has been raised, and to focus on the future where our risen Lord is ahead of us and waiting for us.

And so, the stone is gone, the barrier has been broken down. Most of us have fears about the future, and we often focus on worst-case scenarios. This was what the women were doing as they approached the tomb, fixating on the enormous stone that they feared was going to block them from entering the tomb and anointing the body of Jesus.

However, fear is always worse than reality. “Our brains are crazy,” writes Tyler Tervooren in HuffPost. “Every day they lie to us about how terrible things are or how bad they’re going to be, but when we finally ignore the fear [we] realize everything’s pretty much okay, the world will keep turning, and we’re going to survive.”

Yes, the world will keep turning, and God will keep working. The women were so afraid of the stone that they never dreamed that God would take action to roll it away. Their brains were lying to them about how terrible things were and how bad things were going to be. But then God replaced their doom-scrolling with stone-rolling. (I bet that scared the posted guards! Must have, because they were no longer there!)

God will do the same for each of us. So, don’t let your brain convince you that the stone you fear will always stand in your way. Don’t let your brain lie to you. Since God is always at work, fear is worse than reality.

We need to open our eyes and see that Jesus is no longer dead. The young man in the tomb sensed that the women were not going to believe what he was saying, so he invited them to see for themselves. Jesus “is not here,” said the man. “Look, there is the place they laid him.”

Jesus is not here, dead in the tomb. See for yourself. Instead, He is alive in people who are showing His grace, His love, His forgiveness, His healing and His justice. Jesus is alive and well whenever a stranger is welcomed, a child is loved, a friend is forgiven, a patient is healed and an injustice is made right.

Resurrection is not stuck in history, but a reality at every time. The risen Christ, is saving and healing, here and now, and touching every place and time. Jesus comes into contact with human suffering whenever it is experienced. In the face of today’s racism and violence, Jesus suffers still, yet loves the more. 

Jesus is not dead in the tomb. Instead, He is found in His followers who act with justice, love and praise. Open your eyes, and see that Jesus is alive and well in you, and in the people around you.

We are challenged to look to the future, not to the past. Our risen Lord Jesus is not simply with us — He is ahead of us as the man told the women, always ahead of us, calling us into the future that He is preparing for us. Our job is to figure out where Jesus is leading us, and to follow Him there. Something we need to seek urgently in a time of sorrow and unknown.

Doom-scrolling traps us in a vicious cycle of negativity that fuels our anxiety. “Our minds are wired to look out for threats,” says Dr. Amelia Aldao, who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. “The more time we spend scrolling, the more we find those dangers, the more we get sucked into them, the more anxious we get.” But what if we replaced a vicious cycle with a virtuous cycle? What if we turned away from threats and looked for possibilities? This is what Jesus was doing by moving ahead of his disciples to Galilee, and what He is doing by going ahead of us today. Jesus is rolling away stones and calling us forward.

I like to think that my daily hour of prayer each day, mixed with Lectio Divina, is a way of setting my mind in a more positive set of thoughts. I have always recommended some form of daily structured prayer. You would be surprised how the Holy Spirit interacts with you!

Let’s move toward new possibilities for deeper connections with family members and friends, new possibilities for vital ministry and mission in the church, and new possibilities for justice and righteousness in our community and nation.

We don’t have to focus on doom and gloom. Not with the stone rolled away and our Lord calling us forward.

Let us pray.

That the joy of Easter will infuse the church with energy to proclaim God’s good news. We pray to the Lord.

That all nations of the world will act to protect the precious gift of life. We pray to the Lord.

That all for whom this Easter is not joyful will know they are not alone and will experience Christ’s compassionate presence. We pray to the Lord.

That all gathered here will be filled with the strength of Christ’s Spirit and will seek out creative ways to witness to the resurrection. We pray to the Lord.

That those who seek justice may find it in the transformation of hearts, minds, and our institutions. We pray to the Lord.

That we maintain the patience, vigilance, and understanding necessary to keep us safe during the pandemic, and for a speedy and equitable distribution of the vaccines. We pray to the Lord.

For all those who give of themselves so that others may be helped – doctor, nurse, healthcare worker, EMT, police officer, firefighter, grocer, trucker, store clerk, mail carrier, takeout cook, hospital and building cleaner, teacher, childcare worker, mental health professional, and countless others.  May they receive your protection as they serve. For those who have died and whose names are listed in this week’s church bulletin. May they celebrate everlasting life in Christ Jesus. We pray to the Lord.

We gather, O God, in your presence to rejoice in the light of the empty tomb. The stone has been rolled away, both from the mouth of the tomb and from the depths of our hearts. During this difficult time, we have been trying to live in the power of the risen Christ. We also have tried to grow daily in the presence of our risen Savior.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.                    

We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.

Some of us, too, have suffered a long winter of the soul. We have struggled to breathe in the chill wind of adversity. We have been unable to grow anything in the barren fields of doubt and fear. We have trembled and shivered as we have struggled to sense the warmth of your love. We come to the empty tomb with an expectant hope in our hearts and the prayer of faith on our lips. We are confident that you are about to do a new thing, O God. We believe that the stone, which we struggle to move ourselves, is about to be blown out of its ruts. We look for an encounter with the risen Christ, and to that end we bow in worship, and worship in wonder, and wonder in faith, and have faith in you. We ask all these things, as we always do, through Christ, Your Son and our Lord. Amen.

Happy Easter! God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San. Diego, CA

Please help if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++