2nd Sunday of Easter/April 15, 2020
Just these lines, my friends …
… to say that we have just celebrated the Easter of our lifetimes that may have been more like the first. Instead of rushing to the Church to celebrate the joy of Easter in the Sanctuary, we remained apart in our homes. Instead of lifting up our voices together with trumpets while we sang, “Christ the Lord is risen today,” we connected our devices to virtual Matthews United Methodist. Instead of dressing up and perhaps going to a restaurant to dine with friends, many remained in their pajamas while cooking for themselves. On the positive side though, you didn’t have to worry about finding a parking space or making it to your favorite pew before someone sat in your seat.
The resurrection of Jesus did not begin with a large gathering of Christians or was it accompanied by a choir and a majestic organ. No, it began with an empty tomb and fearful people. Easter 2020 is the Easter we pondered such emptiness and lingered over it. This is the Easter we let our Sanctuary and chancel space and choir loft remain utterly empty – not in despair, but in witness that lives were saved as we were doing so.
Easter came to the unsuspecting women early that morning as a surprise. God still surprises us with the full extent of His joy. We don’t take for granted the extent of God’s grace and how our hope is alive.
What the Resurrection Looks Like
All of us have heard of Habitat for Humanity. Some of us have heard of Millard Fuller, who started Habitat. Very few of us have heard of Clarence Jordan, who provided the inspiration that gave birth to Habitat.
Clarence was born in Georgia in 1912 and was raised Southern Baptist. His educational background was unique in that he studied agriculture and then became a New Testament scholar. To combine these two loves, he started Koinonia Farm. “Koinonia” is the Greek term used for “community” or “fellowship” in the New Testament. Amidst the poverty and entrenched racism in society and the church, Clarence’s vision was to create an interracial community that would provide support for those who were struggling.
Because Koinonia Farm brought together blacks and whites to work and worship together, there was tremendous backlash from the community. Threats of violence were routine. Gunfire was directed at the farm daily. Equipment was sabotaged. Crops were destroyed. Yet Clarence and the Koinonia community continued.
Finally, in an attempt to close the farm, people boycotted buying their produce. However, Clarence had the conviction of faith that they must not give up. Therefore, he started a mail order business to sell their pecans, and he added a touch of humor to their marketing. He created the slogan, “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia!” This captured the attention of all who knew their plight, and would save the farm. People from faraway places began purchasing their pecans to support their work.
Millard and Linda Fuller made a visit to Koinonia Farm in 1965, only intending to stay for a few hours. Instead, they were so inspired by what they found, they would eventually move there. Through their experience and the inspiration they found in Clarence, the dream of Habitat was born.
At this point you may be thinking that this is a great story but wondering what it has to do with the Resurrection. What is important to know is that Clarence was moved and motivated by the Resurrection. He said this: “The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellow-ship. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church.”
Clarence didn’t see the Resurrection as a thing of the past. He saw the reality of the Resurrection every day in the life-changing encounters people continue to have with Christ. He saw the reality of the Resurrection in Christians working together to resurrect hope, embolden faith, and spread love. In the Bible the Resurrection is never described. It’s almost as if it’s beyond our capacity to understand. But the Bible does point to the reality of the continuing presence of Jesus, and the way it is able to shape us, change us and transform us. As we celebrate Easter, may we all be reminded of the reality of the Resurrection and what it can look like in us and through each of us.
A Few Reminders
- We continue our Fixed Hour praying each day from Noon until 12:15 pm. We ask you to pray for your Church, community and world during these uncertain days. In addition, we offer this Fixed Action Prayer to use each time you wash your hands. Hopefully, we are all doing a lot of that, so I invite you to pray the following: “Help me, and my Church, O God, to be a source of hope and encouragement to all.”
- All of you are invited to a virtual Matthews United Methodist Town Hall Gathering via livestream on Wednesday, April 29, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm. This is an opportunity for our leaders and congregation to connect as a faith community and answer some of your questions about our Church. If you have a specific question, contact Beth at 704-815-1989 & leave a message.
- With estimates of 25-30 percent unemployment over the next few months, what can the church do to help? We are gathering volunteers to launch Matthews at Work. Its’ purpose is helping those who are out of work to polish resumes, interview skills in a virtual environment, appropriate dress, and other employment resources. We’re looking for experienced volunteers in this area and those with a desire to help. Please contact Kim Layton.
- Did you see the picture of my wife Karen on the front page of the Easter Sunday edition of The Charlotte Observer? Karen was taping your pictures on the pews of our Sanctuary. We have nearly 300 now taped on the pews of the Church and we would love to have many more. We want to fill the room with your pictures, so please take a selfie photo of you and yours and enjoy the fun making our Sanctuary space look full and vibrant. Here are your simple instructions: take a selfie (you and/or your family) and then email it to Beth Lynn with SELFIE PHOTO in the subject line.
This Sunday in Worship
I hope you’ll join us in worship at 9:30 am or 11:00 am on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. You can do so by clicking here.
There is an old Creed that says, God was literally hell-bent on love. Nothing – not death, not abandonment, not violence, not human arrogance or ignorance or fear, not Hell itself – could stop the love. What’s a global pandemic or a crumbling economy or a shattered heart got to say to that?
I’ve always loved these words from Teresa of Ávila:
God is always there, if you feel wounded. He kneels
over this earth like
a divine medic…
I love this picture of the divine medic, kneeling over this virus-riddled earth, a divine medic healing us. God is always there. Love is always there. Always.
Always going forward,
Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Did you know our Easter Worship Services have been viewed over 2200 times on YouTube?
Did you know Julia Sain is interpreting through sign language our services via FaceTime for Suzanne and Bob Schilling?
Did you know that our Stephen Ministers are ready to provide you with confidential, one-to-one, Christian care and support to help you get through a tough time. So don’t keep it all inside and struggle alone through these unusual times. Contact our Stephen Ministry Team by contacting Carolyn Perlman at 704-293-1063.
Did you know John Woodall, our Band Leader for the 9:30 hour of worship is singing at United: A Remembrance Program on April 30, a virtual event remembering the shooting last year at UNCC. The event pays tribute to Reed Parlier and Riley Howell, and honors all the students in the classroom that day of the shooting.