Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Pastor John Gosswein

The message of the Resurrection came as a surprise to the women at the tomb, disciples in a room, and ultimately to the world. Indeed, perhaps ‘Surprise!’ could be considered a good liturgical word for Easter to encourage Rejoicing Spirits. And if it is a celebration (or a ‘Surprise Party’), we are certainly invited to bring some party flavor and noise to the festivity! I encourage the use of party horns, noisemakers and whistles, although bubbles and streamers and pennants may be more appropriate for some RS participants needing a quieter celebration.

The intent is to allow all of us to experience the joyful surprise that the Resurrection offers in the face of our sorrows, fears, doubts, sense of unworthiness and failure. The Easter Gospel readings (for several weeks of the season) allow God’s surprise to challenge our human attitudes.

Here is an adapted reading of the Gospel message interspersed with moments of interaction and participation. While this works with one reader sharing the gospel lesson and another person ‘interrupting’ at the side, adapt this for your community. Each time “Surprise!” is said, let the group explode with noisemakers, horns and streamers. This example combines Mark 16:1-7a and John 20: 19-20, using the Contemporary English Version.

After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James bought some spices to put on Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just as the sun was coming up, they went to the tomb. On their way, they were asking one another, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance for us?”

INTERRUPTION: These women were sad, because Jesus, their friend, teacher, and Lord, had died. Show your sad face. We know how we feel when we lose somebody.

These people were also sad when they remembered they did not know what to do next – because there was a stone that would block their way. Let’s all remember how we also can feel confused just like the women on Easter.

How do you look when you are confused? Make your confused face. You do not know what to do next and you know that you can’t move that large rock, that problem that’s in your way.

But when they looked, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. And it was a huge stone!

INTERRUPTION: Surprise! The stone is rolled away! The people had thought there was no way for them to be near the body of Jesus, but they were SURPRISED to see they could go right in!

The women went into the tomb, and on the right side they saw a young man in a white robe sitting there. They were alarmed.

INTERRUPTION: Oh, we know how to look afraid! There are a lot of things that can make us afraid. We can be afraid when things are changed, and we don’t know what is coming next, or ...

The man said, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who was nailed to a cross. God has raised him to life, and he is not here. You can see the place where they put his body. Now go and tell his disciples...,

INTERRUPTION: SURPRISE! Do not be afraid! The young men proclaimed Jesus was alive, not dead! You, also, do not need to be afraid of the future. God raised Jesus to life and God will be ahead of you everywhere you go.

The disciples were afraid of the Jewish leaders, and on the evening of that same Sunday, they locked themselves in a room.

INTERRUPTION: Oh, now the disciples were afraid! Maybe they were afraid because they thought they had failed Jesus, and they felt unworthy. Sometimes when we are afraid, we close our doors ... and maybe ‘close our bodies’ by folding our arms, bowing our heads, becoming silent. The disciples were so afraid, they thought NOBODY could make them happy again.

Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the middle of the group. He greeted them 20 and showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they became very happy.

INTERRUPTION: Surprise! Jesus came into their closed room! Jesus showed them that he did die. They saw his hands and his feet and heard his greeting of peace. Wow! There is no area so ‘closed’ in our lives that Jesus cannot come and bring love and peace to us. That means we can CELEBRATE! SURPRISE, JESUS IS RISEN!