The Lenten Journey that takes us from the time of temptation to the glorious day of resurrection has a way of so focusing our attention that the Sunday after Easter can seem almost anti-climactic. But, Easter has just begun. The message of resurrection continues to demand a hearing -- and in this set of readings that David Ackerman provides for us in Beyond the Lectionary, we are reminded that the message of Easter is one of liberation. So, here we have a reading from Exodus that speaks of God's act of liberation of the slaves in Egypt. We have the story of a man who cannot walk being freed to walk again -- and standing in contrast to these messages is one that seeks to prevent the message of liberation from going out. In a passage that comes just before the Great Commission those who had a vested interest in keeping Jesus dead make sure the soldiers assigned to guard the tomb have the message straight -- no resurrection! So which message will we choose -- liberation or bondage?
“God Sets Us Free”
Call to Worship: Psalm 18:1-6 NRSV
One: I love you, O Lord, my strength.
Many: The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
One: I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.
Many: The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
One: In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.
Many: From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Gathering Prayer: With the echoes of Easter still in our ears, we gather to celebrate Jesus’ glorious resurrection. Help us to bear witness to the good news that you deliver us from everything that would keep us from you.
Confession: How quickly we forget and turn away from the good news of Easter! Our shouts of “Alleluia” get muffled by the noise of life, and we find ourselves living as though your resurrection did not matter. Forgive us and change us, so that we might see that you are our deliverer who sets us free from all evil and oppression.
Assurance: We believe in a God who is greater than our sin and who has won victory over death and the grave. Because of this astonishing news, we are free to live as people transformed by the power of the gospel. Let us breathe deeply, then, and give thanks for the new life God gives us this day.
Scriptures: Exodus 5:22-6:13; 7:1-6 – “God Sends Moses”
Acts 3:1-10 – “A Man Unable to Walk Is Healed”
Matthew 28:11-15 – “The Report of the Guard”
Commentaries and sermon helps are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- Do you think that God hardens people’s hearts or executes violence on nations as suggested in the book of Exodus? If not, how do you think God delivers people from oppressive situations?
- Have you ever tried to use the name of Jesus with authority (like Peter in Acts 3) in order to heal someone? Did it work? What do we do if Jesus doesn’t answer our prayers or heal people the way we expect? Does it mean that we have to try harder or that we lack faith? Is God not real if things don’t work out for us the way they seem to in the Bible?
- Why do you think that Matthew’s account of the report of the guard in chapter 28 would have been important to early Christians? How is the silence commanded by the authorities in vv 11-15 different from what the risen Jesus commands in vv 18-20?
- Can you think of a time when you were trapped, forbidden to speak about something, or were physically in need of deliverance? Did God set you free from that situation? What was that like? Are you still struggling with something like this? How might God free you?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: You have indeed saved us, God, and given us purpose in our lives. Thank you, God, for the gift of your grace, which changes everything.
Benediction: We are a people of resurrection sent out into the world to be messengers of new life and hope. Let us go now, as we celebrate the freedom we have through our risen Savior, Jesus. Amen.