Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Jer. 31:1-6; Ps 118:1-2, 14-24; Col. 3:1-4; John 20:1-18

This week, Daryl’s sister Judy Kiel visited us from Raleigh, North Carolina, along with her husband Paul and children Jackson and Erin. We did a whirlwind tour of sites in Jordan and Palestine.

Erin and Jackson Kiel enjoy a moment with a cat on the Mt. of Olives

It was wonderful to introduce our family to our friends and life in the Middle East. In Palestine, we were able to visit the Garden of Gethsemane and walk the Via Delarosa during Holy Week – along with thousands of pilgrims from around the world. Ironically, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank were denied access to participate in Holy Week events in Jerusalem.

Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before being arrested

We celebrated Easter sunrise service with 150 Christians on Mt. Nebo, which offers an incredible view of the Jordan Valley and Palestinian West Bank.

In the region this week, Yemen’s president agreed to step down within the next 30 days after weeks of anti-government protests. The situation in Syria deteriorated rapidly this week. More than 80 persons were killed in demonstrations on Friday and Syrian security forces killed another 12 persons during funeral processions on Saturday.

Sunset over the ruins of Emmaus, where Jesus walked after his resurrection

The Common Lectionary readings for this Easter week are about new life and second chances.

In the Old Testament reading, Jeremiah writes that God’s love is everlasting and God’s faithfulness is continuous (Jer. 31:3). Even though God’s people are unfaithful, God offers grace in the wilderness (v.2), the opportunity to again celebrate (v.4) the chance to re-plant vineyards (v.5) and the occasion to again worship in Jerusalem (v.6).

The psalmist acknowledges that God has punished him severely but has not delivered him over to death. “I shall not die, but I shall live,” declares the psalmist, “and recount the deeds of the Lord.” (Ps. 118:17-18)

In the Epistle reading, Paul says that we have died with Christ and now we have been raised with Christ. In our new life, we are to set our minds on “things that are above” and to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col. 3:1-4, 12)

In the Gospel reading Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb on Easter morning only to find it empty. As she weeps, the risen Jesus meets her in the garden and tells her to announce his resurrection to the disciples (John 20:1-18).

Stories of injustice, violence and death grab the headlines every day. On this Easter Sunday, however, we pause to proclaim that none of these painful realities will have the last word. In God’s order, justice replaces injustice, the way of the cross exposes violence as impotent, and resurrection triumphs over death. The Lord is risen indeed!

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