I don’t think the importance of Easter can be overstated. It is the pivotal moment in human history. In his resurrection, Christ conquered death and offers to us the gift of eternal life. The resurrection represents to us the moment that all of our sins were forever wiped clean. It proclaims to us that God loves us unconditionally. It tells us that there is no length to which God would not go to be in relationship with us. It fills us with an unquenchable hope; a hope that is even present in the most tragic or challenging of circumstances. It reminds us that God is ultimately in control of God’s creation.
But we came close to never hearing about it! According to the Gospel of Mark (the earliest of all the Gospels), three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for final burial. The women wonder aloud who will roll the stone away for them, since it was so heavy. But when they got there, the discovered the stone had already been rolled away. And when they looked into the tomb, they saw an angel who told them, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
The women, we are told, “fled the tomb trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” [Mark 16:8] That’s the original ending to Mark’s Gospel. Apparently, the amazing news of Jesus’ resurrection was almost kept secret. But at some point, the women must have found their voice, because almost 2000 years later, we continue to celebrate the resurrection as the most important point in human history.
I wonder how much like the women we are? Do we hesitate to share the amazing good news of Jesus’ resurrection because we are afraid—afraid of what others will think about us; afraid of what others will say about us; afraid we will be rejected? It is a pretty outlandish story after all.
But we are also our own proof of the truth of the resurrection. As it was with the disciples, it is the change in our lives that testifies to the reality of the resurrection. The unquenchable hope, the peace that passes understanding, the joy that is not dependent upon our circumstances—all these things bear witness to the reality of the resurrection and to the difference Jesus makes in our lives.
And so this year let the Easter story sink deep into your heart and bones. Let it continually transform you. And don’t keep this good news to yourself. Find your voice. Tell your story. There are many, many people in our society who need the hope, joy, and peace that only Jesus can offer them. But how will they ever hear about it if we don’t share it with them? Share your story with someone. Introduce them to Jesus. They will be eternally grateful.
Sermon Texts, Themes, and Titles for April
We strive to make worship meaningful, relevant, and challenging each and every Sunday. You are challenged to make worship a regular part of your life. You are invited to take some time to read the Scripture and reflect on the passages before each worship service.
April 1st: Is There Hope? This is Easter Sunday. The Scripture passage will be Mark 16:1-8 and the theme will be the hope for life and even hope in death that Jesus Christ’s resurrection gives us.
April 8th: Thomas, Noah’s Ark, and the Shroud of Turin! The Scripture passage will be John 20:19-31 and the theme will be belief in the resurrection.
April 15th: Good Signage! The Scripture passage will be Acts 3:12-19 and the theme will be using our God-given gifts to point to Christ.
April 22nd: The Good Shepherd The Scripture passage will be John 10:11-18 and the theme will be the sacrificial love of Jesus.
April 29th: A Package Deal! The Scripture passage will be 1 John 4:7-21 and the theme will be loving God and one another.
Worship is a vital part of a growing and vibrant faith. So make sure you attend on a regular basis. And bring a friend or two with you. It’s a great way to introduce someone to Jesus.
New District Superintendent for the Crest to Coast Missional District: Rev. Kathleen Weber
Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky intends to appoint the Rev. Kathleen Weber to serve on the Pacific Northwest and Greater Northwest Area cabinets as District Superintendent for the Crest to Coast Missional District, beginning July 1, 2018. She will be the first superintendent of this newly formed district comprising all of the churches in the current Vancouver District and fifteen churches from the southern end of the Tacoma District.
A second generation United Methodist pastor, Rev. Weber received her Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology in 2003 and her first appointment in 2005 as associate pastor to Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church. In 2011, she accepted her current appointment as pastor to Trinity United Methodist Church in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. In that missional context, Weber also serves on the Ballard Food Bank’s board and on the Community Advisory Committee for Nickelsville Ballard, a city sanctioned tent encampment. She is married to Dr. Danae Dotolo.
Centralia First UMC's Strategic Plan
Vision: To practice extravagant hospitality and live out the radical inclusivity that Jesus Christ modeled for us so that all persons find a safe harbor in this church.
There are so many people in our community who have felt unwelcomed by the church in general. Particular subgroups (LGBT and those who struggle with mental illness for example) have been judged and condemned, and often feel that the church is an enemy as opposed to a source of comfort and support.Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly reaching out and incorporating into his ministry the disenfranchised and marginalized.His unconditional love and acceptance of others was the catalyst of reconciliation and transformation.
Our target audience is all those who have felt unwelcomed by the Church, as well as the millennial generation who do not see homosexuality as a sin. Given the progressive nature of this vision, those of a more liberal mindset would also be targeted.
One of the first action steps would be for us to launch a study on officially becoming a Reconciling Congregation. The Reconciling Ministries Network only has one official step in becoming a reconciling congregation, and that is to craft a welcoming statement.After the church officially adopts this welcoming statement, individuals would be given the opportunity to declare themselves Reconciling United Methodists.
A second action step in this plan is to rework our published information regarding our church to reflect this change. Newsletters, websites, Facebook page, brochure, etc. would all have to be updated.
A third action step is to establish and nurture a deepening relationship with the student body at Centralia College. In order to reach out to the millennial generation, we would take advantage of our close proximity to Centralia College.Some actions steps include strengthening our connection with the College by holding a Pastor Chat type gathering on a weekly basis at the new Student Union building upon it’s completion.
Another action step is to erect a chalkboard of some sort that engages the students in thought-provoking ways. For example, on the chalkboard are printed, “My Biggest Regret…” and people are invited to share their thoughts.At another time, the words, “Love is…” are printed on the chalkboard, and students are again asked to share their thoughts.This could be an ongoing interaction.Results would be posted on our Facebook page as well as our website.
The timeline for these action steps vary. The goal of becoming a Reconciling Congregation can begin immediately so that it is completed by the end of January 2017.
The chalkboard outreach is in process and should be up by the end of 2016.
And as soon as the TransAlta Student Commons is completed (scheduled to be done by September 2016) we will begin to hold our Pastor Chats there. The hope is to offer the students an opportunity to meet and get to know the pastor, and maybe even engage the pastor in some theological conversation.Hopefully, these contacts will eventually lead to more millennials worshipping in our church.
Benchmarks we will be striving to meet include a greater participation from the LGTQ community in the life of the church.
Another benchmark will be increased participation in worship, outreach, missions, etc. from the millennial generation. The millennial generation is defined as people born between 1977 and 1994.
The stakeholders include the pastor and all the leadership team. They will be primarily responsible for carrying out and sharing this vision.
Most of the action steps do not require any additional funds.
We will begin by sharing our vision with the rest of the leadership team. Their buy in will be key.We will also use publications such as our newsletter to communicate the plan to the congregation.Our website and Facebook page will also be key in spreading the word.