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Worship and Sermons
April 12, 2020

“Meet You in Galilee” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, April 12, 2020, Year A / Easter – Jeremiah 31:1-6  •  Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24  •  Colossians 3:1-4  •  John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

THEME:  Let the power of God’s Easter love take us to wherever Jesus calls us to share his love.


As a child growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was fascinated by cartoons.  My favorites were the classic Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes:  Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzalez and the Road Runner. 

Every once in a while, when I got bored, I would switch the channel to see what else was on.  One day, I came across a children’s show that stood out from all the rest.

The main character was a man wearing a  cardigan sweater and sneakers.  In stark contrast to the animated slapstick antics of the cartoons I was used to, this man interacted primarily with a series of puppets on a set that looked like a miniature version of the set for a high school musical.

Instead of getting laughs by bashing each other on the head, he and his puppet characters, and the odd adult guest or two, were kind and gentle with each other.  And they took kids seriously.  They would talk about children and their feelings with a sincerity and empathy I’d never seen before on TV, certainly not on a program geared directly to kids. 

Pretty soon, I realized he was a remarkable man.  He was, of course, Mister Rogers.  If you have seen the recent movie about his life starring Tom Hanks, then you already know a bit about his background. 

As a child growing up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Fred Rogers was probably the last person you would expect to work in front of the camera.  He was a serious introvert, overweight and lonely.  In order to entertain himself growing up,  he made hand puppets with whom he would interact as a ventriloquist.

In 1963, Fred was ordained a Presbyterian pastor.  But his calling was not to serve a church – his calling was to television.

As he later said in an interview,  "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who watch and listen."

And for 33 years as the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that is exactly what he did.  Sesame Street taught kids about letters. The Electric Company taught them about numbers.  Mister Rogers taught them about emotions and how to deal with them.  That was the mission Christ called him to.  And Christ was clearly present with him, and in him, as he did.

That’s exactly what Jesus has in mind for his disciples on the very first Easter morning.

Of the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection, Matthew’s is the one you would most want to make into a movie.  It’s by far the most dramatic.

It’s dawn on the third day following Jesus’ crucifixion.  Two women, both named Mary and both followers of his, arrive at the tomb as just the sky begins to lighten.  Suddenly, there’s an earthquake.

Just as suddenly, an angel appears, bright white, like a flash of lightening.  The women watch in stunned amazement as the angel rolls the stone away before their very eyes.

But they’re not the only ones there.  Two Roman guards have been standing watch all night.  It’s been dull duty, but it’s important.  They are there to make sure none of Jesus’ followers steal his body and then later claim he was resurrected.

Now that the angel has rolled the stone away, the guards are mortified.  What’s happening? Is the angel going to let Jesus out?  Little do they know Jesus was up and gone long before.  No stone was ever going to hold him in.

All this is too much for the women. They’re speechless with terror and amazement.  But the angel reassures them.  He knows why they’ve come.  And he gives them good news:  Jesus is risen, just as he said.

After a quick look inside the tomb, they see that Jesus has indeed gone – gone ahead of them all to Galilee.  And that’s where he will meet his followers. 

That’s the message the angel gives them.  He tells them to pass it on to the disciples.  Just to make sure they get it, Jesus himself appears to the two Marys on the way back.  He gives them the same message.  “Meet me in Galilee!” And off he goes.

If you listen carefully, you can hear a certain urgency in Jesus’ voice.  It’s as if he doesn’t have any time to waste.  There’s work to be done back home where all of them are from.  He’s in a hurry to do it.

But that’s really not so strange.  That’s just how Jesus operates.  He gives us the assurance we need that, although he was once dead, he is very much alive and with us now.  But, before we can get caught up in that miracle, he’s already giving us a mission.  And he promises to meet us there.

Sometimes I wonder if we misunderstand Easter.  We rejoice in Jesus’ victory over death, and – quite rightly – we rejoice in the new life he makes possible, for everyone who believes in him.  But if that’s where we think Easter ends, we’ve missed a big part of Jesus’ message.

Easter does not end with the Resurrection.  The resurrection is just the beginning of Easter.  As he did with his disciples, Jesus calls you and me to go on a mission, his mission.

For the disciples, the mission was evangelism. They were to go to Galilee, land of the gentiles, to spread the good news of God’s love there.

Eventually, they all make their way back to Jerusalem for Pentecost.  But, in the meantime, there’s work to be done, missionary work. “Go and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus tells them.  And that’s what they do.

The resurrection gives them hope that their mission is possible.  Christ gives them the direction and inspiration to do it. 

Friends, that’s how it is for you and me, too.  If God can breathe new life into Christ’s dead body, then he can breathe new life into you and me, and all those he wants us to serve.

As Fred Rodgers once said, “I can't imagine more surprising places for God to appear than a manger or a cross. Yet all through his life and resurrection, Jesus demonstrates the power of showing and sharing God's love.”

That’s the power of the Easter story.  And, like the disciples on their mission in Galilee, we take that power with us to do the missionary work he calls us to do, sharing God’s love with others.

So, where is your Galilee?  Where does Christ want you to serve him?

For those of us who work in “essential businesses” where our physical presence is required, Galilee may very well be our workplace.  That’s no easy task in these uncertain times.

 Every day, along with your usual work stress, you deal with the fear of infection.  And you’re working alongside others who share that fear.  And odds are good that you are serving people who also have that fear.

And fear does not bring out the best in any of us.  We are invariably at our worst when we are anxious and fearful.  Yet, even in the midst of all that, Jesus wants us to witness to him.  Our mission is to conquer fear with love and compassion, being the calm example of faith in a turbulent sea of anxiety. 

For some of us, Galilee may not be so much a place as a relationship.  In these days of social distancing, we spend much of our time confined to our homes. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that can be a little tricky.  As much as I love Beth, our two girls and our two rabbits, we are finding there is such a thing as too much togetherness.

Maybe, like our family, you and your loved ones are having to renegotiate space boundaries. We can all understand how the potential for friction increases with proximity.

The mission work Jesus calls us to do here is the witness of peacemaking.  And a big part of that witness is simply refusing to let little irritations grow into bigger ones.  It means occasionally stopping and taking the time to have real conversations, listening to one another rather than simply gliding by like ships passing in the night.

Or Galilee might also be our more distant relationships.  This kind of distance is measured not so much in miles, but in time and affection.  All of us have friends and even family from whom, for whatever reason, we have not remained close over the years. 

 The witness Jesus asks of you and me here is to reach out, to bridge the distance of years, and maybe even tears.  It takes a little courage, maybe even an apology.  But few things in this world speak more clearly of Jesus’ presence than strengthening the bonds of friendship and kinship that form us into his body. 

Wherever Galilee is for you, you can bank on two things.  It’s where Jesus wants us to do his work.  And it’s where we will meet us to help us do it.

That’s how it was for Mr. Rogers.  And that’s how it is for you and me.  

So, what do you say?  Easter’s here.  Christ is risen – he is risen indeed.  And he’s got a mission for us.  He wants to meet us in Galilee. 

Will we meet him there?  

May it be so.

Last Published: April 13, 2020 9:39 AM
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