Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
Next week, expect a sermon from Violeta here on the blog! For now, you’re stuck with Hannah for another Sunday.
If you feel led to continue contributing financially to Ada Chapel during this time that we are not meeting in person, please mail offerings to our treasurer at 2418 Wilson Rd. Wilmington, Oh 45177.
Dustin’s family, as he lost his grandmother this past week. All of those who are sick, or who have loved ones that are sick. Healthcare workers. Grocery store workers, and other essential workers. Our neighborhood and our community. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our leaders in all levels of government. People in the recovery community. Everyone who is feeling discouraged. Parents of small children.
Hymn-The Old Rugged Cross
Meditative Moment (Followed by silent worship)
To believe that the experiences we have are valid, that the feelings and expressions of them are true and real and worthy of being listened to, is one of the greatest mercies we offer one another.- Alia Joy
The very first spring that Dustin and I lived in our house, I was surprised to discover that the people who had lived in our house before us had planted tulips. Four purple ones and one yellow one—just sitting there all pretty in my flowerbed.
I have always loved tulips. I love how colorful they are—how they transition us out of Ohio’s cold, dark winters and give us something to look forward to. I like how they manage to make any space that they are in instantly look more cheery. And they smell pretty good, too. So upon discovering my tulips, I fell head-over-heels in love with the idea of having these gorgeous, delicate flowers that I could see from outside my living room window to keep my spirits up throughout the spring. I even considered buying some bulbs and planting more.
But then I learned something about tulips. They only bloom for a couple of weeks, and then they’re done until next year.
That first year, I thought that maybe it had been a fluke. There had been a cold snap not long after they came up, so I had the thought that maybe I could have done something to better protect them. Maybe, there was a way to delay the bulbs, so that the flowers would come up in May instead of in March or April. But that second year—no matter what I did—they did the exact same thing. And the third year. And the fourth year. And now, in year six, I have come to realize that this is just what tulips do. They recklessly do what they were created to do—come sleet, snow, hail, or frost. Tulips don’t play it safe, or easy. They choose to bloom and to bring color at the same time every year, right in the midst of a harsh Ohio spring.
We have successfully made it into the Easter season, Friends. After our long walk to the cross with Jesus and our vigil at His tomb, death has been defeated. We know that because of the resurrection, new life is possible through Jesus. In return for the 40 days that we spent wandering in the wilderness that is Lent, we get 50 days of wonder, joy, and delight. Eastertide is kind of like one big party, where we shed off our grave clothes, and where we take in a big breath of freedom in Christ. I have to admit that I’m more of a Lent gal—I do better with spiritual discipline than I do with unabashed celebration—but I love the Easter season for what it is. Its a taste of what the Kingdom of God will look like—a glimpse into redemption and into what Jesus will do with His weary world and His weary people someday.
But I think that I can speak for a lot of us when I say that the joy of Easter is not coming so easily this year as it has in years past. And its not just because our Easter celebrations last Sunday were off-kilter. Its hard to be joyful in the midst of a global pandemic. On some level, it just feels wrong. There have always been huge, tragic problems in the world, but this is different. There is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear, and a lot of stress in our communities and in our lives—and it feels irresponsible to be all giddy and happy go-lucky when people are getting sick. Through the lens of world events, this Eastertide feels more like we’re hanging out in the tomb with Jesus than like we’re celebrating His resurrection. Its sensible to think that maybe joy needs to hang back for a little while and wait its turn.
The thing of it is, though, is that joy is kind of like a tulip. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes: I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Joy does not require a particular set of circumstances. Joy is not only appropriate in particular moments. Paul speaks of joy from prison—where he’s being persecuted—for crying out loud. Joy is usually at its most pure when paired with something really difficult. Just as there cannot be tulip blooms without the cold of early spring, or resurrection without death, there cannot be true joy without suffering. Joy doesn’t need to wait until the time is right to rear its head—joy can get right in there with the uncertainty and the sadness. That’s where joy belongs.
Take the time to grieve. Grieve for those who are sick, or who have lost their lives. Grieve for the lost jobs and for the financial uncertainty. Grieve for the fact that we won’t be going back to “normal” any time soon. Grieve the loss of your routine—the fact that you can’t see your relatives, friends, and church family. Feel that cold spring frost. But when you’re ready, don’t forget to count your blessings. To thank God for the good things. To accept life for the beautiful gift that it is. To feel contentment. To listen to God. To work and to do—to move wherever the Spirit leads you. To feel that frost and that brutal, icy wind—to sit in a cold, dank prison cell at the mercy of the Romans—but to have genuine joy within your soul anyway. Joy doesn’t play it safe. So let that Eastertide joy into the mix, and let it sit with you, wherever you might be. Let it intermingle with the suffering, let it heal your soul, let it stand resilient, and when God busts down that door of grief—don’t be surprised if that joy utterly fills your heart and brings you closer to God than you ever imagined.
This is a very short sermon, especially for me. But more experienced pastors than me have said that if you said all that the Spirit led you to say, then be done. So I’m done.
Friends, I pray that this strange season of Eastertide that we find ourselves in will be a good one for you. May the love of Jesus fill our hearts with joy, may that joy sit with our grief, and may our souls be strengthened as we recklessly embrace the gift of new life that God has given us.
Hymn-In the Garden
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving everyday. Amen.