8:00 a.m. Easter Sunday
The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching
Have you ever lost your keys? For those of you who know me, you know that this a regular occurrence. In fact, Pastor Rob jokes that he has lost 7 years of his life helping me find my keys. But this Christmas, I was given a key tracker that really works. All I need to do is go to my phone app and touch ‘find’. The app searches and shows the address where the keys are, as well as sounds a musical tune from the tile on the key ring so I can locate the keys easily. Life has gotten so much easier.
How wonderful it is to find something that has been lost.
[People were asked to share about things they have lost.]
We lose things, money, time, and even people. I remember as a young child when my mother and I got separated at Hills (a store similar to Kmart). We weren’t far apart, but with clothing racks lining the aisles, it was difficult to find each other. I was scared and she was frantic trying to find me. It was the most wonderful moment when we saw each other. She gave me such a big hug and didn’t want to let go.
When we lose someone, we can be overcome with emotion. We can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus, especially Mary Magdalene, the first to arrive at the tomb — to go to the tomb where Jesus’ deadbody had been placed and find the stone rolled away, his body missing. Where in the world was Jesus? Had his body been stolen by grave robbers? Had his body been taken by authorities to inflict more damage even after his death? Was someone playing a sick joke?
Mary Magdalene ran and found two disciples, and after she told them what she found, they ran to the tomb. And yes, they too discovered that the stone had been rolled away and Jesus was missing. Where in the world was Jesus?
Simon Peter impulsively ran right in the tomb to see the empty linen wrappings. He was amazed that the tomb was empty. The other disciple, however, paused at the opening before entering. When he finally went in, the disciple noticed the grave clothes lying where the body had been, and the napkin from his head was rolled up and placed to the side. The disciple saw and believed. He wasn’t convinced by any scripture but by what his own eyes saw. His beloved friend, Jesus, was resurrected—he was alive! Where he was, he wasn’t sure, but he knew for sure that he was not dead in a grave.
Mary Magdalene would soon learn, too, that Jesus was alive, first thinking he was a gardener but knowing full-well his identity when she heard his voice. Jesus was not lost. He was right there in the garden with her.
Now this was nearly 2,000 years ago. So where is Jesus now? Where in the world is Jesus?
[Noel asked] — Yeah, when bombs are going off in the Middle East, where is Jesus?
[Answer to Noel] — God gives us free will to choose what to do with our lives, and unfortunately some choose to bomb innocent people. Jesus does not leave us alone in the fallout from bad choices and evil acts. On the website “God Reports”, there is this account:
After a young Muslim woman named Samaa Habib came to Christ, she endured intense persecution from her family and the surrounding community, but even greater torment lay ahead when her thriving fellowship of Muslim converts to Christianity was bombed.
The four young men with “grim” expressions who visited one Sunday morning looked like many of the young men who fought in her country’s recent civil war. No matter their background, the young men were welcomed with love by the congregation.
“Come in, we are so happy to have you here among us. Jesus loves you,” said one of the greeters of the church. But these young men didn’t care, they were on a mission, as they carefully studied how and when the followers of Jesus entered and departed the building, so the four bombs they were constructing could do the most damage.
The bombs were set to explode during the Sunday morning service, 15 minutes apart, in order to kill as many innocent and unsuspecting people as possible.
On that fateful Sunday morning, miraculously, two of the four bombs did not go off. But the two that did explode wreaked horrible damage.
Samaa was closest to one of the bombs that detonated. She was thrown 10 feet and her body slammed against an opposite wall. Her hair burned off, along with much of her flesh. Blood poured from open wounds on her head and body. Her good friend Wafa, standing nearby Samaa, was decapitated instantly. When they found him, he was still clutching his Bible to his chest. Samaa cried out silently in her intense agony and pain, “Jesus, help me.”
When her eyes closed and she lost consciousness, she had a very remarkable near-death experience in heaven. “When I opened my eyes I saw brilliant white light illuminating Jesus,” she recounts. “His face was brighter than the sun…”
Overwhelmed by his glory, she fell face-down at His feet.
“Do not be afraid,” He told her. He reminded Samaa that His precious blood was shed for her and cleansed her, making her holy and pure enough to enter His presence — all because of His great love. …
“ … His love drew me in, melting my heart and transforming me from the inside out. Embraced by love, I started to weep.”
Jesus asked her if she wanted to stay in heaven or go back. … Everything within her yearned to stay with Jesus. But she also wanted to answer His call of love, to be a witness for Him on earth. “He wanted me to go back for my family for their salvation, but also for the salvation of His family, which is multitudes,” she says. …
When she regained consciousness, her broken body was in horrible torment. Surviving church members carried her outside. “It seemed as if a film was covering my eyes,” she relates. “I was going blind. My skin was burned, revealing my flesh like raw meat.” Blood poured from her wounds and her body was full of metal fragments.
Incredibly, she began to walk. Ambulances had been called but never came, so she was placed in a church minibus. She began to quietly sing a worship song … When she arrived at the hospital, she was stunned by the doctors’ and nurses’ indifference. “No one helped me. I realized that the medical staff presumed I was so close to death I would not survive.”
Samaa’s sister arrived at the hospital and persuaded doctors to clean her wounds and stitch her up as well as possible. As doctors worked on her, Samaa realized she was now completely blind …
… Doctors informed the family that Samaa would not survive her injuries and suggested they prepare for her funeral…
“That evening my friends prayed through the night for my life. As news of the bomb reached the outside world, others began to pray for our church.”
On the morning following the all-night prayer session, there was a breakthrough. As a nurse and doctor examined Samaa she said, “I’m hungry.” When they heard her, their mouths dropped in amazement, wondering if they imagined it. “What would you like to eat?” the doctor asked.
“Kebab…strawberries and chocolate,” she replied. Because she was being fed intravenously, they couldn’t fulfill her request, but they realized she had turned a corner. …
Samaa felt compelled to forgive the nurses who treated her rudely or with a callous disregard for her pain. “I had been to heaven! I had seen Jesus face to face!” she writes. “I couldn’t hold back on his love and forgiveness.”
Her physical and emotional recovery took more than a year. “One woman who was in the burn ward when I arrived noticed that my skin seemed to be recovering and that I didn’t have scars or need skin grafts,” she recounts. The woman asked how it was possible for Samaa’s skin to heal without scars. “It is Jesus,” she replied. “He is my healer.” Also, Samaa’s eyesight was completely restored.
Saama’s story doesn’t say why bombs happen, but it certainly points to the presence of Jesus even when bombs of this world explode. Where in the world is Jesus? In the midst of our troubles!
[Vance asked]— Where is Jesus when there is violence at school?
[Answer to Vance] — How often when someone does something to someone at school, you hear students plot ways to retaliate? How often when someone says something rude to someone, you hear someone say something rude back? Have you noticed that when someone responds to violence with violence, more violence ensues. Friends hop in, drama takes hold, and it is hard to stop the wheel that is set into motion to cause harm to one or more people. So I get why you are asking where is Jesus at school. I believe Jesus is there with you and other students, just waiting to be invited into the problems, wanting to be invited into the discussions. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find.” Ask for a way to help the violence stop and seek to hear from Jesus how he will direct you. Jesus wants to show you the way, a way that might be different than what your peers might encourage. It might be a way that isn’t easy.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to be kind to those who hate us and do harmful things to us and others. Impossible you might say, that will never work or at least not for me? If God can raise Jesus from the dead about 2,000 years ago and part the waters to save thousands of people escaping Egypt back in the days of Moses, God can work in and through you when you are faced with violence at school and show you a different way. Give Jesus a try. If you honestly try, you will not be let down. Where in the world is Jesus? In the midst of our challenges.
[Anabel asked] — Where in the world is Jesus when it comes to families? So many of my friends struggle with their relationships with parents or brothers and sisters.
[Answer to Anabel] — Family dynamics are complicated, that is for sure. Even families that are pretty even keel have their moments.
In On This Day by Carl Windsor, a daily inspirational book, the page for Valentine’s Day included this anecdote: “Even the most devoted couple will experience a ‘stormy’ bout once in a while. A grandmother, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. ‘On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husbands faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,’ she said.
“ A guest asked the woman what some of the faults she had chosen to overlook were. The grandmother replied, ’To tell you the truth, my dear, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!’”
Jesus gives us ways to cope, as he did the grandmother. He brings us insights to deal with dynamics beyond our control. We can’t change our family members, but we can change our attitude and our approach, in order to give our family our best attempt in making it the best it can be. How does Jesus want us to live? As it is written in Ephesians 4:2., with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love .
Where in the world is Jesus? In our sometimes troubled relationships within our family.
And would you like to know where in the world Jesus always is? Wherever you are — to love you and to lift up your life!