Sermon 4/04/2021: “Were You There?” (Easter Sunday)

At this time, due to Coronavirus concerns, many are not quite ready to return to face to face worship. If this includes you, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/532726788

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crffcxVVRQS

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of The Centering Prayer: 

Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. 
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. 
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. 
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. 
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted. 
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. 
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
Christ The Lord Is Risen Today (with lyrics) performed by Hymns Triumphant Performers.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9khJXoL9QGk

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Because He Lives
Because He Lives (Lyric/Live At The Cove Billy Graham Training Center, Asheville, NC/2001)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKaRk1qpR4o

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: “Were You There?”
Text: Mark 8:29-32, Mark 16:1-8
Series: Building Bridges from Easter to Pentecost

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

Mark 8:29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.

Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; –it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

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HYMN He Lives
He Lives with Lyrics performed by Alan Jackson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G8F8UzuSGE

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Hey, man, were you there? You remember that beautiful gospel hymn, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to a tree?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when they laid him in the grave?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?


Certainly, this was an emotional moment in the lives of the disciples. An emotional moment in the lives of every follower of Jesus who can imagine themselves standing there watching as Jesus died upon the cross.

It’s quite a wonderful thing that you and I know the end of the story. I’m sure if you’re as old as I am you remember when the movie ET came out. You remember the difficulties that ET had in our world? You remember when ET got sick and all the doctors came crowding around to try to save his life. I still remember that scene in the movie being so emotionally wrenching that it caused me to tremble, tremble, tremble. But you see, I know how that story ends. I’m so thankful that there’s a happy ending to that story. And you know something when I watch it now, I don’t tremble. I don’t tremble very much at all, because I know how the story ends.
Friends, all too often, I think it’s the truth that we wind up having an Easter that, although it’s only three days after we remember Jesus dying on the cross, so many of us celebrate an Easter which seems almost disconnected from the day Jesus died. Disconnected to the point where there’s no likelihood that we could tremble at all. And in fact, while it is a day of great joy and rejoicing …

If we connect the death on the cross, death on the cross, with the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday, there are still going to be some aspect of trembling. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? If you have a healthy imagination and can imagine yourself being there I think it will cause you to tremble, tremble, and tremble even if you are rejoicing.

We’re coming up, you see, on an anniversary for me and my family. It was a year ago at this time, a year ago that Kim and I were in quarantine for COVID. Quarantine was lifted for me on Monday, April 6th. That’s a year ago tomorrow. The following Friday, I was having a little bit of difficulty breathing, just enough of a concern to make it worthwhile to go to the emergency room. And so I went to the emergency room in Mount Vernon on Friday. I really felt just fine. But they did a CAT scan and they found something wrong. There was a saddle pulmonary embolism. Now, a pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung, but the saddle pulmonary embolism isn’t quite in the lungs yet. The aorta comes out of the heart and it divides to go to two lungs. And in that place where it divides, a very large blood clot had formed. Part of it was hanging into one side, ready to slide into one lung. The other part of it was hanging on the other side. And if they had broken loose, I would have been in a world of hurt.

Pulmonary emboli are deadly things. And of course, the doctor in the emergency room at Mount Vernon knew exactly what to do. He ordered a helicopter and I got my first helicopter ride. In the helicopter, there’s a bench where you lay down across where the windows are. And they took me to the Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana, because I was going to need open chest surgery. They would open up my chest, they would open up the aorta where the blood clot was, and they would put tubes into the blood clot and surgically inject blood thinner over a period of several hours in the hope of saving my life. It was a bad ride. Got to the hospital. It was so good to lay down in a bed that wasn’t moving, that wasn’t shaky.

And the doctor came in to explain to me the procedure and he said, “But you know something, Mr. Kueker, we have a problem.” And I asked the doctor, “What’s the problem?” And he said, “Well, you don’t really seem to be as sick as you should be if you’re having this type of problem. So I don’t think we’re going to do the surgery right now. We’re going to wait and see how you do overnight.” This was my Good Friday.

Now, one of the big problems with COVID, of course, is it’s an infection and your body begins to fight the infection. Your immune system begins to fight the infection, and because your immune system is very anxious, very afraid, it can overdo it. One of the ways the immune system overdoes it is what’s called a cytokine storm. The immune system martials so many resources to fight the infection of the virus that your immune system causes harm to your health. And in fact, they suspect that quite a few of the deaths related to COVID are because of this immune system overreaction.

And this is what I was concerned about on my Good Friday, and I had a unique way of dealing with it. I preached a sermon to myself. The sermon is a very famous sermon. It’s called Sunday’s Coming. It was written and preached by SM Lockridge, a Black pastor from San Diego. I think it is one of the most beautiful things in the English language.

And the preacher begins simply saying to himself, again and again, it’s Friday. And he’s describing everything that happens to Jesus on Friday. About how the evil people are grinning and other people are sinning. And Christ is being taken to the cross because, you see, he says that’s what Friday’s like. It’s just Friday. That’s the way Fridays are. But he begins to slowly remind the people that even though it’s Friday, Sunday’s coming.

And so from the moment of the diagnosis, I found myself just simply quietly saying to myself, again and again, it’s Friday. These kinds of things happen on a Friday. Bad things happen on a Friday. Well, for people of faith, people of hope, we know that Sunday’s coming. And so I calmed myself in the hospital in Mount Vernon, this is just a Friday, like what Jesus went through. I calmed myself on the helicopter, this is just a Friday. When I got to the hospital in Evansville, I kept saying to myself, it’s Friday. No surprises here. This is the kind of thing that happens on Friday. But Sunday’s coming. Easter’s coming. God’s power cannot be denied. God’s love cannot be prevented. And in this way, I calmed myself through what could have been an extremely frightening experience.

And if I had allowed my anxiety to spiral out of control, and if I had allowed my fear to become the Lord of my life, it’s very possible that my body would have gone into overreaction. And it could be true that my own fear would cost me my life. But I just kept reminding myself, it’s a Friday, things like this happen on a Friday. All I have to do is wait for God to take care of it. And Easter Sunday’s coming.

I think it’s a miracle, but, it’s always a blessing when the doctor looks at you and says you don’t look as sick as you ought to be. It’s quite a blessing when the doctor says that the surgery that they flew you over here to get might not be needed because you’re healthier than you ought to be. And the doctor says, “We’ll take another look at it tomorrow,” and I just nodded and I kept thinking to myself, this is Friday. This is the kind of thing that happens on a Friday. The next day, I said to myself, it’s a Saturday. This is the kind of thing that happens on a Saturday.” And on Sunday, the doctor came in and said, “Mr. Kueker, we just don’t really think it’s necessary to do this surgery, we just think it’s a greater risk to do it than to give you blood thinner and send you home.”

And I said, “It’s Sunday. Do I get to go home on Easter Sunday?” And he said, “No, you’ll go home on Monday.” And that was fine with me. This is what happens when you say it’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. So they sent me home with pills that I took for six months, and then I was to go back and see how much of the blood clot was still there.

And just think about that for a minute, folks. Any minute, that blood clot could have ended my life. But over the next six months, I just kept saying in different ways, it’s Friday and I kept calm, took the medicine religiously and I kept on trusting God. We went for the CAT scan after six months. Wouldn’t you know it, the blood clot was completely dissolved and gone? And it felt to me like that was a little bit like Easter.

But our family didn’t get to celebrate Easter last year. We’re going to have to celebrate it this year, but this is true for any Friday in which you may find yourself. God still loves you. God is still watching over you. And the answers to your prayers is this: Sunday’s coming. Now, all of a sudden, that Sunday is here.

Jesus predicted it very clearly. Mark, chapter eight. He began to teach them that the son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priest and the scribes and be killed. And after three days, rise again. And He said this plainly.

Not just to the disciples, He called the crowd all around them and told every single person in the crowd, verse 32, he said this plainly, “I am going to rise again.” There’s going to be a Friday, but he predicted that there would also be a Sunday.

But when that Friday came, did anyone remember what Jesus had said? Mark 16, :1, this is Mark’s account of what happened on the day of Resurrection, “And when the Sabbath was past,” Saturday, “Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week,” Sunday, “they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?'” Their focus is still on what happened on Friday. Their focus is still on Christ buried in the grave and what they needed to do to take care of him. Their focus was still on Friday.
And when they reach the tomb, “And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back. It was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side dressed in a white robe, and they were amazed.” The Greek word amazed there can be translated as astonished. It can also be translated as terrified. Certainly, this was not anything they had expected. Verse 6, “And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed.'” Or you could say, “Do not be afraid. Do not be terrified.” “You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
Verse seven, now they get some instructions, “But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him. As he told you.” The angel gives them very clear instructions. You need to get everyone headed to Galilee, and that’s where they’ll see Jesus. Verse 8, “And they went out and fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had come upon them.” Did they follow the instructions given by the angel? Here’s what Mark says, “And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

You see, for the angel, it was Easter Sunday. He knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. In fact, he told the women exactly that. Jesus had told them long ago, “I’m going to rise again.” But they still had the fear and the terror of Friday and it says that they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Fear and trembling and terrified, they ran away. This is the first account of the resurrection.

Now, there’s more and we’ll look at that in the weeks to come because we want to learn what they learned about how to live with the help and guidance of the resurrected Christ.

But here’s the very beginning. And it’s not very wonderful. They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. After this, Jesus began to appear to others one at a time and in small groups to reassure them that he was indeed alive. It may have been the plan that he would meet them in Galilee, but they needed him now. Mary Magdalene first and then others. He needed to appear to them in their hour of need and help them to believe in the resurrection. Friends, sometimes after we’ve gone through a Friday, we find that we need the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ to help us to not be afraid, to help us to keep on and carry on, to help us to move forward. We need the real Jesus Christ to speak to us.
An angel won’t do. Women bearing testimony won’t do. We actually need Jesus. Because Jesus can reach our hearts in a way that no one else can. They needed Jesus to tell them, they needed Jesus to help them. You and I also may need a direct encounter with the living Jesus to help us to move from our Fridays, days that feel like we’re dying on a cross, to help us to move from those days into the days of Easter, days when we feel like we are rising to walk in newness of life. We need Jesus to help us. And no one else would do.

Now, I think that I saved my own life by reminding myself that this was just a Friday. But Friday wasn’t the end of the story, because I knew whatever the problem was, my reaction to the problem could be much more harmful to me than the problem itself. You see when we take the problem and we multiply it by our reaction, we get three times, five times, ten times worse of a problem because our anxiety does not help us. And fear is not our friend.

What’s interesting is they have this repeatedly in the resurrection appearances, the very first words that Jesus says are fear not. Remember the angel, the angel said, “Don’t be terrified.” Don’t be terrified. And in fact – they have counted it – there’s 365 different places in the entire Bible where God tells people not to be afraid. It’s only Friday. Don’t be afraid. It’s only Friday. Sunday’s coming. And, of course, Easter is exactly that Sunday.
You and I know that there will be trouble and sorrows in this world. This life we live today, this place we live today, it is the valley of the shadow of death, a phrase from the 23rd Psalm. But we are not alone in that valley because our shepherd is with us.

But it’s only Friday, and you have to be patient. You have to be faithful. You have to practice wise habits as you live through all the Fridays toward a new day that is coming.

It is so exciting to be Easter in 2021 because the world is coming back.
Our church has been open for worship since last May when we met on the parking lot. But everything else is getting more and more open too. But it’s still Friday a little bit. The coronavirus is still out there. We still need to wear a mask to protect ourselves, but even more to protect others. We still have to socially distance just like that little picture of matches there, the match that pulls itself away from those on fire protects everyone else down from the line. To the extent that it’s still Friday, we still have to socially distance, although restrictions are easing.
And one reason why restrictions are easing is because many of you are getting a vaccine. You tell me, “I had my first shot.” You tell me, “I had my second shot.” You tell me, “In a few weeks, I’ll be seeing my grandchildren.”

Friends, it’s not quite Sunday yet for the coronavirus. But the time is moving on for God to set us free. But as we go forward, please don’t let your frustrations rule your emotions. Please don’t let your fears control your feelings. Please stay calm. Please hang on to your faith.
And whether you quote my sermons or some other sermon or something you’ve seen in a book or on Facebook or whether you have a hymn that you sing that calms your heart, keep reminding yourself, “It’s only Friday.” You can get through this Friday. Certainly, it is not as bad as the Friday that Jesus went through for our sakes. But keep calm and calmly continue to believe in Jesus. And know in your heart that the Sunday is coming where we won’t have to put up with this sort of thing anymore. We have the faith to go the distance.

Please pray with me.
Lord Jesus, some of us have the patience of a two-year-old. If we’re lucky, we can last five minutes. Some of us have the faith of a more mature person, and we can get through 50 minutes, maybe five hours. Some of us, Lord, are so calm, we can patiently endure five days or five months. When we’ve been dealing with this pandemic for so long, our patience is just about used up.
On the other hand, Lord, maybe we’re fortunate that it’s become somewhat of a habit. Just a few more days, just a few more months, let the scientists work. Let the medicine work. Let the vaccine work. Let God work. And, Lord, we’ll hear each other and we’ll get through this. So here we are on Easter of 2021 knowing that we’re getting closer and closer to being set free from the restrictions brought to us as individuals, brought to our church by this pandemic.
And so, Lord, I pray that you bless the hearts and minds and spirits of all of us. Give us the patience we need. Give us the commitment to follow through. Give us the wisdom to know what to do. And, Lord, we look forward to the resurrection of your church. We look forward to a new beginning and new life in this nation. We look forward to all of us being free to live and enjoy our lives safe from harm and worry about this pandemic. And so we pray these things with faith, Lord Jesus, and ask you to live among us and bring your will to pass. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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