Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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The never-ending story

By the Rev. Jan Johnson

(John 20:1-20)

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[April 15, 2014]  A few years ago there was a children's film out called "The NeverEnding Story." Many of you have probably seen it and the sequels to it as well. In that story there was a problem in Fantasia. The problem was the "Nothing" and it was destroying Fantasia. The Nothing was depicted with dark rolling clouds moving steadily over the earth and sky. No place was safe from the Nothing. As the darkness and gloom seeped into a place, it broke up the ground and caused buildings to crack and collapse. The source of the Nothing was the lack of belief, lack of faith, if you will, among the people of the earth. Because of that lack of faith, Fantasia was being destroyed.

Much of the same can be said about the Nothing right here in our midst. Only in 2014, the Nothing is not a smoky cloud created by dry ice and special effects by MGM. The Nothing is the apathy in our world toward almost everything. The Nothing is like a giant depression that has settled over us and blankets us in denial and shame and anger. The Nothing stops at nothing to destroy our faith, our joy, our values and the love of God.

The Nothing began way back in creation when the snake tempted Eve and she ate of the Tree of Knowledge, which she and Adam had been forbidden to eat from. The Nothing tried to oppress the Israelite slaves in Egypt, but Moses overcame it. The Nothing tried to undermine David's reign as king of Israel when David met Bathsheba, but David's faith in God faced the Nothing, and God's love for David overcame it. And in Jesus' time? Well, the Nothing was there too.

The Nothing was there when Pilate washed his hands of Jesus. Pilate didn't want to kill Jesus, didn't want any part of it. The Nothing was there when Mary watched in desperation and anguish as her son was crucified as a criminal. As she cried out her pain, the world was breaking up around her — her world was collapsing as her son died. The Nothing was there when Jesus stood before Herod and was mocked and questioned by him, taunted by him to do some miracle, dressed up by him and sent back to Pilate.

The Nothing was there when John, Son of Thunder, tried to stop another man from doing a miracle in Jesus name. And when John asked for a place on the right hand of Jesus in glory. The Nothing was there when Peter, the Rock, denied knowing Christ, three times. It was there when he and John and James fell asleep while Jesus prayed that His LIFE be spared. The Nothing was there when the crowd cried for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus, who was innocent.

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The Nothing was there when Caiaphas, the high priest, plotted to have Jesus killed, when he and the chief priests framed Jesus because He threatened their comfortable way of faith and life and ritual.

Today the Nothing still exists. When Hindus fight Shintus, the Nothing is there. Where hatred and violence reigns, the Nothing is there. When people meet to decide for war, the Nothing is there. Where sickness and disease exist is epidemic proportion, the Nothing is there. When wrong becomes right, the Nothing is there. Where Christians look the other way, allowing pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters to continue, the Nothing is there. The Nothing is in Central America and Africa, in Afghanistan and Romania, in Korea and in Germany, in Iran and yes, in these United States. BUT…

Jesus Christ's resurrection crushes the Nothing and changes it into "Something" of worth. All of the Nothing forces in the world cannot stand against THIS never-ending story. For the resurrection story is a continuing story of birth, death and rebirth. It is a creation story over and over again. It is the story of saving grace and infinite love. It is the story of a love so powerful that it breaks the bonds of death itself and brings new life.

Read the story. Talk to a pastor. Attend worship. Find the Nothing in your life and let Christ's resurrection restore your life to Something through God's love.

In Easter joy!

[By the Rev. JAN JOHNSON, St. John United Church of Christ]

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