April 4, 2010

April 4 (Easter): Identity in Jesus first


By Tamara Shantz, assistant campus pastor
SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Today we proclaim and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Together with Christians the world over, we proclaim, “The Lord is risen!” With Mary Magdalene we call out, “we have seen the Lord.”

For me, Easter often meant an early morning, as my family made its way to one of our village’s churches for the sunrise service. My hometown has three churches: Lutheran, Mennonite and United, and this early service would rotate between the churches from year to year. I’ve come to realize that this is a unique situation. It isn’t typical for churches from different denominations to celebrate Easter together. We would call out “the Lord is risen indeed!” with neighbors we didn’t normally see in our pews. We would sing “Up from the grave” with gusto (even if it meant I had to put up with the organ at the Lutheran church). What a wonderful witness to what it means to be Alive in Christ – a way to declare that our identity comes from Jesus first, before our particular church identities. As we live into another Easter season, what does your identity in Christ mean for you?

For me, I recognize that too often I hold on to my particular denominational identity (which is also cultural) much more strongly than I do to my identity as a follower of Christ. I am often a Mennonite before I am a Christian. I need to work at clinging more closely to Jesus, and letting go of my hidden belief that ‘my church is the true church.’ I need to acknowledge that I am united in Christ with a whole variety of Christians – whether I agree with them (or even like them) or not.

As we celebrate God’s invitation to new life, I pray that we will find new ways to see our Lord in unexpected places and people.

Thank you for joining the students, faculty and staff of Goshen College during Lent for these devotions. We pray they have met a spiritual need for you each day as you have walked through the wilderness and to the cross with Jesus as we have all reflected together on holding on and letting go. We have been blessed to be part of your journey. Join us again when the season of Advent begins (unless you unsubscribe, they will automatically come to you when they start again in late November).

SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.



Comments (21)

  1. Thank you once again for this Lenten series of devotional messages.
    What a compliment the writers, students, faculty and staff are to Goshen College, your denomination and the Church of Jesus Christ. Goshen College must be a place that fosters the growth of mature Christian disciples.

    Leland Eyres, retired United Methodist Pastor from Iowa

    Leland Eyres April 4, 2010 |
  2. Thank you for all your hard work and wonderful writings.

    Ruth Jones April 4, 2010 |
  3. Denominational identity vs. Christ follower. Interesting to consider. Do you suppose the reason that there are so many unchurched is that not enough church people are Christ followers?

    Nancy April 4, 2010 |
  4. Each of you has done an outstanding thing in bringing the Lenten Devotional to so many. I have learned alot.
    Do you know Him. That is the true thing, not a packaged religion. Reach out to Him as your Lord and Savior, empty yourself of all ritual, just learn to know Him, and He will always be there for you.

    Lynn Cone April 4, 2010 |
  5. Thank you all for your Lenten and Easter reflections. I always include them in my daily prayers and office. Your love of the Lord and your committment to care for the least of these is evident and powerful. I also admire your introspective searches for the places that require further gracing. I share many of them. May you have a blessed Eastertide. Fr. E. William Pounds

    Fr. Bill Pounds April 4, 2010 |
  6. Thank you for these Lenten devotions. I have been blessed and challenged by them. Looking forward to your valuable input to my Advent journey again’
    Blessing to all at Goshen

    Chris from Tasmania April 4, 2010 |
  7. Thank you for this wonderful ministry. It has been a true blessing to me this Lenten Season.

    Marilyn April 4, 2010 |
  8. Amen to the Devotionals that were shared.
    I really enjoy reading them and they are very inspirational.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liz Lehman April 4, 2010 |
  9. Thank you for inspirational devotions. I have been blessed by them.

    Doreen April 4, 2010 |
  10. Thank you for connecting us to one another through this writing and reflection project.

    Sonja Bontrager April 4, 2010 |
  11. I love the devotions I receive. This one REALLY spoke to me. I think all religions and people of faith fall into this trap – allowing our religious beliefs separate us instead of uniting us. We are ONE body. God Bless you and thank you.

    Glenda Bitner April 5, 2010 |
  12. To all the writers,thank you. Your messages enriched my Lenten journey.

    Ruth April 5, 2010 |
  13. Thank you for your thoughts. I believe, as you said,
    that we need to be accepting of other Christians who
    may not think exactly as we do.
    I have appreciated the devotional thoughts in the Lenten
    series. May we continue on throughout this year with
    the joy of the risen Christ in our hearts!

    Loretta April 5, 2010 |
  14. If our thoughts are Christs thoughts and his ways are our ways how can we be so different in our practices and denominations?
    Could it actually be that we aren’t all truly following Christ but our own thoughts and ideas??
    I consider myself a mennonite Christian with the emphasis on Christian-only mennonite until the mennonites start to deviate from their first love being that of following Christ wholeheartedly. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 3:11
    I don’t believe that Menno Simons really wanted a denomination named after him. He wanted to follow I Corinthians 3:11 and be a peace anabaptist society because he strongly believed in loving the enemy because Jesus said it. Not all Christians believe loving the enemy means not killing them. So how can we both be right??? I think in our efforts to be inclusive we need to be very careful to weight everything in light of the very words from the mouth of God when he was here on earth-that of the only way,truth, and life—JESUS

    Betty April 5, 2010 |
  15. Just want you to know, your devotions this Lent were well thought out and especially meaningful for me this year. Thank you.

    Rev David Klepper April 5, 2010 |
  16. Thank you so very much, your devotions have been a great blessing to me this lenten season!

    Barbara MacDonald April 5, 2010 |
  17. Thank you for the menaingful devotional Lenten journey. Each of your writers said something special
    to add to my spiritual growth! I’m grateful! Thanks again!!!!

    Bonnie Sowers April 5, 2010 |
  18. Thanks you so much students and staff for all the inspiring thoughts this Lenten Season. This is truly a ministry in itself. I will miss these popping up on my screen at school each morning. Looking for to Advent!

    Linda Armstrong April 5, 2010 |
  19. Tamara, thanks for this! I love your search for identity as a follower of Jesus.

    I love even more your interest in obeying his words to love your enemies. That is evident when you write:

    “I need to acknowledge that I am united in Christ with a whole variety of Christians – whether I agree with them (or even like them) or not.”

    Keep seeking our Lord and savior. As C.S. Lewis writes, “…he is good.”

    Brandon Bergey April 5, 2010 |
  20. Thank you to all who wrote the Lenten devotionals. It was good to have this focus on the Lenten Scriptures in addition to my daily devotions.

    Ethel Umble April 6, 2010 |
  21. Thank you for your messages! It is very encouraging that you share your spirituality beyond all confessional barriers.

    Alvaro Riveros-Polanco

    Alvaro Riveros-Polanco April 21, 2010 |