Formations 04.04.2021: Change of Plans

The Women at the Grave, Russian icon, 16th century

Luke 24:1-12

Have you ever put a lot of effort into a task and then not gotten to do it? Maybe you did a ton of research. Maybe you bought supplies. Maybe you devoted considerable effort into creating something—either something you made with your hands or something like a song that you rehearsed or a poem that you wrote. If you knew this was going to be a difficult or uncomfortable task, maybe you took pains to get into the proper mindset, stoking your courage or enthusiasm, or maybe just settling your nerves for the challenge ahead.

And then, just as you were about to do whatever it was you’d worked so hard toward, the situation changed, and your task was no longer needed. The problem resolved itself some other way.

What does that feel like for you? Are you disappointed that all that preparation came to nothing? Are you relieved that you dodged a bullet and don’t have to do a hard thing?

I wonder what it felt like for the women at the tomb. Luke 24 begins with the familiar Easter story, more or less the same as we find it in all four Gospels: early Sunday morning, certain women bring spices to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body.

And that’s when the women realize that their act of service to Jesus’ memory will no longer be needed. Instead of arriving at a sealed tomb containing the body of their beloved leader, they find the stone rolled away, and angelic messengers announce the good news: “He is not here, but has risen” (v. 5).

And in a matter of seconds, the women and their mission to anoint Jesus’ body becomes irrelevant. All the planning and coordination, all the expense, all the distress of anticipating having to see and touch Jesus’ dead body.… Suddenly, none of that matters.

How did that make them feel? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that none of them wondered, “What are we going to do with all this myrrh?” They didn’t have time for such questions! As soon as their old mission crumbles, a new mission arises—and this one is far more significant and far more satisfying. They rush to tell the apostles, becoming the first people ever to herald the good news that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

It may be a challenge to say something fresh and different on Easter Sunday, but perhaps that isn’t strictly necessary. By all means, prepare! Put as much effort and creativity into the lesson as you can. But my prayer is that all the energy you’ve put into preparing turns out to be irrelevant because God shows up in an unexpected way. I pray your participants will dwell in the wonder of this familiar story and find themselves in its grace.

Discussion

• When have your well-made plans been derailed, but in a good way?
• When is it easy to give something up in exchange for something better?
• What memories do you bring to this familiar Easter story? What questions?
• How does this story address your deepest spiritual longings?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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Comments

  1. I resonate with the challenge to prepare diligently but to then allow the Spirit to surprise me. I need to be okay with letting go of my agenda even if my preparation turns out to be irrelevant because God shows up in an unexpected way. Good lesson DP.

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