Vail Valley churches view the Easter story with different perspectives
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Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is 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 into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
8 So they went out quickly[a] and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. — The Gospel of Mark, 16:8
EAGLE COUNTY — Throughout history, the world has changed, but the Christian story of the resurrection of Jesus has remained the same. Still, the story means different things to the leaders of some local congregations.
For the Rev. Dan Tisdell at First Lutheran Church in Gypsum, the resurrection story has broader meaning. Tisdell’s contract with the church expires Sunday, April 7. That will be his last day in the pulpit.
Tisdell wants to stay — he’s helped rebuild church membership and its work in the community. The congregation wants him to stay.
But finances won’t allow the church to keep a full-time minister. So Tisdell and the church are at a crossroads.
“Talking about the resurrection in terms of this church is really, really important,” Tisdell said.
Many congregations use a cycle of the four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — rotating among them. This year, it’s Mark’s turn. Tisdell said that’s appropriate, given the sudden ending of the resurrection story in that gospel.
In that version of the story, the women who first came to Jesus’ tomb run away and don’t tell anyone else what they’ve seen.
“The point of Mark’s gospel is that the resurrection starts with Jesus and continues with us,” Tisdell said. The story — in its older version — ends on a cliffhanger, Tisdell added.
“What’s the next chapter? It’s us,” he said.
A new life?
In the case of First Lutheran, where the congregation goes after April 7 is, in a way, its own resurrection story.
“Change can be good, if you let it be,” Tisdell said. “It can be a resurrection, or it can be death.”
First Lutheran has been closed, or on the brink of closing, several times in its more than 100 years in Gypsum.
What the church will become remains an open question.
While much of the Christian world is focused on Mark, The Rev. Rob Wilson and the congregation at the Eagle River Presbyterian Church have focused on the Gospel of Luke and the days of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to the resurrection.
Wilson and his congregation have walked through those seven days.
Wilson noted that all four of the gospels — all of which were written decades after the events of Holy Week — spend a lot of time on those seven days. Anywhere from one-third to 40 percent of all of those books concentrate on that week.
“Each of us live our lives… somewhere in that week,” Wilson said. But, he added, “Jesus gets the last word.” For those who are stuck, Jesus can help people move forward.
“It’s about life, and life more abundantly,” Wilson said. “It’s more than eternal life, but to live and experience Easter right now.”
Humans are constant, too
At the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, the Rev. Brooks Keith said he and that congregation have focused on the belief that not only is the Easter story a constant, so is the human condition. With that in mind, the theme for Keith and his congregation through the season of Lent has been “find comfort here.”
A church home can be “an island of sanity” in troubled times, Keith said. In addition to the gospels, Keith and his congregation have taken a look at the Psalms of the Old Testament as a transparent guide to prayer.
The 23rd Psalm in particular — “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …” can be a guide to a life in faith, Keith said.
The core of that Psalm is that “you can’t shake God’s mercy,” Keith said. “You can refuse it, but it’s there.”
While written before the time of Jesus, Keith said that Psalm teaches virtually everything about his ministry.
“His followers experience everything,” Keith said. “They experienced goodness and mercy, the valley of the shadow of death and the feast that God sets out for us. … I find it tremendously comforting.”
Keith said he imagines the doors to all churches will open wide on Easter Sunday.
“We want people who are hurting, or are by themselves, or looking to reset their lives,” he said. “That’s who we want to come.”
Reflecting for a moment on First Lutheran, Keith noted that it’s very hard to get a church started. But, he said, once begun, “It’s hard to stop a church.” Once begun, faith wants to move forward.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.