What a joyful Easter morning, in spite of a cold snap, to celebrate Christ Jesus’ resurrection from the dead! According to the earliest recording of the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel of St. Mark, the first Easter morning started off more like a typical present day of doom scrolling with the women who had been at the cross preoccupied with worry. What is “doom scrolling”? Well, how many of us reach for our cell phones first thing in the morning (as well as throughout the day) and start scrolling down the news to find out what awful thing has happened since we last looked at our phone? The primary focus is upon things we’ll worry and fret over. Or should you scroll for the weather, the focus would be on the cold snap and not the beautiful sunshine forecasted. This negative focusing and scrolling is what sociologists are calling “Doom Scrolling”. Or perhaps you do what I called “Doom Glaring & Blaring” as I visited homes as a hospice chaplain and found families glued to the TV with the loud announcement of negative news playing all day. It wasn’t just enough that someone in the home was slipping away in the dying process, but foreboding news was blaring in the background, making the environment even more doom and gloom. That kind of helpless, fretful, and negative thinking is even more prominent as people have been confined during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We’re not much different than the women on their way to the tomb that first Easter morning, taking the items needed to perform the religious rites of burial required by Jewish law that couldn’t be done on the Sabbath or on Passover. In their deep sorrow over his murder, they “doom scrolled” their worry about “who will roll away the boulder? Who will roll away the stone?” They were not utillizing their faith that Jesus just might miraculously have survived the cross and rose from the dead as He predicted. NO, they were doom scrolling one negative “what if and who will” after another. Hear the original account from Mark 16: 1 – 8:
According to Mark, the Stone the women worried so much about was already rolled away. In their fearful dooms-day thinking, they got stuck and couldn’t hear, or even respond to the angel’s Good News that Jesus was alive, or even “Go and Tell” that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. I understand an encounter with an angel might be unnerving, but it was as if they had become a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife in Gen. 19:26. She looked back as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and became stuck as she acted out her doom scrolling backward focus instead of looking ahead with eyes of hope.
Thanks be to God that as we gather to celebrate Easter we can choose resurrection living with forward looking hope and not keep our heads down doom scrolling and stuck looking backwards! We know that at some point, the women let the words and command from the angel and the meaning of the resurrection absence of Jesus’ body sink into their minds, hearts, and souls. With that dawning epiphany, they accepted and shared the Good News that Jesus IS alive. If they hadn’t, we would not have as newscaster Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”
The Good News today, April 4, 2021, as we now celebrate our 2nd Easter within the confines of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and CDC guidelines, is that we are a resurrection, forward living and looking people who CAN choose to not get trapped in doom scrolling and to not become stone pillars of frozen fear! I have found three ways we can overcome being sucked into the paralyzation of doom scrolling or doom glaring/ blaring. I share them to help you in your spiritual path to move forward in resurrection focused living.
First, it is ok to check the news of the world we live in, but not to get stuck in “Ain’t it awful! Did you hear the terrible news…?” way of being. When you scroll or listen to newscasts, SET A TIMER for WHEN and HOW LONG you will scroll/listen to news. As you listen, pray for Jesus’ presence with those affected by news events. Last week, as our church Prayer Group met on Zoom, someone had just heard the news that a youth at the United Methodist Children’s Home had attacked and hurt a security guard, who was badly hurt and sent to the hospital. We could have easily gotten stuck in “How awful”/ Dooms day thinking,” but instead we prayed for recovery of the guard — and for God’s guidance and healing of the child. As I was doing my final editing of this sermon, I happened to hear that the guard died in ICU. So let us even now pray for the family of Mike Ellis and for the young man who’s attack led to death. Isn’t that what Jesus would have us do?
Secondly, STAY COGNIZANT about what you hear/ see in negative news. What is your perception? Check for accuracy. Try to perceive the situation with the eyes and ears of the risen Christ. When we look at situations with pessimistic or haughty viewpoints, it’s as if we’re always going to see Jesus as dead and buried and that’s it! But when we look with resurrection eyes at the world news or a personal event, we accept the gift of faith from God and begin to see the hope in any situation, remembering that God is always with us, we are not alone. It is important to check the facts and clarify to prevent misunderstandings.
I will always remember when I was about 6 years old, watching my dad mow the lawn one day when a man in a truck stopped, got out, and talked with my dad. My dad took our German Pointer, LuLu, from the back yard, gave her to the other man, who put her in his truck and drove off. I ran out of the house demanding to know where LuLu had gone. Over the noise of the mower, I heard my dad say, “To be a hot dog!” I ran crying in to my mom, who said we’d ask my dad again when he came in [and then gave my dad “what for” when he came in] before she asked him. He took my hands and eye to eye clarified that LuLu was a hunting dog and needed to have more room than our yard and to be able to do what she instinctively did best…go hunting with the man. Thank goodness that was clarified and I didn’t repeat the false understanding to others…and I could safely keep eating hot dogs! When we let go of preconceived notions, clarify, and check our facts we encourage one another and share the resurrection hope that allows us to build up the body of Christ.
Third, and lastly, we can overcome the temptations of getting stuck in the Doom Scrolling or Glaring/ Blaring negativity and thus missing the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection by Swapping our ‘Viscious Cycles’ for ‘Virtuous Cycles’ of Being, Thinking, and Living. This is what “giving something up/substituting a healthier habit” for Lent is all about. How many of us have given up chocolate for the 40 days of Lent, which ends on Easter, that is today!? As we longed for a piece of chocolate and in denying it to ourselves, we instead focused on the sweetness and richness of God’s love, the companionship of our Savior/Friend Jesus, and the guidance & peace of the Holy Spirit. We swapped our mindless indulgence in chocolate, sweets, desserts, whatever enjoyable edible food we gave up, for focusing on the enriching presence of God in our life, helping us to claim and remember that We are not alone, God is with us. And for those who have had a taste of their Angell & Phelps chocolate bunny or Reese’s Easter egg this morning, didn’t it taste even better than we thought? But it’s not just giving up, someone I know made the commitment to add and eat a vegetable at every main meal, without smothering it with cheese or butter. And this swap was not just healthy, but became enjoyable with a focus on thanking God for the people who grow and harvest our food. I can remember when my daughter and several friends gave up gossiping and swapped it with a positive thought or prayer for a person or situation. They grew more in friendships and understanding of other kids. This kind of swapping works as well with swapping learned racism perceptions and fears for instead trying to look at a “different” person with resurrection eyes that remind us how God sees each human creature lovingly made in God’s image to love and to be loved.
As we celebrate Easter 2021 today, let us not get stuck in doom scrolling as we approach the empty tomb. Let’s look with “resurrection eyes” and share the seeds of hope, claiming our resurrection faith that Jesus, who was dead, is now alive. He Lives…and we too, are alive and freed from our tombs, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus still loves!
Please stand with me as we affirm our healing resurrection faith together in our Easter Affirmation: