April 5, 2015
(clicking on the above link will take you to the Bible verse in Oremus Bible Browser)
“They were terrified, and they didn’t say anything to anyone.” That’s not the Easter story I remember, how about you? We re so used to hearing the stories of Jesus’ life from the Gospel writers kind of mashed together to make the story make sense to us. I guess it was the ancient monks who were copying these writings who also felt compelled to add something to the end of Mark’s story. They knew from the other Gospels and early writings of the church that the women and men that Jesus left behind did share the story with each other, and even met Jesus in person. So why would this evangelist stop here?
Scholars believe that this was the earliest account of Jesus’ life and work. In fact, Mark invented a new kind of writing when he told this story of Jesus’ ministry and death and resurrection. Other writers used his writing as the timeline in their own telling. Mark starts his narrative with the words, “the beginning of the good news of God…..”, and this ending seems to indicate that the writer thinks the story isn’t over, it will simply become the story of the Disciples after Jesus is gone. As if the story is eternally open-ended, still being written by people just like us who are still working hard to answer Jesus’ call to be God’s people.
As we hear the “man in white” tell the women who come to finish Jesus’ burial, he’s pretty matter of fact. “He told you that he would die and rise and meet you in the Gallilee, remember?” Just like he promised, Jesus has slipped away, off to do the thinks he’d planned. The grave cannot hold him. The man sounds like Jesus’ administrative assistant, “You want to see Jesus? Oh, sorry, you just missed him.”
Off to Galilee where it all started. Beautiful Galilee, with the lake they fished, the hill where Jesus preached, “Blessed are the poor,” where he told the story of the sower and the seed looking out over the Jezreel valley, lush and green, the bread basket of Palestine. There are churches on all those sites now, but it is still beautiful.
Jesus has gone ahead of them, when they least expect it. Isn’t that always the way? That’s the way we meet Jesus, too, inviting us into a place that he’s already gone, so we are not alone in uncharted territory. Like the disciples of Mark’s day, Jesus us, beckoning us to step in radical trust into marriage, parenthood, new work, aging, illness, the death of someone we love. We really understand those women, because sometimes we need to go away and figure things out before we can talk about what’s going on in our lives. They were terrified. But they were together, and what isn’t said is that they held each other together until they could talk about it.
That’s the same reason we are here. To hold each other tight when we are terrified and don’t understand. We come together to celebrate God’s presence in our life, but also to encourage and pray for each other when we don’t see where Jesus is, the tomb seems empty, and Jesus’ promises seem unfulfilled. We are the body of Jesus now. Working o right the wrongs of our age, to speak for peace and justice, to see with God’s eyes. And we get the gift of beloved community from which to go forth into life and in which to hide when we can’t face life. The story of Jesus’ ministry and death and resurrection put a seal on God’s overwhelming love for us, no matter who we are, where we’ve been, or what we’ve done or not done. You may not be able to understand God’s love for you, but I am here to tell you that you can trust it. Don’t be afraid, Jesus has gone ahead of you into whatever you face.
Years ago, I heard the story of a woman who supervised a food bank in a nasty part of town. Every night before they opened the place for dinner, she led a prayer for all the workers who would be serving that night. “Jesus, we will be seeing you in the food line tonight. Open our hearts to receive your blessing.” Jesus goes ahead of us, inviting us into a beloved community and into the work that he himself began all those thousands of years ago. May our trust in that invitation remove our fear, and help us see to see his invitation as one of love. Amen
Now may the love of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.