Colour study, Wassily Kandinsky
Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021
St. Martin North Vancouver
Lord, I lift your name on high.
Lord I love to sing your praises.
I’m so glad you’re in my life.
I’m so glad you came to save us.
You came from heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross my debt to pay,
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord I lift your name on high.
-Maranatha Praise Band
“Not the End of the Story”
Have you read a book lately or watched a movie that seemed to end in the middle of the story? Sometimes it is because there will be a sequel (and we have to wait for it to reach the conclusion). Other times, the author wants us to do our own work: to go back into the story and find a deeper meaning. In the earliest story we have of the resurrection from the gospel of Mark we have unfinished business.
Jesus on the Friday of the Passover. According to the Jewish faith, work had to stop by Friday evening to prepare for the sabbath rest, so the body was laid quickly in the tomb. The women had then to wait until the sabbath was over to complete laying out and anointing Jesus’ body for burial. When dawn came on the Sunday morning and they had light to work by, they went to the burial chamber. The entrance stone had already been rolled away for them, and they entered to find an unexpected visitor in the chamber. Another follower? An angel? We don’t know except by their reaction: they are alarmed, terrified, and amazed! The body of Jesus is gone! They are told he has been raised! And in the last sentence of the gospel story, “they fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). The End. Or is it?
When copies of the gospel of Mark were circulating in the early Church, some thought that there must be a chapter missing. Sometime in the second century, some verses were added on to that sound more like the resurrection narratives of the other three gospels. In the fourth century, more verses were added on to counteract the implication of the women fleeing and saying nothing. It contains a commandment for the disciples to go from “east to west” to proclaim salvation. But none of these add-ons were original to the oldest manuscripts. The gospel of Mark ends starkly.
The paradox is that the women must have said something. If they had stayed silent about what happened at the empty tomb, Easter and the Christian way would have ended right there and then. We know that those first apostles told the other followers of Jesus because the story started circulating immediately. Death wasn’t the final word. The story goes beyond the gospel of Mark all the way through the generations to us today. Other people picked up the narrative. Believers met the resurrected Jesus, witnessed to God’s power, and proclaimed it to others. Those experiences happen outside and beyond the words we have from Mark’s gospel. But there is a clue for us right in the story.
Galilee. The messenger from God that the women met in the tomb says, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee: there you will see him” (Mark 16:7). Galilee is where Jesus first started his ministry of teaching and healing and proclaiming the kingdom of God. It is where his disciples first got to know him and decided to follow. Galilee is our ordinary everyday existence: where we each come from. In the everyday, in the ordinary, is the place where we meet Jesus again. The invitation is to see and know him more deeply. Not just as a good man, or a teacher of ethics, or even a miraculous healer. But as the power of God to touch and bring new life. To you and me. To the world.
Easter is about having the courage to speak to others about the power of the resurrection. Even when we don’t know the end of the story yet. Our living and telling of the truth of how God has made a difference in our lives is a testimony for others. We have been changed for good through a relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Why wouldn’t we want to share that with those around us? Just think. If every person today was to phone one other person in their life who is not part of this Christian community, then twice as many people would hear about the power of Easter here and now in 2021. Tell the story of how we gathered and had this service and celebrated the resurrection in spite of everything that has been thrown up as barriers.
I am so grateful to all the people who have made this worship possible. You have come together with your time and your talents and your treasures because you hold this holy day and this holy people dear to God. If we had not made an effort to share the story of Easter, St. Martin’s would have died today. The story would have died today. Isn’t it wonderful that all across the world, Christians like us have ways to rise from the grave and proclaim the resurrection! We are in the middle of the story, living into the resurrection life in ways we never imagined.
Have you left a meeting with your questions unanswered? Done an experiment without clear results, or conducted a survey that didn’t really give a clear direction? Sat down with a friend or a family member to work out something important and couldn’t come to an agreement? How frustrating and unsatisfying! The unfinished business of our lives seldom gives us a feeling of living happily ever after. Yet when we continue the life work of relationship, of reconciliation, of truth-building, of leadership, of wellness, the power of resurrection flows through us. The risen Christ meets us again and again, every time we turn to him in our daily lives. We are part of this story, this adventure, this challenge. God’s love is amazing in every generation. Today we affirm that resurrection is real for us, here and now this Easter. Amen.