A New Beginning

+ A sermon for The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter Sunday (Year B) at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on April 1, 2018 +

Texts: Mark 16:1-8

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia!”

“This is the feast of victory for our God, alleluia!”

“Halle, Halle, Hallelujah!”

You might be able to tell from the songs we have sun this morning and the flowers and the dressings of the church that this is a special day – this festival celebration where we remember the triumph of our Lord over the forces of death and destruction that sought to end his life – and the new life that has sprung from the cross and the empty tomb.

fearful-yet-overjoyedBut after that gospel reading, these songs may sound a little tone-deaf.
We didn’t hear celebration and rejoicing, but terror and amazement.
We didn’t hear songs of triumph, but a deafening silence.
So what are we to make of this gospel reading in our Easter celebration?

As you probably know, there are four gospel books – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Each gospel gives a different outlook at the life and ministry of Jesus.
And when it comes to Easter, each one has its own take on the resurrection – a perspective unique to each writer.
In the familiar story from the Gospel of John with angels in the garden tomb, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and makes numerous appearances to his disciples and the people in the flesh.
In Luke, Jesus is first recognized in the breaking of bread – in communion with his followers.
But in Mark, this is all we get – this short description of events at the tomb and the first witnesses of the resurrection fleeing in fear.
And if you notice, we don’t see Jesus!
c2a96110f3be51b0254b3bf192779c18We are told that he is risen, but we have not seen him – only his empty tomb.
And this is the end of Mark’s gospel – that’s all we got – the women running away from the empty tomb, the end.
In some ways it feels incomplete, inadequate – and maybe that’s why we don’t hear this version of the resurrection that often.
This ending seems so insufficient it didn’t take long for people to add to it – monks who transcribed the gospel decided that something was missing so they added an ending – two endings in fact – that you can still see italicized in your Bibles.
But this is the ending that Mark intended – this strange almost anti-climactic finish.

But in some ways, I really like Mark’s telling of the first Easter.
In some ways I see it as the most relatable to me.
As much as I would love for it to happen, I doubt that I will ever show up to church on Easter morning to find Jesus in the flesh standing and waiting for me.
The story with angels at the tomb and Jesus in white robes seems a little wild.
And I imagine for many people, this whole resurrection business sounds a little strange – a little fantastical.

And really, nearly two thousand years later, how much difference can this resurrection really make?
Is this story really going to change our life? Is it really going to change the world?

empty-tomb-1-1I imagine that many of us come to church this morning, like we do every Easter morning, with a strange mixture of apprehension and hope.
We know what is happening in the world around us.
We see war and violence in the news and in our streets; we see and experience discrimination because of our gender, sexuality, or the color of our skin; we see the effects of greed and poverty around the world, in our city, in our environment, and in our own lives.
We all come here with baggage, brokenness and pain in our lives that may be known only to us.
These realities remind us of the cross – the symbol of death and oppression that seems to reign supreme after Friday’s crucifixion.
And so as we gather here, we may wonder – what can this resurrection mean in the face of this?

But we also come here this morning with hope that things can change – hope that Jesus’ resurrection shows us that the cross of death does not have the final word, but that new life can spring from its base.
We have hope that the resurrection of our Lord does actually change the world around us – hope in the new life we have been promised in Christ Jesus.
This morning is a new spring of hope that God’s intention for us is not death, but abundant life.

But we know that there isn’t a quick fix – that change means work.
And that’s why I actually like Mark’s resurrection story – it doesn’t wrap up neatly with a bow on top, it’s left a little messy.
I think Mark is telling us that the story doesn’t end here – it can’t!
Mark is telling us that this resurrection is not a static action – it’s not a one time deal – I mean, Jesus doesn’t even wait for his disciples to find him but is already alive and moving, asking them to join him as he starts bringing new life to the world.
And just as Jesus invited his disciples to join him in Galilee, that they will see him there – he is inviting us to join in the story – to be part of this resurrection life – and I think he’s telling us that’s how we will see Jesus too.
We are probably not going to see Jesus in the flesh this morning or on any day in this life – but we can see Jesus through his teachings and actions and by partnering with him to create the change that he sought.

JESUS MAFA. Jesus heals a paralyzed man, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48306
JESUS MAFA. Jesus heals a paralyzed man

Nearly all of Jesus’ ministry on Earth was in Galilee – that’s where he spent time feeding the hungry, healing the sick, challenging the powerful, and comforting the afflicted.
That’s where he spent time with the people living on the margins of society; those suffering in mind, body, or spirit; those who needed to hear that God’s love is for them too.
That’s where we can see Jesus, that’s where Jesus comes to us to tell us that we are loved, that’s where we can partner with Jesus to share that love with the world.

We as Easter people – as people of the resurrection – are invited to be a part of the story. Because Christ’s resurrection is not a one-time thing, not just something that happened 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, but happens again and again.
It happens each new day as the morning dawns bringing life and warmth to the world.
It happens in our baptism as we are washed free of the sins that bound us and raised into new life in Christ.
It happens as we imagine a new and better world and we strive to make that vision a reality.
This resurrection is on-going – something we celebrate today and something we join to bring to fulfillment.
It’s the in-breaking of God’s perfect reign of love and peace into this broken world.

Mark reminds us that the resurrection is not the end of the story, but a new beginning that we are invited to join.
A new beginning for us as we can let go of the fears that take us captive, a new beginning for creation as life springs forth from winter, a new beginning for the world as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection inspires us to partner with God as we build together the coming perfect reign of God where all people are loved, respected, and valued as beloved children of God.
We see the new life of the resurrection as we share the love of God to all we meet – through word and action – as we join in Christ’s triumph over the systems of death and oppression that seek to take away life.

That first Easter morning was not a conclusion, but an invitation.
This morning is not an ending, but a new beginning – a new way of looking at the world around us in light of Christ’s new life and ministry.
It reminds us that God isn’t done working in the world, but is moving and active here and now – in this place, in this city, and throughout creation.

Liberation From Fear of Death by P. Solomon Raj

It reminds us that the pains and brokenness in the world are not the end of the story because God hasn’t finished yet, that the cross of death did not triumph but was transformed into a tree of life – and we are invited to be part of that change.
It reminds us that the best is yet to come and we get to experience this new life first hand.
That’s what resurrection is to Mark – that’s a new life that we can live into.

On that first Easter morning, the women at the tomb were told that they would see the resurrected Jesus in Galilee as they join in his ministry in the world.
Where will you see Jesus?
Where is God inviting you to partner with Christ to transform the world from death into new life?

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

Let us now join with him in this new resurrected life.

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