2018-04-01 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
PERPLEXED & PROPELLED BY A PROMISE
Sheepish disciples leading a morning worship service, 33 CE, using a Markan-influenced liturgy:
“Christ is Risen!”
People: “And we are afraid, indeed!”
“Christ is Risen!?”
People: “And we are terrified, indeed!”
Ummm, not necessarily the confident (strident?), victorious exclamations that we may have become accustomed to in our 21 C Easter worship services, right?
That’s why it’s intriguing to take a closer look at the truncated, cliff-hanger of an ending to the fast-paced, always-on-the-run gospel of Mark.
It’s a huff & puff gospel…and it ends with a muffled scream!
Three women, in the early shadows of Sunday morning, with puffy, tired eyes from lots of weeping and NO sleeping…yet they are still fervently devoted to their Lord. The men disciples have gone MIA but these courageous women gather up their cloths and anointing oils and head to the borrowed tomb where Jesus lay.
Salome, the young one but the most critically thinking one, asks: “Who will roll away the stone for us? I’ve heard it takes 6-8 men to roll that rock?!”
No answer. Just the swift trudging of their feet on the dusty pathway.
The women enter an open clearing before the tomb and find that the very large [500 lbs] stone has already been rolled aside.
A white-robed, young man sits off to the right of the vacant tomb.
“Do not be alarmed,
You are looking for Jesus who was crucified…
He has been raised! He is not here!”
Other Mary cries out and shudders with disbelief.
White robed, young man continues…[was he emotive, non-emotive?]
“GO…tell the disciples + PETER [ ! ] that he is going AHEAD of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
Salome, with all her might, is trying to think critically through this dream-like vision but her brain is overwhelmed.
She too cries out a lament of confusion.
It’s fright…then it’s flight…
“…They went out and fled from the tomb, for TERROR and AMAZEMENT had seized them;
and they said nothing to anyone, for they were AFRAID.”
DOES EASTER MORNING FIND US PERPLEXED? We’re in good company!
If you’ve been a part of FBC over the past months and years, I hope you would agree that we are not a group of Christians who smugly declare that we have our act together and pat each other on the back week after week telling each other how awesome we are…
we’re good…but we’re not pumping out pompous Christianity in this place…in fact, we often speak of and practice a posture of generosity here… all are welcome…
Come, when you are fearful, to be made new in love. Come, when you are doubtful, to be made strong in faith. Come, when you are regretful, and be made whole. Come, old and young, there is room for all…
PERPLEXED? You’re not alone!
BUT today’s Easter story doesn’t leave us there, instead, we hear the angel of Lord telling us to…FLEE! Run with the perplexed…be PROPELLED by the promise…
>> Jesus is on the loose!
Death could not hold him.
And that is the radically frightening but comforting news of Easter.
Jesus is going ahead of us.
AND 1 MORE TIDBIT OF GOOD NEWS…even the most “destined to get picked last for the team” people, are part of the movement!
“But go…tell his disciples [and Peter!]…that JESUS is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
PETER!?! Remember his last appearance in the story…Cephas the Rock crumbling into a heap of dust. He’s the ultimate failure. Bragging about how he would always be by Jesus’ side…but then denying Jesus three times…swearing at those who were asking him questions…shaking his fist and shouting: “I do NOT know this man you are talking about!”
The last image we have of Peter is a man breaking down and weeping (14:72).
But on Easter morn, it’s…tell the disciples…AND PETER!
Even Peter! So, if for some reason you are counting yourself out of the picture this morning…the message is even Peter! Even you! Even me! Even us!
So, this cliff-hanger of an ending sets us up for a “so what” discussion…
The greek translation of v. 8 goes as so…
“they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid, and…”
“they were afraid was why…”
–It’s almost as if Mark is saying…hey y’all, these first post-resurrection followers pressed the mute button….but you get to fill in the story with your lives, your words, your movements…
SO… WHAT MIGHT WE SAY?
-“I know that my redeemer lives…”
-“He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today…”
AND WHO MIGHT WE BE?
-people of hope
Let the words of the angel wash over you anew:
“Jesus is going ahead of you…there you will see him.”
One of the themes that Mark has repeated over the past several weeks is simply this:
In the 50 days ahead, let’s be open to creative, grand, humble, small ways of following Jesus.
The prayer that we often use after our communion services helps imagine this way for us:
Lord Jesus you have put your life into our hands
now we put our lives into yours.
Take us, renew and remake us.
What we have been is past;
What we shall be, through you, still awaits us.
Lead us on. Take us with you.
WHAT we shall be, through Jesus, awaits us.
Be encouraged, community of faith…
Do not be afraid.
Through sadness and gladness,
Mourning and rejoicing,
Faithlessness and faith-full-ness,
Jesus will lead us.
Perhaps this Ancient prayer from Isaiah was one that these first followers carried in their hearts: [and perhaps we can carry it too]
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.