Happy Easter! Wherever you are, however you are joining in this time of worship, we are very glad that you are here, to share with us this time of joy, of renewal, and praise of God.
Easter, of course, is the absolute center and cornerstone of our Christian faith. Even with all of Jesus’ teaching and healing and miracles and confronting the unjust power structures of his day, without the Resurrection there would be no Christian faith, no Church. There would be just another first-century Middle Eastern philosophy and ethical path. There would just be a collection of sayings from an intriguing and somewhat edgy Jewish rabbi giving us interesting perspectives on God, who then died an untimely and unjust death.
But that’s not the way the story ends.
The story of Christian faith is all about God having come into human life in the person of Jesus, come to share our life so that we may know the height and depth and strength of God’s love for us. The story of Christian faith – the story of God’s relationship with God’s people – is about the way to God being opened up for us, and God’s plan for the world being brought to fruition.
Jesus gave himself for us. He willingly took on the injustice, the humiliation, the beating, the torturous and shameful death of Crucifixion for our sake – a magnet for the worst that the forces of evil, sin, and death could muster.
And they thought that was the end of it. The Romans thought that was the end of it. All Jerusalem, including the disciples thought that was the end of it. The world at large would say that is the end of it. And yet it’s not. There is more to the story.
In the Gospel reading Mark tells us that three of Jesus’ followers – all women – go to the tomb where his body had been placed after it was taken down from the Cross. These three women: Mary Madalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had all been witnesses to the Crucifixion. They had seen the horror and destruction of Friday afternoon, and yet somehow they summoned the courage – or at least the sense of decency and duty – to go to the tomb to complete the burial rites for Jesus, not knowing how they would manage to move the stone that sealed the mouth of the cave.
I’m sure they were shocked to discover that not only was the tomb open already, the stone moved away, but that inside that rocky cave was a figure in a white robe who spoke to them and told them that Jesus was not there. Jesus had been raised, just as he had told them he would. Then the figure – perhaps an angel – told the women to go and tell Jesus’ other followers what they had seen and heard. Even Peter should be told; Peter, who had betrayed Jesus so spectacularly not much more than forty-eight hours before – even he was to share in this good news.
Mary, and Mary Magdalene, and Salome were given news to tell, a message to share, a word to proclaim. The inner circle of the disciples were to return to Galilee up north, to their home base, to the scene of their pre-Jesus lives, and they would see Jesus there. He would be there, waiting for them.
But the women don’t seem to know what to say. They are terrified and panicked because they don’t understand what has happened. It is completely outside the comprehension of any of the disciples, and yet – Jesus has been raised from the dead.
So they say nothing.
And here the words of the story run out – at least in the Gospel of Mark. We never get to hear what happens. Probably the end of the original scroll of Mark was broken or torn or worn away. Later scribes added a few bits to try to put an ending onto the story but they really don’t fit Mark’s style and way thinking.
So we are left with an opportunity and an invitation. We get to write the final chapter of this Gospel. But rather than merely imagining what the women would have said to the rest of the followers, or what Jesus said to the disciples when they finally got back to Galilee and saw them there, we have the opportunity to make this final scene about our own encounter with the Risen Christ. We have the chance to ask what Jesus’ ultimate defeat of the forces of evil, death, and destruction mean in our lives and our world. We can think about who it is we have told, or need to tell, about the love and grace of God in Christ.
When I was a young child I had a favorite story book that was a mixture of words and pictures on each line. The idea of the book was that a child who could not yet read could see the picture pointed out and say the word; the adult and child together were telling the story. And the best part about that book was that wherever there was a picture of a child, I was supposed to say my own name. I was a part of the story; it was as much about me as it was about the characters on the page.
That is the way the Good News of God’s love and mercy and grace work. Each one of us is part of the story. It is not just about a rabbi and his followers who lived two thousand years ago, but we are part of Jesus’ story. And Mark’s Gospel (unlike the other three) makes this very clear; we have to tell the end of the story of Jesus’s Resurrection to New Life in our own words; we get to think about how Resurrection is active in our own lives, through our faith in God’s goodness and grace.
We have a role, a job, a mission; we’ve been given a commission just like the women who went to the tomb on Easter morning: to share with others God’s self-giving love, to let others know how much they are cherished and beloved by God – even in the face of sin and death and destruction. Stop and think about it for a moment, or take the question with you throughout the day, and throughout the week: how many people know of God’s deep, abiding, and victorious love for them because of knowing you? How many people know God’s love for them because of you – what you have done, what you have said, how you have shown up, how you have prayed?
This is your role in the Easter story – God’s big story of creation, sin, death, redemption, and victorious love. As Christians we are not distant spectators of the Easter events, but we are participants – drawn into the very heart of God’s plan of mercy and grace for the whole world.
What a wonderful story to be part of, what a wonderful life of faith to be living – being Jesus’ followers, Christ’s hands and feet in the world, given a role in telling the Good News of what God has done for the world and for you.
Hope, mercy, forgiveness, grace, redemption, goodness, love, and New Life. These are the marks of Resurrection, of Easter faith, of life in Christ. Who else needs to know this Good News, and how will they hear it? It’s your story to tell. Amen.
Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
The Day of Resurrection: Easter Day
April 4, 2021