Year B; Easter Day; 4.4.2021.
(Pre-recorded on 3.4.2021); Mark 16:1-8
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The great news today, this Easter Sunday in the year 2021, is that we “stand…in awe at the cosmic power of God to take away death’s sting.” Alleluia!
We don’t know exactly how God’s cosmic power takes away death’s sting. BUT IT DOES! Alleluia!
Some days, and certainly this past year we say, “Where is that ‘cosmic power of God’ right now, GOD? The sting of over 500,000 deaths in this year alone due to the coronavirus is really too much, GOD. What is the meaning of all this death??”
We have shouted these things all year long!
And yet, this community of faith, St. Paul’s TODAY, shouts and cheers and breaks our Lenten fast and we bear witness to life emerging on this April Maine Spring day. Even a month ago, in harsh March, the skunk made its springtime odor known. The cardinal emerged atop the pine tree and sang and sang. Someone at the Thursday healing service announced that outside her window, the green shoots of the crocus came up out of the softening mud.
There is the rhythm of the cycle of life that never fails to disappoint. It reveals God’s cosmic energy. And that energy is what we celebrate today. He is risen. Alleluia!
We just heard Mark’s resurrection narrative. It is brief. It ends abruptly like this. “So, they [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Over the centuries, the women of Mark’s gospel are accused of shrinking from sharing the good news. They are accused of forsaking proclaiming the gospel. In the early church of Mark’s community, so many people were disturbed by this very last sentence, that a scribe extended the story to include a resurrection appearance of Jesus. The extended story in my bible begins with this heading: “THE LONGER VERSION OF MARK”
This is how the LONGER VERSION OF MARK begins, “Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…” It’s obvious that this section is a kind of “eye witness” as if to apologize for Mary’s silence and terror in the previous verse. Theologians who have written about the shortened ending give the women a hard time for being “faithless.”
But we know that the women are anything BUT faithless. They are among the most significant figures of Scripture. In fact, the late Raymond Brown, the scholar who wrote the two-volume commentary, “The Death of the Messiah” analyzed all the women listed in all four gospels and gave extended and scholarly comment on them all.
I favor his analysis of the three women in Mark’s gospel who at the end were present to Jesus. They were silent. But they were there as he hung and died on the cross. And they were there at the tomb. Silent, yes. But present. They were grief-stricken, shocked, disoriented, and afraid. Anyone who has witnessed the death of a loved-one goes through these tough emotions. And they often render us silent.
Mary Magdalene is always listed among the women, as Jesus’ faithful friend. Mary, the mother of Joses, and Salome all are central to the narrative and called by name in Mark’s gospel. Raymond Brown considers them to be inner circle disciples.
Imagine that the women only one-and-a-half days before the visit to the tomb, witnessed a most terrifying and agonizing death of a teacher, son, friend, man they loved and who was the agent of their life transformation. The women watched him hang and likely die of asphyxiation, a kind of suffocation. This year the women are in league with the loved ones world-wide of so many thousands who died the same way: coronavirus suffocation that not even ventilators could help. Just imagine that Jesus knows that exact way of dying!
The next day, when the sun had risen, they brought spices, ointments and linens to the tomb wondering how that giant boulder would be moved in order to gain access. They were silent then, too. In their silence, the angel dressed in white spoke.
“He is not here. He is raised.” Then the angel gave them instructions to go tell Peter and meet Jesus in Galilee.
Now, I know every one of us here has had some encounter with grief. Either we have witnessed grief robbing human beings of joy, or we have experienced its multifaceted way of playing games with our own feelings.
- S. Lewis writes about his grief in his book of his wife’s death, “A Grief Observed.” “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid…there is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says.”
My friends, sometimes the messengers are the ones who help us emerge out from under that “invisible blanket between the world and me.” Eventually, we do hear them make the announcement of the good news of new life. Today, we do hear, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”
He IS raised. Today, we emerge from the silent sorrow of Holy Week to begin “loud shouts of ‘alleluias!’” We gather in joy because our Christian hope is that the necrotic decay of a broken world, of harsh winters, of division and disease are overturned. The breath of the Spirit heals asphyxiation. Jesus is raised. He is alive today and will be tomorrow. In him new life emerges as he promises to sanctify our lives each day with his Spirit.
And this is such good news, not only for us as we begin a 50-day celebration of the resurrection. But for each day of our lives.
What does new life in Christ look like for us this Easter Sunday?