Archive for April, 2021

Photo Credit: “new decisions”, © 2016 Siaron JamesFlickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

He’s On the Loose!

A Sermon on Mark 16:1-8, with allusions to Isaiah 25:6-10a


Mark’s Easter story may be the most realistic one.  The women burst out of the tomb and ran away in stunned silence.  Maybe they ran because they didn’t get what resurrection meant.  Or maybe they ran because they DID get it.

They went to the tomb looking for closure, expecting to finish the traditional burial customs.  Yes, they would have to see about getting the stone rolled back, but that problem wasn’t insurmountable.  If the stone could be levered into place, it could also be levered out of place.

Jesus’ death was heartbreaking, but in a way, it was also a sad relief.  Now Jesus’ followers wouldn’t have to struggle with the challenges he kept laying before them, what he called laying self down and taking up the cross.  Now they wouldn’t be so out of step with the powers that be around them.  They could go back to being civilians, normal expectations intact, back to something like the life they knew before Jesus came along calling them to something more.

Expectations began to crumble when the women arrived at the tomb and found the stone already rolled back.  Somebody had obviously gotten there ahead of them.

Once they got inside their expectations were utterly blown away.  There was no body.  Instead, there was a young man clothed in bright white.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said, which is what just about every messenger from God in the Bible says because at the very least such an appearance is startling.

“Jesus is not here because he is not dead.  He has been raised,” the messenger announced.  “Now you tell the disciples, Peter in particular, that he is going to Galilee ahead of you.  You go to Galilee, and you will see him there.  Remember what he told you?”

The women’s reaction was not relief, “Oh, so this is happily ever after starts.”  No!  They recognized what this meant.  It means Jesus is out there, on the loose, and up to something in Galilee.  And if they go to meet him there, he will soon have them up to something, too.   And what’s he going to be up to?  They’ll find Jesus right back where they saw him when they met him the first time, with the sick, the suffering, the outcast, the needy, forgiving sin, and ushering in the kingdom of God, the good, just, righteous way and rule of God.  He’ll be right back to realizing God’s ancient dream of people from everywhere gathered around God’s table, where there’s plenty of nourishment for all, where everyone’s tears are wiped away.  He’ll be right back to doing loving things, which are often difficult.

No wonder the women ran.  No wonder they were speechless.  When they got their wits back about them, they had a decision to make.  All Jesus’ followers had a decision to make: Would they go to meet Jesus, would they put themselves on the line with him again, risking struggle and broken hearts and more?  Or would they grasp at old expectations and old certainties, and work as hard as they could to get back to the old normal, the way things were before Jesus came along in the first place?

We are getting closer to coming back out in the open after a year of being closed in.  I admit I’m unsettled and a little apprehensive.  When you come out of darkness and into the light, it’s hard to see well at first, and the light can even hurt.  Wide open possibilities can be more intimidating than a narrow set of options.

Short term, I wonder how best to tend to and heal the many emotional, relational, and communal wounds the pandemic will leave behind.  Like—what if the strife carries over into conflict between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated?

Long term, what might meeting the risen Christ in Galilee mean for us?  For he is risen, on the loose, and up to something.  He is out there, calling us to come to him,  daring us to dream his dreams, daring us to embrace God’s ancient dream of the bountiful table for all.  Death has not stopped the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is out there daring us to believe that the way things in this world seem to work is not the way the have to work, not as far as God is concerned.  For what is worldly wisdom to God?  With God the dead don’t stay dead.  Who knows what else is possible?

The Gospel of Mark ends with Jesus’ followers completely unsettled and on the point of having to make a big decision.  Easter puts that big decision before us individually and together as a community of faith.  As we emerge from the pandemic, we could decide to do everything in our power to resume our former patterns, to find and settle back into what is comfortable, what meets our own needs.

Or we could decide to rivet our eyes to the risen Christ who goes ahead of us into the future, decide to put our lives in the hands of the one who has lavished healing love on us and spread it among us at Morton, the one who has shown us in our life together how good sacred community can be.  We can decide to follow the risen Christ who stands in the midst of a world that desperately needs all of God’s dreams to be realized, a world that desperately needs sacred, beloved community.  There he is, still holding up God’s vision before us, still working tirelessly to realize it, and still calling us to join him in it. To do loving things with him, which can indeed be difficult. There’s no way around that.

Mark ends with the women running away from the tomb.  But they won’t be able to run away from that decision.

We do know this: We are blessed because of the decision they eventually did make.

It’s Easter, the risen Christ, the living God is out there on the loose, calling to us and beckoning us to come where he is.

And once again to join him at the table.


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