Mark 16:1-81 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus’ body. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 And when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But the young man said to them, “Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So 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.---------------Alleluia! Christ is risen!Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!---------------Please pray with me this morning, church:Risen Christ,We rejoice in your resurrection dawn.Call us out of our tombs, this morning.Take us by the hand and raise us to life with you.Amen.---------------Alleluia! Christ is risen!Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!What a strange feeling, dear church… What an absolutely unusual, unnerving feeling…Is this Easter…?Is Christ raised…?We opted for Mark’s telling of the resurrection account this year…it just felt more appropriate to our circumstances. See, the author of Mark’s account is by far the shortest of the resurrection stories…but it also leaves this massively wide black hole at the end… Like, you’re not really sure what’s actually happened. We’re told that Jesus is raised from the dead by the author, but we’re left wondering who told the writer because the ones that came to the grave…the ones who came with their spices and anointing oils and fresh linens…the ones who were certainly still trudging along because of the weight of their grief……they fled because terror and amazement had seized them…and they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid…And for the love of God, who could blame them…?Nevermind that a young man in a white robe is sitting where their dead Rabbi was supposed to be laying…supposed to still be dead. A young man who says, “Do not be afraid…” Listen, the surest way to get me to be terrified is to show up where I least expect to see you and say something ominous like, “Do not be afraid.” You don’t say, “Do not be afraid,” unless you know that your presence is going to cause people to be…like, you know…afraid.It’s like telling me not to be afraid in this time of pandemic…It’s like telling me not to be afraid, but insisting that it’s much safer if I go grocery shopping with a mask.Like telling me not to be afraid, but there’s this virus you can’t see, and you don’t really know if your have it or not, and like maybe you’ve already had it, but the symptoms were mild, but you could also be asymptomatic for 2 weeks…oh, and by the way, we’re running out of personal protective equipment for our first responders and ventilators are on short supply and they’re working 120-hour weeks and this virus is taking at least as much of a toll on them and their families and if you do, God forbid, end up in the hospital, your family can’t come to see you…“Do not be afraid…”Ok… Sure…Here’s the thing, church. Angels are more accurately translated as “messengers of God” throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. And every time a messenger of God shows up in the Bible, the first words out of their mouths are……”Do not be afraid…,” right… Because the messengers of God understand. They know that their showing up on the scene is definitely cause for alarm…but the messengers have a message to deliver and so they need you to not run away in fear and terror before they give you that message.
“You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth. You know, the one who was crucified. Yeah, he’s not here.”
Uhhhh…yeah…I can see that… What happened to him? Dead bodies don’t get up and walk away.
“Yeeaahhh…except when they do… He’s been raised. He’s going on to Galilee, just like he told you. You’ll see him there.”
Throughout this Holy Week, we’ve been rummaging around in the question, What does Love look like? We’ve talked about love that looks like serving our neighbor and the least of these, while also staying physically distant and apart from one another…a love that looks like an empty sanctuary. We’ve talked about a love that is broken and poured out for the sake of the world on the cross…a love that stands in solidarity with all of humanity by dying our death.Because if God is Love and Jesus is the incarnate Word of God, then Jesus is the very embodiment of Love itself. Love died on Good Friday. Love was buried on Good Friday.But not even the tomb, not even death, could keep Love locked away.On an Easter morning in quarantine, we proclaim that Love won’t stay dead.Love triumphs over the tomb, Love tramples death underfoot, and Love rises because Love lives.And that’s a hard thing to really believe, to really trust, in these days of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. That’s a hard thing to truly believe deep in your bones in this time of the pandemic. Because in many ways, our homes feel like tombs. For many of us, being asked to stay far away from people, particularly people we love and care about, feels like the grave is doing a pretty good job at winning.It’s hard to believe in life…amidst so much death.And yet…Christ is raised.And yet…Christ is alive.And yet…Love lives.Love lives because love is persistent. Love is scrappy. Love gets down in the dirt and overcomes that which seeks to hold it back and keep it dead, keep it locked away in its tomb. Love will go through hell and back to show you just how much you are treasured.Love lives.It can be difficult to trust such good news of resurrection in these days. Life overcoming death feels a little silly in these extraordinary times. But this is our hope. Take a look out your window. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, the grass is growing… Life is breaking forth.This is the hope we cling to. This is the hope we stake our lives on.That in spite of death…life—and love—finds a way.Jesus didn’t rise immediately.Sometimes resurrection takes a while.In Jesus’ case, it took about 3 days. Our resurrection might take a little longer, but dear church, resurrection is on the way.Resurrection is coming.Resurrection is here.The fled and ran away because terror and amazement seized them…and they said nothing to anyone…because they were afraid.We know fear. Intimately.But we must not stay silent.We must witness and testify to the resurrection we see. Nature persisting. People sewing masks for family members, friends, and first responders. Nurses and doctors pulling triple shifts. Running errands for others. Meals being delivered. Kindness shown on a walking path. Messages of hope and love written in chalk on a sidewalk, or painted in stained glass on a window.We must not stay silent…but even if we somehow could, even the stones would cry out.Because, dear friends, resurrection is coming.Resurrection is here.Alleluia! Christ is risen!Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!Amen.