Scripture: Mark 16:1-20
Dawn (while Leslie and Lacey move to the back of the sanctuary):
“Our scripture reading comes from the gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verses 1-20. Listen now for God’s word for you.”
Lacey and Leslie: Theatrical entrance. Speaking quickly.
Leslie: “Jesus has risen! I went to the tomb early this morning. We rose early and took the spices we prepared to anoint Jesus.”
(almost interrupting, so full of excitement)
Lacey: “On the way, we were concerned about how we would get the stone to move to open the tomb. It’s very heavy…. But when we got there the stone was gone! The entrance to the tomb was open!!”
Leslie: “We started running because we feared someone had taken him. And this man….this garden man dressed in all white..told us that Jesus was not there. Jesus left!”
Lacey: “Don’t you see? He’s left!”
Both (Leslie and Lacey): “Jesus has risen!!”
Chris: “Silly women, do be quiet. There is NO WAY what you’re telling us is true.”
Leslie: “Go see for yourself then, the tomb is empty. Jesus, our dear Jesus, is risen!!!”
Dawn: The word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
Hear now the words from the gospel:
Jesus Has Risen
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 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 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Usually the Easter reading ends there, but there are more verses recorded (9-20), in which we learn that the women actually did tell others about Jesus’ rising. Just, the disciples, much like Chris in our act today, did not believe them.
Listen further for God’s word:
9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Why is it that we NEED PROOF before we believe something to be true?
- we fear being tricked
- how we test things, discover new realities, scientific method
- there’s a lot at stake…salvation (depending on God instead of ourselves) isn’t something to take lightly. A sign/proof helps.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry and in his reappearances to his followers, Jesus rebukes them for not believing. Jesus is frustrated with our lack of faith and our stubbornness – refusing to believe a story someone else tells us to be true.
When I think about how history is recorded, it is always the voice of power who speak. Who gets to write it down…their way.
And yet, somehow we have all these accounts of people who witnessed the risen Christ.
The voices speaking are not the voices of power, which would have been voices from the Roman Empire. The voices recording history are women. Three women close to Jesus who go to the tomb expecting to find healing for their grief. And instead they are upset that he’s not there. They are surprised that he has actually risen! What was recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures has been fulfilled. Jesus has risen, indeed!
Today’s story to many is unbelievable. Like Chris, we may be the voice of doubt – saying, no really, silly historian…there’s no way this can be true. And yet, it is here. Recorded in several places – proclaimed by Christians throughout the world, throughout time….to be THE true story of our faith.
* * *
Mission Bay Community Church has never been a community where we demand you say and believe certain things before you claim them to be true for yourself. We firmly believe in the power of God to bring people to faith when they’re ready…not when we want them to be.
And yet, we do have a role.
Our role, like these women, is to tell the story.
….so others hear the story and have the chance to receive this incredible, unbelievable news that is for them just as much as it is for us.
* * *
First, I think we explore Resurrection.
In it’s most basic form…resurrection means that Jesus’ body ascended out of this world…out of the tomb…into a higher realm. A different state of being… that is eternal – encompassing past, present and future.
Theologian Daniel Migliore says,
“Resurrection in the biblical sense of the word belongs to the Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic hope. It points to the event in which, despite the suffering and persecution of God’s people, the final fulfills of God’s covenant promises has begun. God’s raising of the Crucified Jesus to new life is God’s concrete confirmation of the promise that evil will finally be defeated and justice will reign throughout God’s creation.”
Rising new life from death.
Rising love from hate.
Rising trust in God over trust in ourselves.
Christ is risen! Resurrected.
He is set free. And with him, we rise with hope, too.
* * *
Jesus wants us to believe in resurrection without seeing.
But he loves us so much that he helps us see resurrection. Not only in these scriptural accounts, but in our own lives….
[1 – Story of Resurrection]
Last year, our food pantry needed to find a new space.
We were given some time to look for a new space – 3 months – and our leadership looked diligently, fervently, persistently to find a new space.
The move-out date came and went…and we had to close the pantry for part of the summer. And I’ll tell you, it felt like death. The last Saturday pantry in this space, there was a lunch celebration for the volunteers and the mood was somber. Though the clients and volunteers were hopeful….we, as leadership, felt like some life had died.
And then over time, resurrection happened. A new connection was made, a new space found, an incredible partnership formed with the Jewish Home…and the pantry came to life again.
We as a church body felt the moods of this Easter weekend. Looming pain and anxiety about the end of an era, death…real lack of life and knowing when there would be life again, and then beautiful resurrection to new life.
As a community, we felt life resurrected out of death and we found deeper hope in Christ.
A theologian, Rowan Williams, says that through the Holy Spirit “we are not only the recipients, but also transmitters of hope.”
In Christ’s resurrection we receive hope for new life. But as we believe, we also begin to live differently. We begin to bear hope for others.
[2 – Story of Resurrection]
There’s a man name Oscar Romero who helped a large community be resurrected by believing and bearing Christ’s hope.
Oscar Romero is a beloved martyr of Latin America.
“He was a prominent Roman Catholic priest in El Salvador during the 1960s and 1970s and became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. After witnessing numerous violations of human rights, he began to speak out on behalf of the poor and victims of repression. This led to numerous conflicts, both with the government in El Salvador and within the Catholic Church. After speaking out against U.S. military support for the government of El Salvador, and calling for soldiers to disobey orders to fire on innocent civilians, Archbishop Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass at the small chapel of the cancer hospital where he lived.”
And yet, Oscar Romero’s death fueled a movement of liberation theology in which we claim that Christ died not just for freedom from our sin, but also freedom from all oppression.
Romero witnessed first-hand the suffering of El Salvador’s landless poor and he used his power in the church to become a “voice for the voiceless.”
He knew “the [real] danger of assassination and had spoken of it often, declaring his willingness to accept martyrdom if his blood might contribute to the solution of the nation’s problems.”
“As a Christian,” he said, “I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”
I learned of Oscar Romero and several nuns who were tortured and killed for standing up for the landless poor in Latin America while in college.
And these new stories came to life for me during my study in Guatemala where my host family couldn’t tell me where some of the men in their family had gone.
“Desaparecidos” they would say. “Disappeared.”
Oscar Romero and the ongoing liberation theology movement made it so that these stories do not just go away. My host family’s lives don’t disappear. They live on as Romero anticipated, in the people of his country, in the hearts of Christians all around the world who believe the Christ’s resurrection matters for us today. It has power to lift up the oppressed, the sinners, the flawed human beings that we all are and bring us together proclaiming hope.
* * *
Christ calls us to be bearers of hope. To preach his resurrection and to watch as God fulfills promises of bringing new life out of death.
And now for a lighter story of hope…
[3 – Story of Resurrection]
The story of an underdog team. North Carolina State University. My alma mater…. busting open March Madness Brackets all over the U.S. By upsetting a higher ranked team.
I’m serious, I find this to be a real life sign of hope. Of a spirit of resurrection in which the structures and systems and expected order are disrupted and new life breaks in.
There’s a reason we are so drawn to the underdog. In storylines, entertainment, sports.
We want the underdog to win. To rise to the top because we feel the need in our hearts for a miracle. For the unexpected. For resurrection.
As hard as it is to believe, we know…deep down that this story of new life emerging from death is true.
We’ve seen the underdog win. We’ve seen hope triumph! The powerless rise to power. We’ve seen how forgiveness and reconciliation take shape and transform lives and entire communities.
So, beloved community, let us not keep our stories of resurrection and hope to ourselves. Wherever we find them.
Let us, like the women, TELL this story, even when others won’t believe it.
Because when we share the story and when we believe it…we are able to see resurrection, hope rising, all around us.
Let us share the story of Christ’s resurrection.
Let us be bearers of hope.