Easter – Mark 16:1-8
Over the last several years my thinking concerning Easter has become more and more simplified. I don’t spend nearly as much time trying to understand, explain, or make sense of what happened. I am more comfortable with accepting the story at face value.
You know the story as well as I do. Jesus died on a cross. He was laid in a tomb. It was sealed. On the third day the “very large stone” over the entrance was rolled back. Women go looking for the body. A messenger says, “He has been raised; he is not here.” The tomb is empty and Christ is risen.
I have no explanations for any of that. But I have experiences of that. I’ve seen it happen in my life and in your lives. I read it everywhere in the scriptures. Today’s resurrection story isn’t new. It’s the pinnacle of what God has been doing all along. And if it seemed like our Old Testament readings were never going to end, that was the point. They were declaring that God has always been in the life-giving business.
- Have you ever been freed from patterns and behaviors that impoverished and diminished your life? Isn’t that a new life? Isn’t that a retelling of the Israelites escaping the bondage of Egypt?
- Have you ever had new insights into your life, a new way of seeing the world, another person, or yourself? Every blind man whose eyes were opened by Jesus experienced new life, a resurrection.
- Have you ever felt stuck, and without energy or direction in life? Remember the lame man and Jesus saying, “Stand up, take your mat and walk?” That’s resurrection.
- What about Jesus cleansing the temple? Haven’t there been times when you cleaned out and made a new start? Maybe that was your resurrection.
- Have you ever felt the presence of a loved one who has died? You knew she or he was there. Maybe you spoke to him or heard her voice. More resurrection.
- What about the raising of Lazarus? “Unbind him and let him go,” Jesus said. When has your life been unbound? When have you experienced a new freedom that released and enlarged your life?
- Think about a time when it felt as if new life had been breathed into you. You felt a new sense of energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and everything was fresh and beautiful. That’s the resurrecting breath of God blowing through your valley of dry bones.
- Recall a friend who said or did exactly what you needed when you were in a desolate place and you hadn’t asked for a thing. He or she nourished your life in the same way Jesus fed the multitude in the wilderness.
- Have you ever had a relationship that you were sure could not be salvaged? There was nothing left. The hurt was too deep and the distance too wide. And then one day a letter is sent, a phone call is made, or a conversation is started. Something changes and the stone is rolled back.
These kind of things are happening all time in thousands of ways. I’ve come to believe that there are really only two questions to be asked about the Easter story. One question we bring to this day. The other is a question with which we leave this day. The two questions stand as bookends to the story.
The first question is this. Is it still true? Is this story true in your life and my life today? That’s the question we bring to this day. It’s not because we think the story might have changed since last year. It’s because our story has changed. Our life is different today from what it was last Easter, and we want to be reminded that Easter is still real. That’s why we show up here every year to hear the same old story.
So let me be clear about this. In whatever ways your life has changed and is different from last Easter, whether you consider it for better, for worse, or a mixture of both, the story is still true. Regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, or left undone, Easter is still happening. You can count on it. The story was true yesterday, it is true today, and it will be true tomorrow. It may take months or even years for resurrection to free us from the tomb and pull us out of the darkness but it will. That is the promise of today. God never leaves anyone in the darkness of the tomb.
The large stones of our lives are being rolled back. Our tombs are being emptied. And the messenger is still proclaiming the good news, “He has been raised; he is not here.”
That’s why this nave is so bright and beautiful, filled with light, candles, flowers, and alleluias. Those are not just decorations and songs, they are God’s truth about your life and my life. They are the signs of Easter truth and resurrection reality.
That truth and reality will once again be expressed in just a few moments when we baptize Sophia. I want you to look at the beauty of her face and the innocence of her life. Lose yourself in the wonder, awe, and miracle of creation and human life. See all the potential, possibilities, and discoveries that lay before her. Imagine God’s wildest dream for her life. Name and offer your best prayers, thoughts, hopes, and joys for her. And after you do all that, know that you’ve just described resurrection, for her and for yourself.
Easter is not just something from the past to be looked at and celebrated. It is the lens through which we are to see everything. It’s a life to be lived. Getting Jesus out of the tomb is not the ultimate goal of Easter. Easter is about our new life. That means that today is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning. The most important part of Easter is not what happens today. What matters most about Easter is what we do tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
“He is going ahead of you,” said the young man dressed in a white robe to the women. He is going ahead of us rolling back stones, emptying tombs, preparing new places, and calling forth life. Every cross is flowering with new life, every tomb is becoming a womb of new birth, and every darkness is being overcome by new light.
Easter happens in the Galilee of our lives: the hometown, the familiar places, the usual relationships, the ordinary circumstances. Easter happens in the everydayness of life. And that brings me to my second question, the question with which I want you to leave here today. What will you do with your new and precious life (adapted from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver)? What difference will today make tomorrow?
“He has been raised; he is not here.” “He is going ahead of you to Galilee.”
If we leave here today the same people we were as when we came we’ve missed the point of this day. Easter isn’t the annual remembrance and celebration of an event in history. It’s here and now. It’s a new way of being. It is a new way of living. Easter is less a noun and more a verb. So tell me this. What will Eastering look like for you tomorrow?