Saturday, March 31, 2018

Year B, Easter Sunday, Mark 16:1-8 So That

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
A curious thing happens in the Gospel of Mark that leaves us wondering.
There is a secret, known as the “Messianic Secret”.
Who is Jesus?
As Jesus cast out demons, “he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, "You are the Son of God!" But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
He cured the leper, but instructed him saying, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
When he cures the Gerasene Demoniac he does instruct him, a foreigner to "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you."
But then after raising a young girl from the dead he again “strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.”
After curing a deaf man with a speech impediment Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
His disciples saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain, his appearance radiating heaven’s light and glory, yet “As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”
In spite of all these warnings, Jesus fame as a miracle worker spread throughout the region, so much so, that he could not go anywhere without being followed by the crowds.
Then, there is the turning point in the Gospel, when Jesus sets his sight on Jerusalem, and begins to teach his disciples that he must go there to suffer and die.
As Jesus was led to the cross, his disciples fled out of fear.
And on the cross, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
And he died.
Then came that morning, the women at the tomb, and the angel’s message to the women, "Do not be alarmed; 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."
Throughout the Gospel, he has admonished people to not say anything, but now, finally, comes the command to go and tell.
But the women “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
And there, the Gospel of Mark ends.
For they were afraid.
Finally there is a message to proclaim, but terror and amazement seized them and they were speechless.
Hearing this ending to the Gospel, we go, “wait, what, but they must have told someone!”
There has got to be something more.  Someone has to tell the story, otherwise, how would we know?
Someone has to share the Good News.
And there is where the Evangelist turns to us.  Someone has to share the good news, how about you?

We live in a world that desperately needs to hear a good word.
A man, Stephan Clark, was standing unarmed in his back yard when the police decided to open fire, and kill him.  He was shot 8 times, and six of those shots hit him in the back.  Rogue officers once again targeting the people they are called to protect, and killing primarily black people.
This is the nation and the times we live in.
15 students and two teachers are gunned down at Parkland high school.  6 minutes and 20 seconds was all the time it took.
Our children are being killed in their schools, and they’d rather not be. 
They march, thousands filled the streets last weekend. 
“Do something” is the demand.  “Do something.”
And yet we probably won’t, and there will be another shooting, another act of violence, and the senselessness of it all will be on display for all to see, once again.
This is the nation and the times we live in.
We have been embroiled in two different conflicts, military campaigns, in the Middle East.
It all started that fateful September morning in New York and Washington, DC.  Four airliners, two skyscrapers, and the Pentagon were hit.  Over three thousand people died.  And so we responded.
In Afghanistan.
In Iraq.
Overwhelming military force quickly toppled those governments.  But the wars linger on.  The violence continues.  Are we safer?
Many of us rejoiced that the cold war was over, but now, as tensions increase once again between us and Russia we wonder where we are headed.
And North Korea is flexing its muscle, actively testing and deploying nuclear weapons.
This is the world and the times we are living in.
We could use some good news.
“But they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

We live in a Good Friday world, standing at the foot of the cross, with violence, suffering, and death in full view, and yet we look with hope to the empty tomb.
That’s the Easter message.
There are two truths that stand out for me this day:
First, that as sinful human beings, our power and authority is far too often exercised in violent ways leading to death and destruction.  That’s the power we have.
As Commander in Chief the President can order the death of whole nations.
Terrorists can commandeer an airplane and wreak havoc on our world.
A troubled youth with a AR-15, a gun that is far too easy to purchase, can in the course of a few moments end the lives of his classmates and teachers.
And a few bad officers, perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of vengeance, can open fire and end a life, at will.
This is the power we have.  Power to kill and destroy.
But secondly, the other truth is more important than the first.
God’s power and authority resides in his ability to conquer death, and give life.

“"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This last September, my father, who had come to live with us, died.
One of the things that was so important to his faith is summed up in two words:  “so that”.
As Paul states in Romans:
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Christ died and rose again, “so that”
We were baptized into Christ’s death, “so that”
There is a rhyme and reason to it all, there is a “so that”
“So that we too might walk in newness of life.”
The prophet Isaiah describes this newness of life when he speaks God’s word:
“They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.
So that we too might walk in newness of life.
So that we shall not hurt or destroy on all God’s holy mountain.

Faced with all the violence and death in our world, we stand not defeated, but rather we live as and “Easter People”.
We live, trusting in the power of God to give life.
We live, trusting that death will not have the final say.
And we live as people of the promise.
The Resurrection of Jesus points us not only to a future hope, but also to a present reality.
Life is not defeated.
And Love wins.

One of the most moving things about the youth movement led by people such as Emma Gonzales, a survivor of the Parkland shootings, is that these young people have found their voice.
They are shouting out to the nation and world that it need not be this way. 
I believe that we, as the followers of Jesus, need to once again find our voice.
The women fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.
Fear seeks to drown out the message we are called to proclaim.
But we can’t let our fear, be the final word.
We need to bear witness to the Author of Life, and to the fact that life, not death, will prevail.
It is certain that the violent forces in our world will not end soon.  They will continue.
But neither is God’s work done yet.  Resurrection is happening, even now, as we gather.
And a new life in Christ is coming.
For Christ is Risen, he is Risen indeed, Alleluia.

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