Posts Tagged ‘Mark 16:1-8’

He’s Not Even In There 4-1-18 Easter Sunday

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In this Easter Sunday sermon, I explore Mark’s account of the Resurrection. The tomb is empty, but the Risen Jesus is no where to be seen.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/hes-not-even-in-there-4-1-18-easter-sunday

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

It probably goes without saying…but as a pastor I spend a lot of Sunday’s in churches…no big surprise, comes with the job. Now, most of time…most of those Sundays, this is the church where I’m at…again, no big surprise…but every once in a while a Sunday comes around when I find myself in a different church.

The most recent example of this happened just 2 weeks ago…14 days back I was not in Underwood Lutheran…but rather I found myself in a slightly larger place called the Church of the Holy Sepulcher…in Jerusalem.

Now this enormous cathedral is built over the site considered by many to house both the location where Jesus was crucified, as well as the location of the tomb where they laid him following his death on the cross. The two spots aren’t far apart…maybe separated by 100 feet or so…but within this one church, they are two very different focal points…the tomb has actually been enclosed into a tiny chapel, itself located inside this one great big church…and as our small group of Holy Land travelers went in…it took a bit of time before we could enter the tomb.

Now this tiny chapel that houses the tomb itself is not large. The entire structure would probably fit inside the narthex right outside our sanctuary doors…but before we could go it to see it…we had to wait in line…because of course we weren’t the only ones there. Now the line actually spun around the outside of the chapel structure…and MAN did it move slow.

We got in line…and we waited…and we waited…and we waited some more…every once in a while we’d take 2 or 3 baby steps forward…inching our way around the chapel towards the entry to the tomb of Jesus. As we moved closer, the people in line got packed in tighter and tighter as we funneled down into to single file…and needless to say we were all getting a little restless, both from the close proximity as well as the time that we were standing there.  Finally, after we’d been inching forward in line for about an hour…and were still roughly 30 minutes away from entering the tomb…one of the people from our group said “Seriously…why are we waiting…he’s not even in there.”

Now it was a sarcastic comment and we all laughed…but then I got to thinking about it…and by golly…there is some deep theological truth in that snarky comment isn’t there? And that’s a statement that sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? (pause)

Easter Sunday…the day of the Resurrection…the time when we gather here in the church to celebrate God’s defeat over the powers of darkness…that through the resurrection of Christ the powers of sin and death have been overcome. We cue the trumpets…we smell the Easter lilies…it’s a time of celebration. But this time around it’s a little odd isn’t it…because this year we hear from Mark.

Early…EARLY on Sunday morning…the sun’s not even up yet…and we hear that Mary Magdalene, and another Mary, and Salome…3 women who had witnessed the death of Jesus on the cross on Friday…these women who watched as they took his lifeless body down, wrapped it up and laid it in that tomb…they watched as the giant stone was pushed in front of the door.  These women who have witnessed it all are on their way for a difficult task.

They plan to anoint the body of Jesus…but they’ve got some things working against them don’t they?  He’s already been dead for a while…his body would already be decomposing, which defeats the purpose of anointing him.

And not only that but as they’re walking along they have one of those startling moments of realization…one of those moments when you realize that what you’re attempting to do is complete futile…like when you get to the check-out counter only to realize that you left your wallet in your other pants…They ask “who’s gonna roll away the stone for us? We can’t do it.”

Maybe, just maybe these women are feeling utter defeat, and yet in the face of everything, they arrive at the tomb. Now here’s the crazy part…the stone’s already moved…and so, edgy and scared, they poke their heads inside…and there stands an angel.

And now that feeling of defeat turns into fear…into anguish…in fact its same exact thing that Jesus himself experienced in the Garden a few night back as he was sweating blood in anguish…this is the same feeling that the women are now experiencing…and who knows why…maybe its at the presence of the angel…maybe its because the tomb is empty…maybe its both…

But its stands to reason, as we consider all this, that for them…NONE of this made sense. He was dead…they saw it…they watched as he was placed here…and everyone knows that the dead don’t just get up and leave…and now to top it all off here’s an angelic heavenly being and we’ve heard in many places in scripture that this seems to be a freaky situation when an angel shows up…and yet the angel assures them…do not be afraid.

For the angel knows why they are here…and angel also knows the futility of their visit. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth…the one who was crucified…He…is…not…here.”(pause) Honestly, we could have used that same angelic proclamation 2 weeks ago in Jerusalem. What do you want in there for…he’s not even in there.

Now maybe this all sounds familiar…that’s the part of the story that’s pretty much the same regardless of what gospel account we hear from…but remember Mark’s different. The angel goes on. Jesus is not here…but go and tell the disciples and Peter that he has gone on a head of you into Galilee…there you will see him…And the women…still utterly freaked out, run off…and say nothing to anyone.

WAIT…WHAT? Its Easter…the tomb is empty…Jesus is risen…what do you mean they said nothing? That’s weird…I think we better read on and see what comes next right? (pause) But here’s the kicker. There’s nothing more to read. Mark ends here…strange as that might seem…and yah its weird…so weird in fact that a few hundred years later some well-meaning monks tacked on a couple extra endings just to try and tidy it up for us.

But maybe we can’t tidy anything up…because think about it. Easter is about resurrection…but resurrection starts from a place of death right…it has to…and logic, along with our personal experience, together these things tell us that there’s no coming from back from death. And the women at the tomb that day…I’m guessing they thought the exact same thing.

So what do we do with this today? What are we to make of this odd ball, utterly abrupt ending of the gospel of Jesus Christ? What are we to make of this empty tomb and this Easter story that lacks actually seeing a Risen Jesus? What are we to make of this oddball decree to go out into Galilee where we’ll see him?

I think that perhaps…odd and confusing as this all is…it is perhaps the best possible way to hear about the resurrection…because it doesn’t make sense…and yet we profess that it is true…We can’t quite understand it…and we sure as heck can’t explain it…and maybe like the women, we just walk away confused by this whole deal, and don’t say anything to anyone…because honestly…who would believe it right? Dude was dead and now he’s not? He was in the tomb and now its empty…HUH?

But here’s the thing. This isn’t the end…and if you don’t believe me, let’s back up to the start of Mark’s Gospel. Chapter 1 verse 1. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (pause) I don’t think Mark spent 16 chapters telling us the whole story…I think Mark spent 16 chapters telling us the beginning of it. And here, with the women running off from the empty tomb…that’s not the ending…that’s just the conclusion of the beginning.

We cannot hear this amazing news of Jesus, raised from the dead…this amazing news of how God has stepped right into death and brought new life out of it, not only for Jesus but for all life through him. We cannot hear it and simply walk out of here today unchanged…perhaps to step back in next week or next month or next year to simply hear the same message again.

Resurrection life is about becoming something different than we were before…about life looking different…about life being lived different than it was before the empty tomb. (pause) This is what’s happened…and this is what Easter is really all about…not about lilies…not about trumpets…not about nice new Easter outfits and family dinners.

Easter is about a God who takes SO MUCH delight in the creation that he made that he willingly took on flesh and stepped down into it…he walked around, and went headlong into every single solitary place of death, even those that we have created for ourselves…and that same God has already, and will continue to create new life out of death…even if its scary…even if it doesn’t make any sense. (pause)

Now let’s swing back around to the command given to the women to pass along to Jesus’ disciples…to his followers.  Go into Galilee, there you’ll see him. Now I’ve often wondered…why Galilee…why not into the temple, or over to Bethlehem…these big name places that were literally right around the corner? Why back to Galilee, that backwater province far to the north?

Well…let’s back up to Mark chapter 1 again…the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ…Where do you think it all started? Galilee…Galilee is where the Jesus called the disciples to follow him…its where he performed countless miracles…its where he spent time teaching them…leading them…and showing them what the kingdom of heaven looks like when it comes near…when boundaries that society has established about who’s in and who’s out are utterly overcome…when those boundaries are utterly demolished…Galilee is where discipleship happens…because Galilee is where life following Jesus happens.

I can’t help but think that Mark’s gospel is one heck of a cool cycle. The gospel begins, and as present day followers of Jesus and readers of the gospel…as present day members of the Body of Christ, we travel along through Galilee right alongside Peter and the rest of the disciples…and we follow along when Jesus is betrayed and killed and laid in the tomb, and now that the tomb is empty…we are sent back to the place of discipleship once more…we are sent back into those places of joy and of sorrow…those places of unity and division…those places of community and isolation…we are sent back out from the empty tomb into the place of life…and that’s where we see him in the faces of one another…in the hungry mouth that we feed…in the widow that we visit…in the time that we spend supporting one another. (pause)

Sure we can visit the tomb. Its possible, I’ve been there…and we can jostle around, pushing to get into that place of death…but in the end what’s the point…Jesus is out here in the place of life…that tomb is empty…Dude’s not even in there. Amen.

Still Waiting On The Ending-Easter Sunday 4-5-15

In this sermon for Easter Sunday I explore Mark 16:1-8. This is Mark’s account of the resurrection, but it’s abrupt ending and no real resolution seemingly leaves us hanging.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/still-waiting-on-the-ending-4-5-15-easter-sunday

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Of the many different things that I spend my free time on, I think it is safe to say that there are two that probably dominate the majority of my attention. Reading fiction…and watching movies. I pursue both of these with equal excitement…because I just love being immersed in a good story…and sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to encounter both mediums of story-telling at the same time. (pause)
I’m talking, of course, of movie adaptations of popular books…and the longer I’ve paid attention, the more I realize that MANY movies are in fact adaptations of some sort. Now some movie adaptations are done really badly…and fans of the original story will pick it to pieces…finding fault with every single aspect that fails to meet their expectations…but then there are other times when the film makers do a REALLY good job, resulting in a movie that really pulls it off…and I love it when I encounter a movie like this.
Honestly, I think its great…to be able to see the characters in the flesh…living out the story that had only existed in print…and in the images within my mind that the printed words help create. Honestly, in my humble opinion…for the most part…a movie adaptation of a good book is almost a positive experience.
But that being said, I’ve noticed a trend in recent years…particularly when movie makers set out to adapt a series of books to the big screen…and this trend is taking the final book of the series…and splitting it into multiple movies…and there are MANY examples I can choose from…The Hungers Games is in the midst of it right now as we wait for Mockingjay Part 2 to hit theaters this November…and a few years back it was the Harry Potter series as we watched Deathly Hallows Part 1 in November of 2010 and then had to wait until the following July to wrap up the story in Part 2.
Now, the theory presented by the film studios…is that the complete story is so big and so important that they really need to divide it into multiple films to be able to convey it properly…and they claim that part 1 is simply the beginning of the end…but we know the truth don’t we? They just want to turn one $300 million dollar payday into 2 $300 million dollar paydays right? (pause)
But you know what…as I’ve thought about some of these situations, particularly as I sat and watched Part 1 in both the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, I wasn’t that upset…because I had read the books…I knew the stories…and sure I was excited about the visual aspect of seeing it up there…but I didn’t mind the anticipation of it all.
But I do remember a time when filmmakers went with the 2 part aspect of finishing up the story when I didn’t know how it was going to end…and it happened all the way back in 2003 with the release of The Matrix reloaded…which cut to the credits right after a shocking reveal of the hero unconscious right alongside of the villain…and then making us wait 6 months to find out how it would all end.
It was SO FRUSTRATING…and they left me sitting on the edge of my seat…with no idea what was going to happen next. Good story telling? Yah maybe…a good marketing technique…absolutely…but at the same time, absolutely maddening in terms of absolution…because there just wasn’t any. (pause)
And I’ll be honest with you…when I pick up the Bible…and I turn to the resurrection stories…I want absolution…because here on Easter Sunday we are coming out of the long dark season of Lent…and this year, at least here in our little community…one that is perhaps even darker than usual with some tough events that have happened recently…and so we look to the gospel…and we’ve come to expect something from it…we’ve come to expect the glorious resurrection…and the appearance of Jesus, resurrected…especially after the darkness of Friday and his torture…and his death…and all day Saturday as we sit in the knowledge that Jesus is dead in the tomb…here on Easter Sunday we want to cue the trumpets…turn on the lights…and experience the joy of seeing the Savior of the World alive once more…
But today…the lectionary plays a bit of a joke on us…and we hear Mark’s account of the resurrection…and Mark, not only fails to give us much in the way of absolution…but Mark fails to give us an ending period…listen again to the way that Mark ends his gospel, here in chapter 16 verse 8…So the women went out and fled from the tomb…for terror and amazement had seized them…and they said NOTHING to ANYONE…for they…were…afraid… (long pause)
This bizzare and uttery abrupt ending of Mark has been a topic of debate for almost as long as the gospel itself has been in existence…Some people believe that the final part of the scroll simply got torn off…and that there was in fact more to the story…so much in fact that within a couple hundred years of the death and resurrection…different “authorities” actually wrote additional endings to Mark…I’m serious…you can find them in your Bible…footnoted as additions of course…But isn’t that crazy…to think that the author of the Gospel simply ends the story like this…seemingly right in the middle of a thought…and certainly without any sort of resolution to the story what so ever.
I mean, COME ON!!! Jesus was dead…there can be no arguing that…and these three women that come to tomb on Sunday morning were there to see it…we hear them named specifically in chapter 15…watching the death of Jesus and watching as his body is placed in the tomb…and now following the Sabbath they head to the tomb…and find the stone pushed away…and there’s no body to be found…for Jesus isn’t here anymore.
No longer is Jesus among the dead…and the women hear from the angel, we also hear the same words….YOU are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified…he has been raised…he IS NOT…here. (pause) And as he told you…he has gone on ahead of you…and you will see him again. (pause)
But we don’t…and neither do the women…and the crazy thing is…that these witnesses to the resurrection…or in the very least…these witness to the empty tomb…run away…and don’t tell anyone. (pause)
And so now we come around to this question once again…what do we do with this? What are we to think about this empty tomb…and this proclamation that Jesus has been raised from the dead…and that he has gone on ahead of us…out into the world?
What do we do with this? How are we…people who have heard this story over and over again all of our lives…joining with 2000 years worth of individuals who have also heard the story and likewise have come to expect to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning…how do we explain this ending…this lack of resolution? (pause)
I’ll be honest with you this morning…if you’re sitting there asking yourself that question right now…and perhaps you’re looking back up at me as I stand here before you today, thinking that I’m going to explain it for you…well, then I’m going to disappoint you this morning. Because these are valid questions…but I believe that they are questions that I CANNOT answer for you…but I will offer you a touch of insight…insight that actually comes from Mark’s gospel…just the opposite end of it. (pause)
Mark Chapter 1 verse 1 reads “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” And according to Mark…the good news of Jesus doesn’t begin with his birth…but it begins right smack dab in the middle of the story, with his baptism and his ministry…and then Mark tells us about his ministry…filled with countless interactions with different individuals who encounter the Lord and are changed…but often times lack the understanding of just how it has happened…in fact Jesus own disciples…the men closest to him fail to understand just what’s going on…and in the end, he is betrayed…and he is tortured…and he is killed…and now today we hear…we don’t see…but we hear that he has been raised and he has disappeared out into the world where we will encounter him again… (pause)
And just as the women were amazed and terrified and I’m guessing pretty confused about this empty tomb…I think we share in this same confusion…Jesus was dead…but he’s not in that tomb anymore…and apparently, he’s not even hanging around it.
Apparently Jesus doesn’t have time to see if we understand it or not…because he’s got work to do out there in the world…and that…is where we go to start to find the answers to these questions that we have…to find the resolution of just what this empty tomb and abrupt halting to the story in Mark means.
We don’t find it in here…I’m sorry we just don’t…we find it out there…in the midst of our lives because THAT is where we encounter the risen Lord…and that means something different for each and every one of us because each and every one of us has a different experience. (pause)
So today, we sit here today…and we do celebrate the proclamation that we have come to believe that Jesus has been raised and he is no longer among the dead…and we rejoice in the promise that he has made that we will one day join with him in a resurrection like his…but in the midst of this, we also realize that the story is NOT over…that the work of God is still happening out there in the world…that we CANNOT simply tidy all of this up in a simple 15 minute sermon that answers every question and covers every contingency.
Rather, we have to go out there…and keep on living our lives…seeing where and when and how the risen Jesus Christ find us in the midst of our lives. (pause)
And I know that there is a lot of ambiguity in what I’ve said…and it hasn’t really resolved anything…but you know what…I think that’s what Mark intended when he wrote those final words…and left us all hanging with the question of “What comes next?”
And so I’ll ask that question…as you leave here today…having heard the proclamation that Jesus Christ is risen…well then…What comes next?
And then I’m gonna be a punk…and I’m not even attempt to answer it for you…because that’s between you and God. I’ll let the two of you hash that out…but I will tell you this…sometimes its just maddening to not know the resolution…and together with God, out there, we just have to live with it…because sometimes…Sometimes…