Our Risen Lord
SERMON: Easter B 4 1 18
Mark 16: 1-8
A holy, blessed and joyous Easter is upon us. We visit once again the scene of Jesus' Resurrection. We marvel at its draw for us, once again.
Here we are in church, in greater numbers than usual, observing a reality some of us have known our entire lives, others not so long. But we gather in faith and hope and, perhaps most of all, vast cheer, to learn again, as we have, some of us, seemingly countless times already, Jesus is risen.
Our need to know that Jesus again beat back death surmounts all the sadness and tragedy of Holy Week. What others tried to do to him, to extinguish his life in shame and horror, failed to quell the faithful, failed to stop our Lord and Savior. He rose from the dead!
And here we are again, together, celebrating this ancient miracle, this fulfillment of God's great promise to us, that God is with us in the form of Jesus, in the name of Emmanuel, and in the person of the Holy Spirit yet to come.
Here we are again. Finding out again that Jesus lives, doing it together as a congregation, celebrating this central fact of the Christian tradition. If we had wanted to we could have stayed home and reminded ourselves that we're pretty sure Jesus will be raised again this morning. But here we are and as far as I can see, we're pretty happy about it.
This is substantively more than a commemoration; we all know that. There's a lot that led up to Easter that more or less stays in the background on Easter. But still, we do commemorate the Resurrection of Christ and we celebrate our experience of it, year after year, and we do it together. This is an annual rite for us; it is for those who come only rarely as well as for those who are here every week and some even more so. We recognize this day, and Christmas, as no others.
Partly we do so because it is so much more. More drama. More reasons for celebrating. More people. More music. More horns. Yay!
Those assurances by Jesus in the Bible that he goes to prepare a place for us have just assumed new gravitas. Our hearts and our hopes are lifted. (In the 10 am service) Our joy mounts with each verse of the Easter hymns.
Verse one of our first hymn set the stage for the entire Easter celebration.
"Jesus Christ is risen today,
Our triumphant holy day
Who did once upon the cross
Suffer to redeem our loss."
Our second hymn reminds us in the refrain what it is we celebrate:
Hail thee festival day
Blest day that art hallowed for ever
Day whereon Christ arose
Breaking the kingdom of death."
Our offertory hymn in its opening line proclaims our intentions today:
"Christ is alive, let Christians sing!"
We celebrate this day of astonishing discovery each year using different lectionary readings. We are all present today even though today's Gospel does not relate as much detail as the others and it also leaves a taste of human shortcomings. The Gospel describes the women, frustrated in their intentions to embalm Jesus' body and frightened by the young man who appeared in angelic clothing to explain things to them.
They followed his directions, but with fear, not joy.
This begs the entire issue of what happened to the disciples. Where were they? And who moved the stone from the opening of the tomb?
The Gospel reading today from Mark is intriguing in its own way. It reminds us that the risen life of Christ our Savior continues. It continued then, in the shadow of horror and in the fear of persecution, it continues today in the life of those who live into their Baptismal Covenant.
The ending of the chapter is our last verse this morning. There were two alternate endings written after Mark dies. Their totally different style and their obvious attempt to clear up the looming questions that are left with the original ending tell us something truly important: Jesus life here and above continues. It continues in us and all other Christians and, as Jesus made clear, all those who choose to love their neighbor.
Yes, it seems inconclusive, unsatisfying, when looked at from a dramatic standpoint. But it's not. Because the final act is being played out in the lives of all of us and our fellow believers and followers of the precepts Jesus laid down.
The clear impression we are left with is that God is taking care of business, even rolling the stone, and that is exactly the message we need to receive on Easter.
Jesus' radical message of love is one that inspires and delights us and brings joy to our meager souls whenever we live it out. At the time it was too much for many, but the world has learned again and again that his is the true path that will get us where we need to go in this life and the next.
Look around you this morning. Let your joy show, your pleasure in this congregation, your delight at the reliable news delivered once again that Jesus Christ is risen today. Alleluia.
A sermon preached Easter Sunday 2018 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie, NY, by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector