Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Day 2012

Imagine that there was a daily newspaper in Jerusalem, all those years ago. There wasn’t, but imagine one of those tabloid newspapers, the Jerusalem Sun-Times and the headline might have read:
A Religious Crackpot put to death

It probably wouldn’t have been on the front page, but it would have been close.

For Pontius Pilate – the Governor – he would have seen the headline and he wouldn’t have bothered to read the story, the headline was enough. And for him that was the end of the story.

For Caiaphas – the High Priest that year – he would have at least read the story, if for no other reason than to make sure they spelt his name correctly. He wouldn’t have had the confidence of Pilate, he wasn’t so sure, but he was sure hopeful that it was the end.

For Peter – and the other apostles – his closest friends and followers, those were hard days (Good Friday and Holy Saturday). They were fearful, worried for their own lives. They were confused, things didn’t turn out the way they thought it would. Mostly, I think, they would have felt guilty; they had abandoned their friend in the hour of his greatest need.

After all, there was something about Jesus that made them believe, that made them think that things can change. They’re initial thoughts that "perhaps" he’s the one – evolved into "what if?" he’s the one, and “what if?” became “yes!”

Women and men left their homes and families; security and respectability because of Jesus and the message he proclaimed – that love can make a difference in the world. That love brings God's kingdom, love brings God’s realm, on earth as it is in heaven. But for the moment, for the men, all seemed lost.

It was a Sunday Morning, the first day of the week, like our Monday mornings. It was a time to get back to work. The weekend is over; the day of rest has ended. The Passover is over, things happen, people get crucified, but now its morning and it’s time to get on with life, to get back to work.

But Mary was a close friend and follower too. And, I think, we can forgive her for feeling a little bit angry and hurt because of all that she had witnessed in the last few days. She didn’t run, she stayed and witnessed everything that had happened.

At this moment she didn’t need a theology lesson, or an interpretation of scripture, or a perfectly worded prayer. She needed hope and she also needed to do right by her friend, so, she went to the tomb.

And she came away with incredible news, that is news without credit, news that was too unbelievable, yet it was news that could change everything: the tomb is empty and she became the first apostle, one sent to proclaim the Good News:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Mark’s Gospel ends in a wonderful and inspiring way. It ends in chapter 16, at verse 8, almost as if in the middle of a sentence. Later writers, thinking that Mark ended too soon and leaving too many unanswered question tried to improve Mark’s ending. First a short ending was added and even later people thought that wasn’t good enough so an even longer ending was added. A good translation of the Bible will show Marks short and long endings, but Mark didn’t write either.

Mark intention was brilliant; he ends where the story isn't over.

A mysterious man greets the women at the tomb, and tells them to tell the others that Jesus isn't in the tomb, that he has gone ahead of them.  And the women leave.

If it was movie you can imagine the shot of the woman walking away from the tomb and the caption on the screen reading, “to be continued.”

The men (being men) didn't believe the incredible story the women told them. At least at first they didn’t believe, they had to see for themselves. And eventually they came to believe and together they proclaimed the Good News, of the liberating word of God. And the Good News went out to Galilee, and Samaria, and Rome, and Egypt, and Spain and even unto Charlottetown.

In other words, today, all over the world people are gathered in churches, on beaches, in fields, at sunrise and all day to proclaim:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

And the story of the Good News is “to be continued” in you, in me, in us. And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you have to know it: Jesus isn't just here, he has gone ahead of us, and he is waiting to meet us out there…

Jesus died—it’s true and it wasn't pretty, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; the Creator of the universe raised Jesus from the dead. That means that the things said about God in the Bible are true: God is good and God cares: like a lover or a parent, one that is intimately involved with us, constantly encouraging us and empowering us to something more beautiful, joyous, faithful and whole.

The Good News is to be continued in us. The Good News that Christ is risen is entrusted to us. And it includes the assurance that Jesus will go ahead of us, to places and contexts we haven't dreamed of yet.

And remember that tabloid headline:A Religious Crackpot put to death.” Well it’s really all about the fact that Jesus shows mercy, blesses everyone, forgives and loves. AND (this is the crackpot part) Jesus says that God does the same.

That’s why Pilate and Caiaphas thought he was a crackpot and were afraid of him. Because of his message that God is LOVE, beyond comprehension; that love makes a difference in the world and that love brings God's kingdom, God’s realm, on earth as it is in heaven.

And we are left with this Good News to proclaim today:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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