Sunday, April 05, 2015

The secret's out!

Easter Sunday, Mark 15, Christ on Capitol Hill                                           

Alleluia. Christ is risen!          Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
“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.
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.”

“Do not be alarmed. Do not be afraid.”
This is the typical thing that every messenger from heaven always says…
“True. You are looking for Jesus, the one who was killed. He’s been raised; he’s not here.” Yes, you’re in the right place… although the circumstances are highly unusual.

“But go tell his disciples, especially Peter” – who denied knowing him after promising never to leave him… so might not think he qualifies as “disciple” anymore… so especially go tell Peter – “…to go to Galilee. Jesus, the risen One, will meet you there.”

Just like many of us, disciples in Mark’s story never completely get it … so at the end of the story, even the women—who have been faithful through every single part of the journey, even at the foot of the cross—even they are afraid and don’t tell anyone.
Or did they?
They’ve got a totally incredible story to tell, so does fear really have the last word? Or does the secret get out?

Later writers tried to help out the gospel of Mark’s awkward ending by adding some parts to fill out the story. So, in some ancient accounts, they wrote just one more verse… Really, they added, the women went and told the disciples around Peter (hmmmm… )… and the word went out about Jesus in every direction. A quick fix.
OR here was another slightly longer version… Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she told the disciples in the middle of their mourning and weeping, but they didn’t believe her.
AND Jesus appeared to two walking on the road, and they told, but they didn’t believe them. AND so finally, Jesus appeared to the 11 at the table, and said, “Come on, you stubborn people! If seeing is the only way you’ll believe… and if you won’t even go to see me where I told you to meet me… well, here I am, right at your table. Go out and spread the story!” And so, finally, seeing was believing… and they did.
Alleluia. Christ is risen!          Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

We know that this is true because the story of Jesus has traveled many, many places from its tiny start at the tomb. It’s no easier to believe now than then, and still, witnesses share their own stories of faith and doubt and miracles… but others may or may not believe them. And every Easter, not to mention every Sunday, we gather to wonder together in dialog with these stories… will fear really have the last word? Or will the secret get out?

The secret. For many who gather together in churches, and many who don’t… if we’re thinking about Jesus at all, Jesus is a real mystery. Most people don’t know what they believe about him, and if someone knows it all, we’re mostly suspicious… and in some cases, rightly so. You can find all kinds of information from a whole variety of sources that may or may not be helpful in getting to know Jesus…
Plus, who can we really trust? Can we really trust tradition, institutions, leaders, even other people to serve and guide us? There are plenty of reasons to fear. We can find reasons to fear everywhere.

So, how remarkable that in Mark’s original, unedited story, the risen Jesus doesn’t even appear… simply a messenger, saying, “Go forward into your daily life. That’s where you’ll find Jesus. You can expect to see this One who loves you, who forgives whatever you’re worried about and stuck on—whatever you think would keep God from really accepting you… oh say, like for example, denial, betrayal, fear—whatever it might be keeping you apart. God can bridge that gap. Jesus is inviting you, you & Peter, anyway.

This kind of witness is the exact opposite of the ways that people have used judgment in the past and in the present to keep people out. Jesus especially names the ones who might think they’re not welcome, so they can know for sure… yes, and you are part of this, too.

So if you see something in social media or hear something on the TV or radio that expresses bigotry, hatred, fear, condemnation coming from the mouth of Jesus? Well, you can know for sure that doesn’t come from God. Messengers from God always begin this way, “Do not fear.” And then, they talk about how God has chosen people—ordinary people—and made them acceptable in God’s sight, not because of who they are but because of who God is.

God certainly judges, but it’s never what we expect. Jesus continually surprised those closest to him… And from all that we can see in the good news according to Mark, the way that Jesus came to save was to bring good news, to heal, to change the world order, to bring to life … and yes, he was put to death for it… but the miracle was that somehow, God transformed even that horrible tragedy into something different. God transformed it so totally that when we look at the cross today, it is not just a source of pain and death…
it’s a source of hope and new life, a tree of life.

Maybe that’s metaphor, poetry… but maybe it’s also exactly what that messenger at the tomb promised. A place where we learn not to fear because just beyond it, we see Jesus.

The end of Mark’s story is just the beginning. Over 2,000+ years, there have certainly a whole range of experiences of meeting Jesus again and for the first time… but the empty tomb, the story of resurrection keeps inviting us back into the story. “Don’t be afraid. But DO expect to see Jesus in your daily life, because Jesus is living”—the One who helps us to know God better, the One who breathes on us and fills us with peace, the One who never gives up on us but just keeps calling us out of our fearful judgments into new life, again and again.

So, do not fear… but be ready. As you go ahead into this day, this week, this spring, you’ll see Jesus in daily life, just as he said. Fear doesn’t get the last word, because God’s good news is already out … in forgiveness, inclusion, peace, love. The last word, the secret we’re invited to share is Jesus.

Think a minute… who could you share it with? A word of forgiveness? A healing prayer? A loving gesture? We who have heard anything at all, we who have tasted a morsel, we who have said even one Alleluia… we are witnesses to something that so many people are longing to hear—good news. So, don’t be afraid. The secret’s out… and you are part of God’s vision for spreading good news far and wide.
Alleluia. Christ is risen!          Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Ben H. said...

Wow - thanks Joy for a powerful message a I sit here in Herrnhut. Blessings and Joy in this new day. Ben H.

Margit said...

Thank you, Joy for your clear words. I like the fact that we meet Jesus in the midst of life. I have found that to be true. And He always says 'Fear Not!" What good words for me as I go on adventures with my husband.:) Love, Margit