Sunday, March 27, 2016

Going. Telling.

Mark 16:1-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)  

16 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “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.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

I woke up with that in my mind this morning . . . well, right after the first thoughts I have every morning, which mostly consist of some variety of “OK, Cat. I”m up.”  But the very next thing I thought this morning was, “It’s Easter!  He is risen!”

We are so blessed to be able to wake up on Easter morning, indeed, on any morning, and exclaim to ourselves, “He is risen!”  For the disciples on that first Easter, not so much.  The Bible is completely silent on the topic of what they were doing from Friday sundown until Sunday morning, but we can surely imagine what it might have been like.  They are together, somewhere they consider safe.  They may or may not have gone to the Temple on the Sabbath, but probably not.  They were fearful  . . . afraid they, too, would be taken and executed.  They are his followers, after all.  They’re confused . . . how did they get to this place? Wasn’t Jesus the Messiah?  How then, could he have died so soon, so ignobly?  What will they do now?  Go back to wherever he found them?   Regardless, the women knew they had to do what was right for him, so a few of them gathered the things they would need to wash and anoint him properly and set off for the place where he lay entombed.  And when they got there, what they found was not what they expected.  No stone to roll away, no guards at the entrance but most unexpectedly of all, no Jesus.  Instead they found a stranger who told them things they could not understand.

Mark tells us that first they were alarmed.  Then they were seized by terror and amazement.  And  then they ran.  And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Well - they got the “go” part right, anyway.  They were afraid, and I don’t blame them.  After all, they went to the perfectly ordinary tomb on a perfectly ordinary morning to perform the perfectly ordinary service of cleaning and anointing the body of their rabbi . . . and when they got there, all the ordinariness went out of the day, indeed, out of their lives.

Because not only was the stone already moved away from the front of the tomb, but the body they expected to find was gone.  Instead they find a young man, dressed in white - not mere undyed wool, but a white robe - and he told them that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised.   He told them “Go, and tell the others. . . “

They got the “go” part right.  It was the telling they had trouble with.

On Tuesday there were bombings in Brussels, at the Zaventem airport and in a subway station.  The early reports were of over 30 killed and more than 150 injured.  An international terrorist group claimed responsibility.  Some politicians called on the police to keep a close eye all the Muslims in the United States.

A friend called after hearing the news.  It is incomprehensible to us that anyone could hate others so much that strapping on explosives and going someplace where hundreds of unsuspecting men, women and children are going about their daily business in order to kill as many of them as possible.  It is equally incomprehensible to us that anyone would think that just because people share a religion, they also share the political views and aims of a few crazies.  

On Tuesday there was a shooting in Selma.  It may have been gang related.  No one was killed, but four young people were injured.  Some people immediately called for a police crack down on “that side of the freeway.”   Those of us who are part of Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life understand that this is not the best way to solve the problem.  That this would, in fact, exacerbate the situation. We know that it is this very sort of situation that our work is meant to end.  If we can show the young people who don’t see any hope for getting out of the dire poverty that is their life today that there is, in fact, a way out, this kind of terrible event can become a thing of the past.  

It is incomprehensible that anyone would think that just because people live in a particular neighborhood, or speak a certain language, or share a skin color, they must be bad people.   And yet, there are many who do think that way, who hate - fear - others for no good reason but only because they look different, or dress differently, or worship differently, or speak differently.  That kind of belief has nothing to do with love. It’s not the way Jesus told us to live.  

Yes, there is evil in the world.  But it is not particular to a certain skin pigmentation, or language group, or religious tradition.  It is present in all of us.  We cannot prevent people from acting on evil.  We can however, encourage them away from the darkness and toward the light, and give them hope.  It is because evil is part of the human condition that Jesus came to teach us a better way, a way in which the good is celebrated, love is shared, hope is transmitted from one person to the next.  We are called, as Christ’s disciples, to go and tell the world the Good News of God’s love for all persons, of God’s forgiveness, of God’s great desire that the whole world be reconciled with him, and that the Word was made flesh in order that we might learn these things, in order that we might bring the light of Christ into the darkness.   

Like the women at the tomb, however, most of us are only good at the “going” part.  We’re pretty good at turning our back on that kind of belief and talk and action.  We might talk among ourselves about how terrible it is that people are like that - bigoted, fearful, hateful and angry.  We’re good at going away from the things that frighten us, huddling together, wishing there was a way to change the world so that everyone would act on the good within them.  We don’t understand why people would choose the darkness in the first place.

Sadly, I do understand how that choice can be made.  All that has to happen is for a person to be raised up believing that she isn’t good enough, that she will never be good enough, that even God rejects her.  All that has to happen is for people to reject him, to teach him that he is unworthy and unteachable and unredeemable just because he was born in a particular body or faith or neighborhood.  And that he is stuck, hopeless, with no way out that he can see.   I grew up believing those things about myself. I saw no point in sticking to the good path I was told about because I was going to Hell anyway.  I could never be perfect.  I could never earn my way into Heaven.  So why not just do whatever I wanted to do?  It was a long time, a lifetime, before I was brought to my knees, before I reached a point where I knew I had to find a different way to live.  And after I gave up the way I was living, it took even longer before I was willing to hear anything about a God who loved me. That was so not what I grew up believing  . . .  But I heard about that God from people who showed me that they loved me, even when I was behaving unlovably.  I learned about God’s love from people who loved me until I could love myself. I learned love from people who brought light into my life, who told me about that loving, caring, forgiving God, the one I’d never heard about in all my years in church.   I learned about love and gained hope from people who made a practice of going and telling . . . 

Go and tell the others.   We know that eventually the women did tell the others.  They must have, right?  But Mark leaves it to us to imagine how that must have happened.  Maybe the women returned, obviously shaken, way too soon to have completed the task they set out to do.  Picture it if you can, imagine how they must have been embraced in their fear and encouraged to share whatever had them so upset.  Imagine how, as they were being comforted in their fear and trembling, they must have started telling the others, haltingly, what they had seen and experienced.  And maybe the disciples, all of them gathered in that one place, began to remember some of the things he had said and some of the prophecies and wondered . . . could it be?  Is he really resurrected?  Is there still hope after all, for that new Kingdom he talked about?  Is there still a chance for the world to be changed? . . .

Yes, and yes and yes!  He is risen!  There is still hope for God’s kingdom on earth. There is still hope for the world to be changed.  All that it will take is for us, each and every one of us, to Go.  Tell.  Tell with words, of course.  But also tell with the way we live.  Tell with the choices we make about how to behave.  While driving, only use those hand signals that are intended to indicate a turn.   If you are in a conversation and someone starts talking about people of another religion or race or ethnic background or immigration status as if they are all evil . . stop them.  If someone uses the “R” word, tell them that is not acceptable.  Silence is not enough - even disapproving silence is not enough.   All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to say nothing.  And we are not in the business of allowing evil to triumph.  And ladies, hard as it may be, please try to keep the Men jokes to a minimum.  It is in all of these small ways that we bring light where there is darkness.  It is in all these small ways that we show the world that He is risen, indeed.  

What if I were to tell you that Jesus didn’t die for our sins, but rather, that he rose for our sins.  
He rose for us, defeating death and sin for all time.
He rose for us, giving us hope for a different world, a different life.  
He rose for us, giving us proof positive that things don’t have to always be the same as they have always been, that change is possible, that new things are being done among us and with us and to us.  
He rose for us, giving us exactly what we need to know to make the changes that will lead to living in God’s kingdom on earth.  
He rose for us, showing us once and for all that God will make a way where there is no way, that with God all things are possible.

Go.  Tell the others.  Tell the world!

Christ is risen!   Shout Hosannah!

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