Easter Sermon: Finding What you Thought you Lost

Mark 16:1-8, CEB

He Is Risen, by He Qi, China.

He Is Risen, by He Qi, China.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.[a] He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[b]
…And that’s it. That’s the end of the scripture. That’s in fact the original ending of Mark.
The other endings of Mark were added on centuries later. For probably 200 years, the end of Mark was at verse 8. They ran into the night, screaming, and told nobody what they saw.
Now then, we know what happened from the other gospels–they eventually DID tell the disciples and all that, because obviously, they somehow got the news out, otherwise Mark would not have known the story in order to write it down.
But despite that, Mark chose this way to end the story. Is Mark a bad writer? Did Mark miss the point of Easter? Is there something we’re missing?
Easter, the day on which we can finally say Alleluia, the day on which Jesus who died on the cross on a Friday is alive again on a bright Sunday morning–this is a day of celebration! Of new life! Of joy, and singing, and feasting, and happiness! A day we’ve long awaited for forty long days of fasting and penitence! And yet Mark’s account of Easter is one of fear and amazement, not exactly joy? What is Mark’s thinking here, and what does it mean for us?

Mark on Casual Friday.

Mark on Casual Friday.

Well, quite frankly, Mark’s gospel is meant to be a question. That question is: what are you going to do about it? Jesus told the disciples over and over that he would die and be raised again, but they didn’t believe him. The women at the tomb couldn’t understand what was plainly before them at the empty tomb. The truth of course was too much to take. What was life was lost has now been found again. That is the gospel. The people here in the story didn’t understand. You however have a chance to do something different. What will you do when you find what you thought you lost?
Getting Lost has been the theme we’ve been exploring for the past 6 weeks of Lent. Today, I want to talk not about being lost, but being found, and what we do with it. But found where? What, exactly did we find? And what will we do with this new find?

Where are we on Easter?

'Easter coming so soon after Christmas has almost turned Anthony into a regular churchgoer.'For those gathered here, we are thankfully found at church, in a community of our family and friends.
I don’t want to write that off as a small thing. For all those who are guests this morning, I want to give a lot of gratitude to you. You are most welcome. And for those who are regulars here, I want to express my gratitude as well. Without everyone here, church doesn’t happen. And that’s a much bigger celebration that I don’t think gets enough attention.
Without people, the message is meaningless. That’s the thing. I could be up here all I want talking about Easter, but if it wasn’t for y’all making the conscious choice to be here on an Easter Sunday instead of sleeping in, sipping coffee, and doing whatever it is people do on Sundays, than Easter would have been for nothing.
This event, Christ rising from the dead, happened almost 2000 years ago. That should tell you all something. We are here together celebrating something that could have just as easily gotten lost in the shuffle of history, much like Jesus’s story could have been lost as just another failed revolutionary. But Christ was found on Easter morning, with all the wonder and terror that entails. And because people found Christ on that Sunday long ago, that joy of finding life when there was once only death has been told again, and again, and again, on through the ages. That story has power. That story has meaning. If it didn’t, then it wouldn’t’ have had the legs that it has for us this morning.
True, there were times in the past that the church was less than perfect. In fact, it’s never been perfect in all of its existence. But despite that imperfection, despite the corruption and sin that occurs in the church, the story remains just as pure as it was in the beginning. And because of that story, we find promise. We find hope. That which was lost is found again.
So where are we on easter? We are here, together, celebrating life. That’s something in and of itself. But that’s far from the only thing.

What exactly did we find?

I mentioned that we, like those women long ago, women who had stayed devoted long after the death of Christ, we find life where we once thought there was only death. There’s a lot to unpack there, and what better day to unpack it today?
holy women iconFirst off, I can’t overstate the importance of the fact that the women were the first to bear witness to the risen Christ. Honestly, the more I look back at history, and even at present society, of course women would be the first to receive the good news–they tend to be the ones in need of it. Women were second class citizens then, and in many ways they struggle for equality now. So in a way, what we find in the story is good news for those who are downtrodden, ignored, discounted, harassed, assaulted, and abused in history most. Men step aside: women earned this.

Second, we find hope for those in grief and despair. The women and the disciples were in grief, shock, despair and fear. Their lives had taken a horrible and unexpected turn, and now they were left to pick up the pieces. They go into hiding over the sabbath day, hiding from the officials out for Jesus’ accomplices. In fear and grief, they hide. And on the third day, no matter where they hide, the good news finds them, whether they were ready for it or not. And it’s astonishing, and terrifying, and terrific and wonderful. And their lives, for the second time since meeting Jesus, are never the same again.
So we find good news. Good news for all people in all manners of places. Good news finds us in every state we can be found. In good moods and bad, good news find us. In places of privilege or places of oppression, good news finds us. In places of life and places of death, good news finds us.

So what do we do with this good news?

Easy. Share it. It’s as simple as that. Share it in any way you can, or any way you see fit. Share it with your words, in your testimony. Tell people how easter has found you, and where you were when you heard the good news: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Tell people with your actions what the good news has done for you. Give life to those for whom life has left behind. Give joy to the despairing. Give comfort to the mourning. Give hope to the hopeless. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!
Share the good news, because the good news is too good not to share! Be salt and light in the earth. Be hope and joy to your friends, family, neighbors and everyone else! He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Alleluia! Amen.

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About grantimusmax

Grant Barnes, aka Grantimus Maximus, aka The Nerdcore Theologian. He is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology with a Masters Degree in Divinity. He is also a commissioned elder in the United Methodist Church, and Senior Pastor at Hemphill First United Methodist Church and Pineland United Methodist Church. He graduated from Texas State University Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in English, minor in History. He watches way too many movies, reads too many books, listens to too much music, and plays too many video games to ever join the mundane reality people claim is the "Real World." He rejects your reality, and replaces it with a vision of what could be, a better one, shaped by his love for God.
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