“Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here….”
Boy, you know you’re always in for one big surprise when an angel appears and tells you “Do not be afraid.” Its no wonder the two Mary’s fled the tomb in terror and amazement. But we have the advantage today, we know the rest of the story. We know the miracle that happened so long ago.
Todays gospel lesson is at the end of Mark’s gospel, but not quite the end. It’s a surprise for many, but there are actually TWO endings for Marks gospel. A short ending and a long one. For those familiar with Mark, we know how his gospel is written. It doesn’t start out like the other synoptic gospel of Luke and Matthew, recounting the birth of Jesus. It begins with Jesus’ baptism and the start of his ministry. It was the first to be written, and is pretty short and to the point. Mark doesn’t use flowing elegant language, or fill in many of the details. So its no surprise that scholars believe naturally, that the shorter of two endings is the original and the longer one, was added years later. But no matter which ending your comfortable with, its still the familiar story we all know.
Story telling: In its many way shapes and forms, whether short and to the point, or long and articulate, is how we have shared information we feel is important since the beginning of time. This is how the world has been shaped and reshaped, this is how our faith was shaped, and this is how we deep in our hearts are shaped as stories of families are shared generation to generation.
In an article I read some time ago the author spoke of the power of story telling; how it is by story that we understand who we are, how we came to be and what we are about. We are living in a time when all around us old stories are dying and new stories are struggling to be born. He writes, “We all live by story, and we are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. New story emerges in many ways—as we let go of the old story and attend to ancient wisdom, to essence, to Sabbath rest, to dream, to song, to ceremony.
Mostly it emerges as we try to live it out in the midst of the old story still around us, a process often filled with risk and conflict. Hall goes on to explain that Jesus lived a new story in the midst of the old. Into a story about obeying religious rules and keeping commandments in order to please God, came a new story: the rules are God’s gift to us, not our obligation to God. We are invited into God’s rest and order, not required to live up to a standard placed upon us. Jesus shows us a way that is about passing it on, being loving and compassionate as God has been loving and compassionate to us. Jesus goes beyond structure to essence. Structures exist to serve essence.”
Our parishes today, and we as Christians who follow Christ are these structures of essence. We continue the stories of the past, in telling and retelling them. And then we add our chapter for those who follow us tomorrow. And in this day and age, we wonder just as our predecessors did; what will the future write for us? will this place be here in fifty years? Will we have enough money, Will we continue to be a place people wish to be part of and grow? What is it we’re called to do? Hall concludes his article by noting, “Jesus could have spent his time trying to revise the old story, but he didn’t. He chose to act out his own authentic story, one about self-giving love and compassion. Living the new story in the midst of a very powerful old story involves considerable risk. This is our call today as we add our chapter to the ever evolving story of our parishes, our church and our existence. That if we are in pursuit of Jesus, we recognize that we will be always moving from our own self-serving story to a self-giving story. In essence, living a story of love.
In our Gospel today, when the two Mary’s arrived at the tomb they encountered the unexplained, the unimaginable, the undeniable. Christ was no longer dead in the tomb. And they left after being instructed to tell the story. The short ending to Marks gospel tells us; “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward, Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”
Through the stories we’ve heard over the past week, we recognize that God, in his deep abiding love for us, hasn’t just called us once. He calls us over and over, sometimes in loud shouts and sometimes in quiet whispers, into and out of relationships and that He is present and active throughout all of our experiences, especially in times of hopelessness, or grief or death. All these things God has done, God has done for us. And Christ calls us again, to be sent out through us from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation. In this hopeful understanding, we recognize that we today are the latest, greatest part of the continual unfolding of God’s story, God’s plan…. God’s dream for the world.
As we follow Christ and spread his good news, we enable others to discover their story; To then share that story with others and then begin their next chapter. So as we leave here today and into the weeks and months to come, perhaps our greatest gift to those around us is to rediscover what Christ’s call means to us. To update our story and then go and tell our story again, even if we feel we’ve done it before, sharing them with others, so that they too can be empowered to do the same. In doing so, perhaps then the very essence of who we are becomes part of who they are and who we all are, part of God’s amazing creation in his kingdom here on earth.
The short ending is enough; it is all we really need to understand our call through Christ’s resurrection. Eternal salvation has been given to us through him.
The tomb is empty, but our hearts have been filled. What wonderful a story to share with those we encounter who long to hear good news.
It’s time now to tell your stories; to share the good news with others, to let them know the unexplained has happened, the undeniable truth; Christ our Lord is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia<a