Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Mark 16 and Psalm 118
I have to wonder what many people are thinking when they read this part of Mark’s Gospel because Mark leaves us on a bit of a cliff hanger. We are left with an empty tomb, people running in terror and then silence. The empty tomb is at once both a promise and a disappointment.
Well to be fair these people, these women were going to a tomb not expecting it to be empty. These women are going to the tomb to anoint the body, as is the custom. Instead, the large stone is moved, and someone talking to them saying “do not be alarmed”. Any time someone says “do not be __” where do we go? Just ask any parent Instantly, we go there.
Jesus does this disruption in the face of expectations. An empty tomb, along with a person speaking, is sure to cause people to have some amazement and yes some terror.
Mark’s ending might leave us perplexed but is it really an ending? Where is the rest of the story? Maybe, you are upset about the way this ends. I am still not sure how I feel about the ending of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, but it is the ending we get. Endings are not always satisfying. Leading up to this point in Mark, we witnessed the horrible and violent death in accounting the Passion, but that is not the ending of the story nor is death all that Jesus has for us.
Endings are not always endings either. For us as readers, we can close the Gospel and be done, but this is a cliff hanger with something more for us. If you read in between the lines, the story does not end and is actually telling us there is a sequel. You could almost see the words inscribed “to be continued…”
I can hear people asking the questions - you might even ask, ”what is next” or “what is the sequel.” I am glad you asked.
If you ever wanted to be part of a great story, the great thing is that you already are. The sequel stars you, me and God. God brings us life - in this moment. Every day we get up and breathe is one more gift of life - one more chance. The miracle is happening now as we sit here and breathe - in our lives all around us. God is among us – waiting to move you.
One day, there will be an empty tomb for us. What are we going to between now and then? I submit, When we invite God, amazing can happen.
God gives us many opportunities to do something amazing - if we are willing to open our ears, our eyes and our hearts to the possible – to the spiritual and to the miracle of God. Yes we can open our hearts to God and then whole wonders are waiting for us.
What does this say about Jesus and those who of us who follow? The empty tomb is not what the women expected because God’s work is never ending. We could go on about our lives like nothing happens and nothing changes, but God disrupts to give us a chance, an opportunity, to do something – something impactful.
People ask me how do you get your black belt. The answer is really simple. We show up, we continue to show up and we learn. Think of it yet another way when playing cards. In order to play, you first have to sit at the table and learn. You have a chance and God is ready to deal you in and teach you - what cards do we leave on the table?
Mark’s Gospel leaves us with silence, an empty tomb, and an angelic messenger. What is really happening here is an artful invitation. Mark invites us as the hearers (then and now) to take the next step.
We know from our Passion story that all people ultimately abandoned Jesus in the end, but that is not the ending. That is not the promise. That is a reminder that we, as people, are fallible and broken. This is then an invitation to take the next step to honor Jesus’s sacrifice and victory with the mission given to us and preached to us.
We know the disciples made mistakes, and we will make mistakes because we are human. Yet, we (the downtrodden, forgotten and broken) have the opportunity and the mission of healing and wholeness.
God brings us life - from Genesis to now – for all to share.
God brings life in various ways and full of opportunity. We can choose to restore our relationship with God - with Jesus. When we do, we will realize that divine spirit working in us. We can recognize the divine life within us and around us prodding us, tickling our hearts and opening our minds to the possible.
Easter miracle is not just a-once-and-done mystery from a couple millennium ago but something for us to behold today in our lives and our world. We can bring a measure of God’s kingdom, God’s justice, and God’s love into our world. We do that by sharing with all of our community. That is a powerful statement in our divided world of haves versus have-nots.
When you believe in the possible, when you let God into your heart, you let life happen in you; you can realize healing and comfort to your own brokenness and fallibility. We will find forgiveness waiting; we will find Jesus waiting there the whole time.
That is why the women find an empty tomb because Jesus wants us to find him – not in a tomb but in our hopes, our minds and our hearts. Jesus promises this and is waiting for us – to pull together, even when we fail.
For without this sustaining and empowering presence of Jesus in us, we will never be more than our imperfect and broken self. This is not just a story about women at the tomb, but our invitation to God’s story.
This is not a paradox or an ending. This is an invitation to us to find what we truly have been seeking.
God isn’t done with miracles and disrupting our expectations. God’s work continues in our lives and our time. Are you ready to receive God in your heart? Are you ready to find God’s Easter miracle in your heart? I submit to you, find Jesus there, and you will find the treasures you seek.
Thanks be to God.