Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, March 31, 2024

YEAR B 2024 festival of easter

Easter, 2024
Isaiah 25:6-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Happy Easter to you all!  I am so grateful that you are here this morning.  Last night we lit the new fire and the Paschal candle, this morning we shared a delicious potluck breakfast, and when we’re done today we’ll have an Easter Egg hunt after this morning’s service.  There’s something for everyone.  And speaking of something for everyone, did you know that there’s more than one ending to Mark’s gospel?  

Fair warning:  If your faith is based on the inerrancy of scripture, turn away now.  If you don’t know what “inerrancy of scripture” means, then stick around.  But, yeah, there’s an alternate ending to the gospel of Mark.  It’s not really called an “alternate ending,” though.  It’s called “the longer ending.”  And that’s because the shorter ending of Mark is the part we just heard.  It ends with, “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.”  So, to sum up, there was an empty tomb.  The end.  Happy Easter!

It takes a certain amount of faith to let the story end there, doesn’t it?  Jesus was killed, placed in a tomb, and when his friends came to anoint his body with spices, we was not there.  It takes a lot of faith to be satisfied with that ending.  Which is probably why there is also now that longer ending, where Jesus shows up and talks to people.  The story felt unfinished.

It would be like stopping the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy still stranded in the Emerald City and trusting that she wakes up in Kansas.  Or like the prince not finding Cinderella to have her try on the shoe.  People really want to know how the story ends, and it’s quite a cliffhanger to end the gospel with, “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.”

Now, just because that longer ending exists doesn’t mean it is not also true, of course.  The physical resurrection of Jesus is kind of a key feature of our faith . . . obviously.  And that longer ending does line up with the other gospels, so it’s not like somebody just made it up.  But it takes the gift of faith to believe the resurrection at all, and especially when it just ends with the empty tomb.

And it’s really not fair that we get this shorter ending right now, given all the uncertainties in the world.  It feels like we deserve the longer, more certain ending from Mark.  The one where Jesus actually shows up.  Physically.  In person.  Eating fish, and lighting fires on the beach, and telling Peter to feed his sheep, like we have in John’s gospel.  Reminding us that it’s not just an idle tale.  But this year, we get this short ending, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.”

But here is the good news:  If we only have Mark’s shorter ending to work with—the gospel reading we just heard—we don’t really know where Jesus is.  But we do know where Jesus is not:
In. The.  Tomb.  It’s empty.

And that really is the most important part of the whole story if you ask me.  This shorter ending of Mark really hits on the thing that matters most.  Because Jesus could be many places right now, but we know the one place Jesus is not . . . in the grave.  He is risen!

And that is the good news for you and me.  The news we need to hear right now.  Because as any honest preacher will tell you, we don’t really know where we go when we die.  Yes, yes, of course we trust and we believe in the promises of God in Jesus.  That’s why we call ourselves Christians.  But any certainty about the beyond is . . . beyond our knowing until we get there ourselves.

But what we have heard this morning is the key:  The tomb is empty.  And that means that death is not the last word.  The tomb is empty.  And that means death itself has been destroyed.  The tomb is empty.  And that is why we have faith that we also will rise from the grave on the last day.

And when that happens, on that last day, we will be reunited with all those whom we love, and see no more.  We will be pulled up from our own graves by the one who was the first to rise up from the grave.
All because the tomb is empty.

Alleluia, the Lord is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!


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