April 12, 2009 Scripture: Mark 16:1-18
Sermon Title: “Mystery of the Resurrection”
Rev. George N. Miller
If anyone reads the newspaper, you may know the comic strip “Mutts.” Created by Pat McDonnell it is for anyone who has ever loved an animal.
It’s also the kind of comic strip that people like to place on the refrigerator or send to a loved one. My Mom usually sends me one every month.
Yesterday’s strip was rather existential. A kitty cat comes up to a bulldog and says “I think I’m lost.” The bulldog says “Who’s doesn’t.” To which the cat responds “Somehow-I find that very comforting.”
“I feel lost” says the kitty. “Who doesn’t” says the dog. Their shared thought provides comfort.
That’s appropriate for today, for who doesn’t feel, in the big scheme of things, a bit lost?
Think of all our upcoming graduates. Next month high school and college seniors will leave classes behind. Some will be saying “Yes, I am done!” but how many are also thinking “What now?”
What happens after years of education, comforted by the world of academia? Do you get a job, move out, stay in town? The world is all yours, but a big world is easy to feel lost in.
How about our unemployed? Many years spent comforted by the assumption of job security. A set schedule of days and pay. Now it’s anyone’s guess. Where to go, what to do, how to survive. Job opportunities have shrunk, and it’s easy to feel lost.
And those who have experienced the death of a loved one? Death is perhaps the greatest loss of all. Not only does a person lose their life, but we who are left behind lose that person’s uniqueness.
At the hospital I worked at, death was a daily reality. What amazed me was that no matter what state the person was in when they were alive, they had a personhood, a uniqueness about them. But the moment they died?
The moment that last breathe escaped their body something unexplainable changed. They ceased being who they were. Whatever it was that made them “them” was gone.
Suddenly that person went from having a name, having an identity, to being a body. A thing.
Death is about loss. Death is about losing the person who has died. It’s also about us feeling lost without them.
Spiritually, that’s part of what the last 3 days have been about: feeling lost.
Jesus has been betrayed. He was deserted by the disciples, arrested, stripped of his clothes and nailed to a cross, mocked by passers by
To make it clear just how lost Jesus feels, Mark tells us his last words are “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”
Have you ever felt lost? Have you ever felt like everything that made the world good had been taken away? That’s what Jesus was experiencing.
With a loud cry, Jesus takes his last breathe, and dies. The uniqueness, the personhood that made him “him” is gone. Jesus is dead.
To make sure we do not miss that fact, Mark tells us that Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus. Pilate grants him the body, Joseph takes it down, wraps it in clothe and lays it in a tomb. The women see where the body laid.
Note the words that are used. Jesus’s name is mentioned only once. Most of the time the word “body” is used.
There is a sense of loss and lost. Jesus has lost his life and those whose life he touched are at a loss.
Saturday comes and goes. The women go to the tomb which has been designed to hold the dead. They carry spices to do to with a body what one does when it has lost it’s life: anoint it.
“I think I’m lost” says the kitty cat. “Who doesn’t” says the bulldog.
Who doesn’t feel lost indeed? Those who are graduating, those who have lost their job, those who have lost a loved one. They all know what it is like to feel lost.
So did the people of Mark’s time. When Mark wrote his Gospel, the earliest Christians were living in turmoil. Comfort was not a reality. They knew plenty about loss and feeling lost.
They faced poverty and persecution. Threats came from outsiders. Leadership was out of control. And the Temple, the central place of worship, was either about to be destroyed or had been destroyed already. Mark is writing for them.
For fifteen chapters he shares the stories of Jesus and the glimpses of God’s Kingdom: the healings and miracles, the teachings and shared meals. But it all seems to come down to this: feeling lost.
Jesus has been killed. They disciples have run away. The women move towards the tomb.
But wait, something is amiss. The stone has been rolled away. How can this be?
Inside the tomb is a young man dressed in white. “Don’t be alarmed,” he says, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.”
Did you hear that? He didn’t say “You’re looking for the body” but “You are looking for Jesus.” A sense of personhood has crept back into the story.
“He has been raised, he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. Go, tell the disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him just as he told you.”
In other words, the young man in white is saying “All is not lost. All has been found.”
And the women flee from the tomb in amazement and fear. Interestingly enough, if you look at your Bible, you’ll discover that this is the original ending of Mark’s Gospel.
It’s a unique way to end a story, but Mark is a unique storyteller, providing more questions then he supplies answers.
Mark goes to great lengths to let us experience the Jesus we thought we have lost. But he does not provide any information on the Resurrected Jesus that is found. Only that we are to go and find him.
Why would Mark do that? I think one reason is that he wants us to think. He understands that people who feel lost, and have lost, are not easily comforted by easy answers.
No, he knows that often what they need is the chance and time to think, to meditate, to ponder.
Mark doesn’t want to make this easy for us. He wants us to experience the great loss that comes from having Jesus die. By leaving us hanging, he wants us to discover for ourselves just how it is the Resurrected Christ can be found.
Other authors did not feel so comfortable doing this. Matthew, Luke and John all made sure to include stories of how the Resurrected Jesus appears. And someone or someones, uncool with Mark’s original ending, created at least 5 different endings to his Gospel.
But that wasn’t Mark’s original plan. He’s chosen not to limit the Resurrection experience for us. Like the cat in “Mutts” he is aware of the many ways we can feel lost, so he knows there are many ways in which the Resurrected One can be found.
Let’s think about it. What are ways in which the Resurrected Christ can appear to you?
Some folk would say they’ve experienced the Resurrected One in books, like “The Shack.” Others would say it was through a miraculous healing or through a shared meal.
For others the Resurrected One appears in acts of social justice and missions. Some will claim that when they assist someone in need they feel as if they were reaching right out to Christ. Others will recall a time in which someone was helping them and they felt it was Christ reaching out to them.
“Go,” says the man in the tomb, “And you will see him.” Not that we will see a body, or we will see “it”, but we will see him: Jesus Christ.
And how we will see, how we will experience, how we will know it is Christ is as limitless as the stars in the sky and the sands on the shore.
When we go and see, we embark on a journey, in which we will not feel so lost, and we discover we are not so alone.
In conclusion, it is OK to feel lost from time to time, but it’s important for us to remember that the Mystery of the Resurrection promises that no matter what, in the Resurrected Christ we will always be found.
And in the Resurrected Christ we will find our true comfort.
Blessings and honor to God whose wonderfulness can not be limited, to the Spirit that is always full of surprises and to Jesus Christ, who was born, who died and who was raised to save us all from being permanently lost..