Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Sermon for April 8, 2012; Mark 16:1-8a

Rev. George Miller
Mark 16:1-8a
April 8, 2012

In life, there are two kinds of people: those who think and those who feel. It’s never too hard to figure out who is who. Ask someone a question and either they’ll answer “I think that…” or “I feel that…”

To think logically or to feel emotionally; two different approaches to the world.

A writer once alluded to information as the food for the mind, whereas emotion is the flavor.

Facts and emotions becomes a sticky thing when dealing with the concept of faith because in many ways Scripture and events like Easter transcend both, and if we’re not careful we can feel like we have too much on our plate, or nothing at all…

Today we gather to celebrate the Good News: that Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified, has been raised by God from the tomb.

In this act, the righteous have been vindicated and the powers of a sinful world have been overthrown.

But what does the Resurrection mean? How did it happen?

Is it something that we are to think or something we are to feel, or perhaps something more?

The truth is that the Resurrection is an event that is too big, too meaty, and too flavorful for any one Gospel to contain.

There are at least 5 different accounts of the Resurrection found in the New Testament, perhaps even 6, 7, or 8 if you follow modern scholarship, and to be honest with you, they are all different accounts.

Each author tells the story differently, each author puts in different truths and stirs in alternate themes; each author shares a story that was meant to speak to the people of their time and of their place.

It’s as if the Resurrection experience was a family recipe passed down from generation to generation in which each person added their own spin, their own spice, their own secret ingredient to create something tasty to the original dish.

The Gospel of Mark was the first of the four gospels written, and his account of the Resurrection is lean and concise, only 8 verses long.

And if you notice, there is no sighting of Jesus Christ, there is no crying of Mary in the garden, there is no invitation for Thomas to touch and to see.

There are simply 8 verses in which the women go to the tomb with spices, planning to anoint the body of Jesus.

Worried that they can not roll back the stone, they find the work has already been done; instead of Jesus they see a young man who tells them Jesus has been raised and he has gone ahead of them in Galilee.

The way Mark ends his gospel, the women leave, running in terror, amazement and fear.

It’s a rather abrupt way to end a story about the Son of God. It’s as if Mark meant to make people feel uneasy, so uneasy in fact that other writers have gone in to add their own personal ingredients to Mark’s dish.

But scholars agree, Mark’s story of the Resurrection ends here. No vision of the risen Christ, no words spoken from him to us.

A mystery dish.

And people have been wondering for 2,000 years why Mark would do this. Since he’s not here to answer, I have my own thoughts.

I think Mark wanted the Resurrection to be a mystery.

A mystery engages one in dialogue; it asks “What do you think?”

A mystery involves the mind, thought and feeling; meat and flavor.

A mystery allows one to think and feel and ponder and transcend reality so eventually they can embrace a new kind of truth.

It is in the mystery of Mark we are invited to step into.

What does the Resurrection mean, what does it look like, why is it so?

And for me, this last 40 –something days, I have found my sight focused on the women and the items they brought to the tomb.

Mark tells us that on Sunday morning, as the son had risen, the women go to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus.

They know Jesus is dead because they were there when he died on the cross. They were there when his body was placed in the tomb. They were there when the stone was rolled across the entrance.

Jesus, the one they had followed and provided for during his ministry, is dead.

Though he is dead, they want to care for him one last time. So they bring spices.

What kind, we don’t know; perhaps myrrh and aloe. How much; we don’t know, maybe a small earthen jar’s worth, perhaps as much as 75-100 pounds.

But chances are these are spices they had to purchase and prepare. Chances these are spices designed to have a fragrant scent to offset the smell of decomposition.

But what happens to the spices when they see the stone has been rolled back?

What happens to the spices when they’re told Jesus has been raised and gone to Galilee?

What happens to the spices when they flee the tomb, seized by terror and amazement, afraid to speak to anyone?

What happens to these spices originally meant to symbolize death?

Do you think they clung to them as they sped away?

Do you think they put the spices gently down before they ran?

Do you think they dropped them in an attempt to get out of there as quickly as possible?

When one is faced with the news of life, does one cling to a token of death?

What is it you would do?

What do you imagine happened?...

…Mystery: meat and flavor for the brain, substance and spice for the soul.

Let me share with you what I think happened: I think the women dropped those spices.

I think those spices which were meant for death spilled out of their container. I think those spices were set loose upon the earth.

And I think that in the process of pouring out, those spices were transformed.

That instead of covering up the stench of death, they unleashed a sweet smelling bouquet that proclaimed the gift of life.

Just as the empty tomb proclaims that Jesus Christ is alive in the world of the living, I’d like to think the aroma of those spices are still with us today.

How can I say that? Because I like to view the spices as the things that God has blessed us with through the Resurrection.

That those spices originally meant for death are now symbols of life; life in Christ, life for the Lord, life in the Kingdom.

Eternal life.

And what are those spices you may ask? Well, because each person has their own experience of the Risen Lord, each person is bound to have their own selection of spices.

I imagine the spices to be those traits spoken about in Colossians 3:12-17; those traits used to describe a new life in Christ and lifted up during our Stewardship Season.

The spices I imagine that were poured out upon the earth that Easter morning are

Compassion and kindness
Humility and gentleness
Patience and forgiveness
Love and peace.

These are the words used to describe a life well lived, a life that brings unity and healing.

And because these spices are set out, there are multitudes of ways in which we can experience the Resurrected Christ in our lives.

That beyond sightings of Jesus in locked rooms or gardens abloom or by the seashore eating fish or at a table breaking bread, we experience the resurrected Christ anytime these spices are made known.

Has someone seasoned your life with compassion and kindness? Then you have experienced the Resurrected Christ.

Has someone flavored your day with humility and gentleness? Then you have experienced the Resurrected Christ.

Has someone sprinkled your life with patience and forgiveness? Then you have experienced the Resurrected Christ.

Has someone spiced up your existence with love and peace? Then you have experienced the Resurrected Christ.

Spice upon spice upon spice, adding their own aroma that gathers us into community, opens the doors to our hearts and allows our blinded eyes to once again see.

In conclusion, Easter is an amazing, mysterious event; one that transcends the meat of logic or the seasoning of emotion.

It is a celebration in which the scandal of the Cross is replaced by the spiciness of the Resurrection, an event that transcends and welcomes us into a mystery with a message.

And the message is that life wins; life which is a fragrant, spicy concoction of compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, patience and forgiveness, love and peace.

Those are my ingredients for today.

What are the spices you would use that represent eternal life; the kind we find in Jesus Christ, the one who God raised from the tomb?

In the joy and the mystery of this Easter morn, let us join together and say “Hallelujah” and let us say “Amen.”

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