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Witnesses of resurrection

They said NOTHING to ANYONE, for they were AFRAID.  GET IT? 

 

Do you get it?  It’s a joke.  Okay, maybe it’s a joke.  These words are the original ending of Mark’s Gospel.  Scholars believe Mark’s Gospel was written to be spoken aloud—it’s full of rhetorical flourishes and repetitions to help a storyteller communicate the important things.  And the story is gripping, right up until it’s abrupt conclusion: they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 

 

Well it’s OBVIOUSLY.  NOT.  TRUE.  that they said nothing to anyone OR HOW ELSE WOULD WE KNOW THE STORY?  Who told?  SOMEONE TOLD the story.  Someone told YOU the story.  The story of Jesus is a story that begs to be told. 

 

But why?  Why do we keep telling this story?  Thousands of years have passed since these events happened, and those of us sitting here have met—and I’m pretty certain about this—we’ve met absolutely zero eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. 

 

Okay, maybe we didn’t watch Jesus die, but have we witnessed crucifixion, or something like it?  Have you endured the pain of watching a loved one suffer?  Have you witnessed the effects of state-sponsored terrorism? 

Have you lamented systems that trap people in poverty, in abuse,

and then turn around and blame the same people who’ve been victimized? 

Have you looked into the eyes of people whose spirits have been crushed

by a world that cannot accept them for who they are,

as God created them to be? 

Have you grieved for the people killed because of hatred for their religion

or their gender identity or their sexuality or their ethnicity? 

Have you heard the cries of refugees separated from their homes,

or have you mourned the people have died because of war machines? 

Where have you seen crucifixion and suffering?

 

There is still plenty of pain and suffering in the world.  God knows.  God knows!  God became human in Jesus Christ, who brought healing and miracles, who called for repentance and changed hearts, who lifted up those people who are lowly and humbled those people with plenty of power. 

 

God went to incredible lengths to reach out to humanity, and what did we do?  We kept asking for more signs, more proof, because we weren’t convinced.  We were uncomfortable with healing—it’s too unpredictable—so we let ourselves be swayed by the status quo, the forces that are quite happy to keep things the way they are because eh, it’s good enough

 

If the system isn’t killing me or my family, do we really have to care?  If Jesus died for our sins then we don’t HAVE TO do anything, right?  Except lose our compassion, give up on healing, and become comfortable with evil.  Jesus gave his life and we…didn’t even give a care.  When discussing the significance of Jesus’s crucifixion and death, one of my colleagues said: This is why we can’t have nice things. 

 

This is the story we hear over and over again.  The story of suffering, the story of regrets and disobedience and lingering prejudices that metastasize into hatreds, the story of sin and death.  It’s all too familiar.  It’s easy to be silenced by a sense of futility, hopelessness.  When things keep turning out so bad, you know, why bother? 

 

We do not deserve God’s continual, renewing grace.  We don’t deserve the peace that passes understanding.  But God grants us this grace and this peace anyway.  Here we are, bearing witness, because somehow we’ve seen, somehow we’ve experienced, a truth of healing that begs to be told. 

 

Where have you witnessed resurrection? 

Have you seen the faces of the kids when they’re running up here—running!—

because they know they really are welcome

with all their wiggles and questions and joy? 

Have you ever smelled the springtime flowers pushing out of the ground? 

Have you ever heard the voice of someone who has fought hard to speak,

someone who has returned from the depths of illness or despair,

someone who knows what a miracle it is that they are alive? 

Have you ever been to a pride parade, an affirmation of the inherent goodness

of LGBTQIA+ people, each one created in God’s image? 

Have you celebrated Juneteenth?  Marched for justice? 

Ever watched someone read and comprehend for the first time? 

Taken your first steps out of rehab? 

Where have you seen resurrection?

 

Resurrection is not about erasing the past or ignoring a painful history.  There are stories of people who met the resurrected Jesus and touched his wounds, saw the scars in his resurrected flesh.  Resurrection testifies against death.  Death does not win.  Sin and sorrow do not have the last word. 

 

The LAST word is…well, looking again at the Gospel reading today, the LAST word is actually “afraid.”  But that isn’t really the END, is it? 

 

A masterful storyteller has to end their story somewhere.  But Jesus invites his hearers, his followers, his disciples to join the story that never ends. 

 

A couple months ago, some members of our congregation joined members of several Roman Catholic parishes in the St. Louis area, and together they staged a musical production titled “The Song of Mark,” with lyrics and music written by Marty Haugen, a beloved composer of liturgical music.  These singers brought to life the teachings of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, conversations with disciples, miraculous healings, stilling the storm, and the scenes of the Transfiguration and the events of Jesus’s trial and crucifixion. 

 

Near the end of the story is a summary of a long sermon of Jesus which is recorded in Mark’s Gospel, and Marty Haugen renders it this way. 

Jesus sings,

“Soon come the great tribulations and wars that will rage and not cease,

‘til the God of all nations shall bring in the day of peace.” 

A woman’s voice responds,

“Short is the time of your sorrow, and great are the joys God has planned,

to bring you tomorrow into the promised land,

where justice will flourish and peace will abound,

and mercy will nourish and the lost shall be found.” 

The whole chorus echoes with a refrain, singing,

“When the day of our God shall come to pass…

the last shall be first and the first shall be last…

the wondrous day of our God.” 

Then Jesus and the woman sing together,

“Cease now your sorrow and weeping, stand firm, your salvation is near,

for God is not sleeping—stand firm and do not fear.”[1] 

 

Later that same tune is reprised in the scene of Jesus’s crucifixion, but instead of “wondrous day of our God,” the chorus is singing, “O Lord, have mercy on your people.” 

 

At the end, after Jesus dies, the actor singing the part of Jesus is carried out of the performance, and true to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has no more lines!  But the story isn’t over—also in keeping with Mark’s Gospel, the women pick up the song.  Then the children continue the story, and the musical closes with the whole chorus singing together:

“You who shake the earth and the stars, who opens tombs in my soul,

who knows my weakness and pain, you tear and rend and make whole…

Here in the midst of life, here within each fearful heart,

now in each human form you shall be the Risen One. 

Grant to us this day of your life, when all your people shall see,

when death itself shall have died, when we your Kingdom shall be.” 

 

Where have you seen resurrection?  How will you tell the story?  How will you join the chorus that began with “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid?” 

 

But somehow, they took the next breath, and opened their mouths, and


Pastor Cheryl

 


[1] Marty Haugen, The Song of Mark. 


 


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