Saturday, April 7, 2012
April 8, 2012
We are gathered here this morning because
Love is stronger than hate,
because the Power of Life trumps the power of death,
because God’s Forgiveness never Fails.
because all the evil in the world
cannot stop God’s grace from Raining Down,
On Easter morning, we are here to remind each other, once again, the Jesus was right about everything. And the best thing he was right about is that the story of our lives does not end in defeat and death. We have a living Savior who invites us to journey past the emptiness and disappointed dreams and into a future with Him.
We read the Easter story from the Gospel of Mark this morning. Mark is the shortest, most stripped down Easter story. Some people don’t like it. From the early days of the church, people who didn’t “get” the story tried to fix it by adding on, either longer or shorter endings to Mark. But I love it. It is my favorite Easter account, because it doesn’t HAVE an ending. Let me tell you what I mean.
In his account of the days leading up to Easter morning, Mark has carefully noted, over and over again, how what Jesus says is going to happen happens. Jesus predicted the whole arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion . . . all of it. Three times he said it. And then, in the final weeks of his life, he’s told the disciples little things that show he can be trusted: That what he said is what he does. On the day he enters the city, he tells them where to find the donkey for him to ride. They find it. He tells them what so the owner will release it. They say it. The owner releases it. He curses a fig tree. The fig tree withers. He says “one of you will betray me.” Judas betrays him. He says the disciples will desert him. They turn tail and run. He tells Peter he’ll pretend not to know him. Peter is SURE that’s wrong. But less than 24 hours later, Peter’s denied Jesus three times. So, just as he predicted, he’s been tortured, killed, and buried. And you and I know what he said would happen next. (Whisper "That on the third day he would rise again")
The morning after the Sabbath comes. Three heartbroken women go to the tomb where their dead leader is lying. On the way they worry how they are going to get to him - who will roll away the stone that seals the entrance to the tomb. Then they arrive and the stone is no problem. Already moved. And inside the tomb, rather than a cadaver, there is a shining messenger who conveys an unexpected message - You are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has been raised. And now they are reminded - Just as he said, you will meet him where you live. Go and tell his disciples that he has gone ahead of them and they will see him in Galilee, just as he said. And the women go out . . . and say nothing. Astonished and afraid, for . . . the book ends with an incomplete sentence. Just as it began with one.
How will the story end?
Mark is an early example of something that’s pretty popular right now - Interactive narrative.
On internet blogs, people sometimes create stories such as murder mysteries together, as a community effort. One person writes the first chapter, another the second, and so on -- with no one knowing exactly how it's all going to turn out. A few years back, a movie like this was made - did anyone see Clue? Based on the board game, the film had three or four separate endings. The audience got to vote with computer keypads -- on which ending they wanted. Their choice determined how the movie would end.
Interactivity is the principle behind all computer and video games. Players impact the story by how they choose to move through it, what they do, where they go.
Mark's account of Jesus' resurrection is an interactive story, too. The action in the book stops. But the story continues outside the book. We know it isn’t over. But who is going to tell? Who is going to meet the Risen Christ? Who is going to spread the word? It is up to us! The story can’t end here! It has to be continued and the place where it is continued is in the lives of the READERs, the HEARERs, the BELIEVERs.
We know that this (the last page of Mark) isn’t the end. If this was the end, we wouldn’t be here. We know there is more - because Jesus does what he says. God keeps his promises and will meet the disciples, will meet disciples through the ages, will meet US.
What surprising twists to the story will we write together with Him?
How many times in our lives will the Resurrected Lord show us, as Presbyterian Pastor Frederick Buechner has said, "The worst thing is never the last thing!"
We write the continuing story of resurrection in our lives and in our world.
This Lent the most powerful part of worship for me was hearing from members of our church family about how God has brought and is bringing new life here and now. How our Risen Lord is meeting needs in our lives and through our lives together. Feeding people, discovering God -given talents, recovery and reconciliation, and the love . . . that’s not too strong a word . . . the love of God’s family. And then there were the kids, coming to Jesus in their sweet and profound understanding. Each person who is encountering the living Christ is completing the story of Easter. And it is a triumphant story!
Look at the lives of God’s beloved!
The losses of life - loss of an income, a job, a relationship, a dream - do not spell the end of the story.
The brokenness of life - broken marriage, broken heart, broken health - do not get the last word.
Life’s missing pieces - friends no longer there, limbs no longer strong, memories no longer reliable - do not mean our lives are empty.
There is a living Lord out there who has promised to meet us where we live. And this is a God who keeps his promises.
There’s no ending to this Easter story. Not yet!
For some of us, the story is just beginning. This morning we baptize Skye into the family of God. Skye is 10. Mark tells us that the Gospel life is a choose your own adventure story. What kind of a story will she write with her life? I can’t wait to see! We have Jesus’ promise that it will be a story in which God has the last word and the last word is always “love”.
I want to tell you something about this business of adding chapters to the Gospel story:
The great composer Puccini died suddenly before he had a chance to finish his final opera, Turandot. One of his fellow composers, Franco Alfano, wrote two final scenes that completed the story. When the opera premiered at Milan's La Scala opera house in 1926, Arturo Toscanini was the conductor. Toscanini got to the place where Puccini’s score left off, and he stopped the performance. With tears in his eyes, he turned to the audience and announced, "This is where the master ends." Then he raised his baton again, said, "This is where his friends continue," and he concluded the performance.
The empty tomb is where Mark ended. This is where we, his friends, continue.
The Gospel story of a living, loving, victorious Christ is still being written - in our lives, in our choices, in our church. Let it be a story we write boldly and clearly and let every line proclaim Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!