“Finish the Story”

Easter Worship Service – Cathy Harris – PFM – 4/12/20
Mark 16:1-8, Romans 1:1-8, Mark 1:1-8

Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends!
We join each other for worship on this Easter morning to celebrate the resurrection of Christ – you might be asking – how can we celebrate the “Good News of Easter” while living in a “Good Friday world” – a world of fear and a world of isolation, social distancing, and loneliness?

How can we celebrate Easter while we are living in the shadow of the Corona virus pandemic, when we are expected to pass through the worst period of the pandemic before the world begins its recovery?

Rolf Jacobson, an Old Testament professor at Luther Seminary, wrote an article this week, and said that “this week, this Easter —in a time of pandemic and quarantine—the reality of both the bad news of death and the good news of the resurrection [of Christ] seem so much more tangible.”

And – we are called to remember Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.

This morning we are going to take a look at the Gospel of Mark.
Of the four Gospels, Mark’s Gospel about Jesus’ resurrection is the most mysterious.
He leaves us with wanting to know the rest of the story.

Mark begins by telling us about the three women who were making their way to the tomb.
I imagine that they were probably exhausted, overwhelmed with grief, and felt like their minds were in a fog – just like we feel when we have lost a loved one.

Here were the three women making their way to the tomb. Jesus was the Messiah – they believed that – but their long-awaited-for Messiah shouldn’t die. But they did what each one of us does when we are faced with the loss of a loved one – we put one foot in front of the other and we – somehow – do what has to be done.

The women bought spices to anoint Jesus’ body, and they were wondering how they would be able to roll away the stone. When they get there, the stone is rolled away, and as they look into the tomb – Jesus’ body is gone, and a young man in a white robe is sitting inside the empty tomb.

Mark’s Gospel says: “And the man in the white robe said to them, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Then Mark tells us that “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

The earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel end right there – that the women were trembling and bewildered – they fled from the tomb – they said nothing – they were afraid.

If you look at any Bible, you will notice that there are several more verses in the Gospel of Mark that follow the ones that we read this morning – but those are not in the original manuscripts. They were added later. Someone probably came along and thought that Mark left the story unfinished.

I know what John and Matthew and Luke tell us – the wonderful stories of Jesus’ resurrection and appearances, of how the disciples encountered the living Christ, and then boldly began to tell the world about the risen Christ — but not Mark.

He is risen. He is not here … the women turned from the tomb … said nothing … they were afraid. Why would Mark leave us hanging without finishing the story? I’m not sure, but perhaps Mark intended to leave the story unfinished.

I recently read a story about Mozart. When he was young, he had a difficult time waking up and getting out of bed in the morning – so …. in order to wake up Mozart, his mother would sit down at the piano and play some chord progressions – but she wouldn’t play the final chord to resolve the sequence. She would leave the music hanging – she left off the ending – so it sounded “unfinished”. Mozart would hear the unresolved music – get out of bed and head straight to the piano to finish the music each morning. Mozart’s mother played a song every day and left it unfinished – it not only got him out of bed – in a way, his mother was inviting him to come to the piano – to participate in the music – and to finish the song.

It got me thinking – Maybe Mark leaves the story of Jesus unfinished because he is inviting us to participate in the story of Jesus – just as Mozart’s mother left the music unfinished to invite her son to finish the song – and – to get out of bed – maybe for Mark, it wasn’t the end of the story – it was the beginning!

After all – we are here this morning – on Easter Sunday – celebrating the resurrection of Jesus – the highlight of the Christian year. I know – it’s a lot different than we could ever have imagined – worshiping together online – and in our homes – but we are here – celebrating Easter together.

The women and the disciples – came to believe what initially seemed unbelievable – that Jesus had risen from the dead – he had conquered death and sin. They experienced the resurrected Christ – and then they were compelled to finish the story. They went from being afraid and hiding to boldly proclaiming that Jesus is alive!

In less than 50 years, the world was transformed by the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and Jesus’ radical mandate to love God and to love one another and to love ourselves – changed the women at the tomb … and it changed the world – because those women had the courage to finish the story. Those disciples had the courage to finish the story.

Today – we, too, are called to finish the story – we are invited by God to allow the resurrected Christ to enter and work in our lives … to transform our pain and fear (and we’ve had a lot to be afraid of lately) … and to give us new life and a relationship with Jesus.

After we celebrate Easter together this morning, will we allow the risen Savior to work and live in our hearts and lives? Shaping, changing, and healing us – and making us agents of healing and hope in the world.

He is not here. He is risen.

I’ve been reading in the Gospel of Mark the past week or so.
I know it’s strange that Mark ends his Gospel without telling the whole story – this has always intrigued me as well.

But I also know that Mark begins his Gospel – not with the story of Jesus’ birth or his genealogy – but with John the Baptist shouting – “Prepare the way of the Lord!” – and Mark ends his Gospel with the story unfinished – and I believe that – we are called to be “preparers of the way” – that God calls us – to finish the story.

Now it’s our opportunity – we, too, have fears and doubts – but we can allow the power of the resurrected Christ to transform our lives – to transform our relationship with others.

The end is ours to share and to live – to finish the story.

He is not here. He is risen.
He is risen indeed!

Mark 16:1-8
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Romans 1:1-8
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

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