This is not the sermon you expect on Easter.
This is not about warm fuzzy feelings or Easter Eggs.
This is not about triumphant alleluias shouted from an empty tomb.
This is about a different ending to the story we expect and know so well.
This is about uncertainty and ultimately fear and terror filled hearts.
You see Mark’s gospel ends abruptly. It ends with fear and absolute amazement rather than joy and profound proclamation. For while the resurrection of Jesus is announced, the response is unexpected. I think Mark speaks to our reality more than the other gospels. You see Mark who is writing to a community of believers gets that we, like the women who go to the tomb, know what to do when Jesus is dead. But don’t know what to do or say when the unexpected happens, when Jesus is not in the tomb.
We like Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome expect Jesus to be in the box we put him in. And we too:
- Peer into the tomb and our daily lives expecting what we know, going through our routines.
- Come into church this day expecting everything to be as we remember, seeking the familiar in this place.
- Sit passively in our Easter best expecting everything from the flowers, to the music and the message to be familiar and make us feel good.
But Mark’s Gospel will have none of that. Jesus is out of the box.
- Jesus, the one we welcomed with palms waving,
- Jesus, the one who washed our feet in love and humble service,
- Jesus, the one who fed us with the Passover feast,
- Jesus, the one who we betrayed, denied and nailed to the tree,
- Jesus, the one who died for you and for me is not where we put him, or where we expect him to be.
And the very thought of it, confounds and terrifies us. We want our Jesus in ways and places we expect.
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When Saturday was over, that sketchy woman who has been hanging around, and the woman who is so and so’s mom, and a woman, you know one of the one’s who organizes everything, stopped to get some supplies to perfume his body. So at the crack of dawn on Sunday, they went
to where his body had been taken. On their way they bantered and bickered wondering how they were going to get in, it not like they could unlock or bust-open the place. In the midst of their back-and-forth, they arrived to find the place wide-open.
As they went in, they saw a young guy, dressed in white sitting on the right side, and it worried them, a lot. But the guy told them, “Don’t be so uptight; you’re looking for Jesus, the one they finally nailed. He’s been raised and isn’t here. See over there, that’s the place they put him. But go, tell his followers and Pete that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, you’ll see him there, just as he told you.”
Howard Hageman writes,
When the women came early in the morning to anoint Jesus’ body, not even they realized that it was really the world that had died in the night. The resurrection of Jesus means the death of all the ways in which the world has traditionally worked; the death of all the values in terms of which the world has lived. Easter is the first day of a whole new creation.”
But we get so stuck on the stones that keep us from being the people God calls us to be, we struggle with God’s expectations, because it all seems so daunting. And then when God rolls away the stones in our lives, we struggle with emptiness, because it all seems so terrifying. And when God uses a random person in our lives to guide us on the way, we choose live with unmet expectations and unfilled emptiness. But God rolls away the stone and sends others to guide us on the way to Galilee, because we can’t find our way without Jesus.
- So what is the emptiness of the tomb really telling you?
- So what is the emptiness of your expectations really telling you?
- So what is the emptiness of your life this moment, this Easter day really telling you?
Your empty expectations are just that, empty and yours. You have an emptiness that is as hollow as the chocolate bunny whose ears you bit off before coming to church today. You hunger for that emptiness to be filled in the ways that you want, and when you want… but your expectations, are not God’s. But the hole in your heart, the emptiness in your expectations, and the shame in your sins are God’s. And God so loves the world, that he sent his only begotten Son to mend the hole, fill the empty, and seize the shame of us all.
So where do you see Jesus? He’s not here for you to see in the way you expected? Do you see him in the reality of your relationships, the joyousness of your job, the satisfaction of your stuff, or the fulfillment of your feasting? Perhaps Jesus isn’t where you expect. Jesus isn’t where you put him. Easter shows us that Jesus is out of the box and on the loose for all to see.
So where will you see Jesus? Go to Galilee.
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Galilee? Yes the guy God sent in the midst of our empty looking said Galilee. So…
- Get out of your death-denying,
- Let go of your dancing with the stars expectations,
- Pack away your empty traditions and go, go to Galilee.
But we are more than afraid. What will we find in Galilee?
- Galilee is who Jesus is.
- Galilee is what Jesus taught, healed, and fed.
- Galilee is when Jesus hung out with sinners and outcasts.
- Galilee is where Jesus was present doing ministry before the crucifixion.
And Galilee is where Jesus wants all of us who seek him to go today…
- Seeing Jesus as we go in one another, and in strangers along the way.
- Seeing Jesus as we teach, heal and feed all who are empty, broken, and hungry.
- Seeing Jesus as we hang out with those fellow sinners who are oppressed and outcast.
- Seeing Jesus as we spend our time in ministry going where love leads, serving as love calls.
But in the midst of our inability to imagine the future in Galilee…
- We are told to go, and let go,
- Leaving behind what we know and expect,
- Dying to our past needs and present wants won’t mean the end.
God so loves us and blesses and guides us so that we no longer need to be afraid. And God who shows up where we least expect, wants us to go to Galilee by starting at a stop sign and…
- Stop returning to the tomb out of a fear of the unknown.
- Stop returning to the tomb out of a need to remember the past.
- Stop returning to the tomb out of a want to rebuild, recover, or relive the past.
While this Good News may at first terrify us, it leads to Jesus. While it may not make any sense at the moment, it is what God tells us to do….
- We are told to go to Galilee to see Jesus this Easter Day.
- We go to Galilee and see Jesus in unknown places, meet Jesus through unknown people, and experience new life over and over again.
- We go to Galilee, trusting God who loves and provides for us, through empty tombs, unnamed messengers, and the way to see Jesus.
Go, go to Galilee!