St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-01-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-01-2018

Easter Sunday

It’s Not Over ‘Till it’s Over: And it’s Not Over Yet

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Mark 16:1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

When Mark wrote his account of the Good News, he wanted the readers to concentrate on the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I doubt that he didn’t care about the Nativity, thus excluding that part of the message from his Gospel. Rather, Mark wants us to keep our focus, as we read his account, on the overall message of what happens when the divine meets the earthly; when God interacts with humanity, and to learn the lessons of that encounter.

Even without a Nativity story, Mark establishes Jesus’ divinity clearly and concisely with the first words he writes “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. And, using only 12 more verses of writing, he introduces John as the one proclaiming “…make straight the way of the Lord”, Jesus’ baptism, receiving of the Holy Spirit, the assurance  that he is the beloved Son of God, and his temptation in the desert. No more “proof” of Christ’s divinity is needed in Mark’s thinking; he immediately begins the important part of his Gospel; the recounting of the “Good News” as delivered by “Jesus [the] Christ…” That is what he wants us to hear and take into ourselves above all else.

And what is the “Good News”? The news of the coming of a new kingdom in which the sick are healed and demons are cast out, sin is forgiven and its chains of confinement are broken, the hungry are fed and thirsty are given drink, the despised are loved and the oppressed are lifted up, and where faith alone calms the tempest and moves mountains.

Mark also keeps our focus on our responsibility to respond to the Good News. To respond by being sowers of the Word as if farmers sowing seed, thus increasing the fruit of the kingdom; to respond by not hiding our lamp under a basket but holding it high for all to see by; by showing compassion to others as we have been given compassion by God; by sharing what we have, no matter how little, that all may have plenty, and, most importantly, by believing; believing that Christ’s ways can work, will work, in making the new kingdom a reality on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Just as Mark begins his Gospel abruptly, without a nativity narrative; he ends it without a telling of the resurrection, only the words of a young man sitting in the empty tomb, delivering this part of the Good News by saying “He has been raised; he is not here”.

I don’t think Mark neglected to include the stories of the personal encounters of believers with the resurrected Christ because he didn’t think that they were of importance. Rather, again, he still wants us to keep our focus on the message delivered between the beginning and the ending and our response to it.

That young man in the tomb also told the two Marys and Salome to “go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” But what did they do? They received the message of the resurrection; with a command to share the Good News; but they ran away in fear and “…said nothing to anyone”.

By his telling of the story, both in what he tells us and in what he does not say, Mark leaves us standing by the empty tomb where we are forced to confront our own response to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ; to ask ourselves what do we do now?

Do we focus on the glorious knowledge of the divinity of Christ, or do we act out his teaching in our lives?

Do we stand still with a slack jaw, looking up toward heaven where we believe Christ has gone, or do we move our feet and our mouths in sowing the Word as if planting a new crop?

Do we hide the light given us or do we let it shine so that others can see the way?

Do we dream of the day when we enter the kingdom of God in heaven or do we believe that we can be a part of bringing the new kingdom into power right here on earth?

Do we go and tell, or do we remain silent in fear.

Do we believe Christ goes ahead of us, or do we think Christ has left us?

 

We know the answers. But sometimes, especially today in Easter morning, we are called to stand outside the empty tomb in amazement and self assessment; to realize that the story doesn’t end here; and decide how we continue it from here.

 

As I wrote this message I started to think that it wasn’t appropriate for the occasion of Easter Sunday morning. Frankly, I thought for a moment, that it wasn’t joyful enough. But, giving it further thought I realized that it was perfectly joyful!

By leaving us standing by the empty tomb, Mark sets us up for that too! All we have to do is to imagine how joyful it will be; how joyful we will feel and how much joy God and Christ will have when we bring the kingdom of God to even one other resident of this earth!

Go and tell the joyful Good News of the resurrection of Christ!

Amen

 

Mark 16:1-8
16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
16:2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
16:3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
16:4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
16:5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
16:6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
16:7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
16:8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

 

Acts 10:34-43
10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.
10:37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:
10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,
10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
118:14 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
118:15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;
118:16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
118:18 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.
118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11
15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,
15:2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain.
15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
15:11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.