The Gospel: Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 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. 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.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
Message: "But they went anyway."
One of the commentators that I listened to this week highlighted that as his primary thought for The Sunday of the Resurrection - Easter Sunday.
He pointed out that Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bought spices and headed for the tomb with one major question hanging over them: "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
He spent some time reflecting on that question, but then he went on to encourage those of preparing Sermons for this morning to consider something that is implied, but not actually stated in the text. He drew attention to the fact that this small determined group continued on their way without getting an answer to their question.
He summarized their actions this way: "they went anyway." They didn't take an extra few minutes to go and find Peter, James, or John. They didn't employ someone they met along the way. They didn't wait, to make a decision, on who would be there to roll the stone away, in answer to their conversation. "they went anyway."
They acted on their faith. They acted out of their love. They didn't allow their uncertainty of the moment or their fear to stop them from doing what they felt appointed, or called to do. "They went anyway."
We, who have heard the story many times, we, who have the experience of many years of being taught about the resurrection, may well think their response, their decision is obvious. But let us stop and consider this for a few moments. These women exhibit great faith in deciding that they will go forward with their task despite not knowing what is going to happen or how it is going to happen.
Nothing like, what they are about to experience, had ever happened before. There are no precedents for what they are about to experience. They are walking into the unknown. "They went anyway."
They reach the tomb and the stone has been rolled away. All their anxiety and questioning have been answered in a powerfully miraculous way. They are the first to hear the news and to experience the joy of Jesus rising from the dead.
As we come to this wonderful celebration of the Resurrection, this wonderful Easter Sunday, today what questioning might we be doing? What is that we are anxious or uncertain about? How can we be like those three women? What might we be being called or appointed to do? What would it be like to have our friends and neighbors say about us: "they went anyway."
We have so much more to draw on than those three women don't we? We have the historical accounts in the Gospels. We have several thousand years of Christian experience by other people. We have the spiritual practices of our church. We have the liturgy of Sunday worship. We have our commitment to the Baptismal Covenant. We have our personal devotional life. We have the relationships we have developed in our community of believers here at Christ Church. We have all kinds of resources, books, videos, and even the world wide web to draw on for teaching and training resources.
If you were here, or if you watched the Good Friday Service online, you will have heard me read from 1 John 4:15-19, and then verse 21
"God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."
I believe that is an ongoing challenge for us all from this Holy Week. As we move forward I believe that the Lord is going to be moving among us. I believe that we will have the opportunity to identify ways in which each one of us will be called and anointed or appointed to reach the community of Huron, to reach the region of North East Ohio, and then to go beyond those places, those boundaries, to the wider world, to engage with Jesus Christ's mission to the further most parts of the earth.
Now, you may already be responding to that challenge this morning by lining up, in your mind, the reasons why you just can't do that. Can I give you an example of someone who found a way to engage in the broad vision of missions from right here in our Parish? Some of you might think I am going to refer to Julia Schatz. We all know that Julia came out this Parish and went to serve with e3 Ministry partners. Serving in short-term mission trips to the Middle East. Or you might think I going to refer to Valerie Martinez. Valerie also has a connection with our Parish and she and her husband Nicasio are serving in Mexico. Or maybe you think I am going to talk about Ryan and Kelly who serve in Honduras. We have come to know about Ryan and Kelly since Paul and Darlene have come into our Parish family.
I am going to briefly talk about Barbara Steinmetz and her work through Home Touch Ministry. We shared Barbara's story in the Weekly Update recently. Barbara's ministry through Home Touch stretches across the world and it all came about because she was asking the Lord how she could expand her ministry opportunities? I am sure Barbara listed the "limitations" she faced in being able to "go into all the world and share the Gospel." Many of you could probably list similar "limitations." But the Lord heard Barbara's heart cry and he worked with and through her to bring about a new and innovative ministry here at Christ Church.
Barbara went to prison. Well, actually Barbara went to a prisoner's performance at Marion prison and heard about Home Touch from the lady she sat next to in the audience. Barbara found herself intrigued and found the way to become engaged in missions. She went anyway!
As we celebrate the resurrection this morning, it is important that we remember, that we are not just celebrating a historic event. We are celebrating the possibility of the resurrection, here and now, today. We are also celebrating the resurrection to come.
In the Eucharist, each week, I say the words: "All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. AMEN."
By him, and with him and in him. Someone asked me this week what was intended by those words? I certainly don't time to fully explain this concept here this morning but let me try to touch on what is involved.
By him. All that needs to be done, in salvation and reconciliation of us has been done By him. Nothing more needed, nothing we can or need to contribute.
With him. We are included in the works accomplished by Jesus. So, we are now on a journey with him to eternal life. We are going With him.
In him. We are enfolded into his family, we are adopted sons and daughters in the family of God. Jesus stands before the Heavenly Father on our behalf and becomes our advocate. He takes on all that would stop us from having a relationship with the Heavenly Father. It is all wiped away and the Father sees us encompassed In him.
One of the challenges is that we tend to understand time as a linear concept. It starts back there, it is here now, it is something we will experience in the future.
I never thought I would use a Dr. Who reference to back up a theological point. Dr. Who for those who haven't heard of him is a time-traveling being who uses a time machine to travel back and forwards through time. His concept of time is a more fluid interpretation.
The Tenth Doctor said this about time: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a nonlinear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff."
I don't know if that helps or just confuses the matter. Perhaps I should just say that time is a human construct. We use it to measure or explain events and moments. We feel like we are traveling from one point in time to another. God isn't constrained by time. God can step in and out of our time constructs. God can engage with us through past events to make present events more real and dynamic. God can take us, as we are, in the present and make us aware of the future potential and possibilities.
So, as we celebrate the historic events of Resurrection Sunday, may we seek to grasp something of the present reality and possibility of the Resurrection here and now, while we engage with the possibilities and the potential of the future.
May we be like those three women who went to the tomb. May we, as they did, put aside our questions and our doubts and fears and go anyway.