Lectionary Reflection for the Resurrection of our Lord, Year B
April 5, 2015
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. Mark 16:8
Mark’s gospel begins with these words: “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Now just 16 short chapters later, the original ending comes to an abrupt halt with fearful and silenced women. Of course, that wouldn’t do, so an alternate ending seeks to fill in the gaps and make the scene more palatable. But maybe fear is the order of the day–raw, uncensored, and real. Wouldn’t you be fearful when everything you knew and understood about your world had been ripped apart and put back together in an amazing way? So now what? However in the world would one begin again?
Truth be told, more than 2,000 years later there’s still a lot of fear in the air. The story is really no less terrifying and amazing despite our many attempts to sanitize and manage it. We don’t have pat answers, only fragile hope and wavering faith, and an utter dependence on that empty tomb.
Might the starkness of Mark’s resurrection narrative inspire us to celebrate Easter in a manner less fussily than we are accustomed, leaving the festival pageantry, the pomp and the frills of sanctuary worship for the simple beauty of a sunrise service? We can gather on hilltops or in graveyards, worshipers huddling to hear the familiar words, sing a few hymns, cling to resurrection hope, and head back in silence to fellowship hall breakfasts and the dawning of an unvarnished new day.
The empty tomb provides a blank slate on which to record the next chapter of the Good News for this generation, for our time and context. Like those first disciples and witnesses, we are imperfect, bumbling, and prone to failure and disillusionment. Despite that fact, nothing can stop the gospel. We know from our first reading this week (Acts 10:34-43) that Peter and the others reclaimed their voices and stepped into the light of day to tell the story of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, so that all who believe in him receive forgiveness of sins. Truly this is Good News that never ends, a story that begins again and again in the telling, the living, and the offerings of our worship and praise.
It is a story made known in bread in wine, in water and word, in the silent spaces and sin-darkened places. Not even our human fear and silence can stop it from breaking loose and pouring forth in love, grace, and mercy. The empty tomb is no empty promise. So even if we find ourselves struck dumb by fear, captivated and amazed by that which seems so unreal, and fleeing the scene, know that a new beginning surely dawns. The good news of Jesus Christ is for all people in every time and place. Take heart. Hang in there. You will find your voice to share this never-ending story of mercy, hope, and grace.
(Photos: Keoni Cabral and Matt Dempsey, Creative Commons)