Creating a Christian Foundation for Families
Learning More About Jesus
Living our Faith Beyond our Walls

Are You Kidding?

Sermons at Union Congregational Church
Preached by The Reverend Gail L. Miller, Pastor

April 1, 2018        Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8

Are You Kidding?

When I was in college I played in the orchestra, and even though I wasn’t a music major, I hung out with the musicians. One year, a bunch of my musician friends shared a house together at the edge of campus and I ended up hanging out there a lot.

And once in a while as an annoying joke someone would go to the piano and play a musical cadence (pattern) and stop playing before it was finished, and walk away. And the rest of us would look around to see who would be the one who couldn’t take it and would then have to go over themselves and finish the musical phrase.

Being left hanging makes us (makes me!) uncomfortable.

Movies are good at this. The Hunger Games in particular were good at leaving us hanging and wanting the next movie. And then there is a novel I read years ago, and the only thing I can remember about it is that at the very end of it, the main character who was a good guy, was accidentally shot and killed. It was such an abrupt and unsatisfying ending, that that is all I can remember of it! (I can’t remember the author or the title or anything else!)

What happens next??? We want to know!!!

Most TV dramas are designed with this cliffhanging feature. (Stay tuned for scenes from next week’s episode…)

And today – in church – we’ve got the same!
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

That’s it? Wait!! Where are the alleluias? Where is the joyful celebration? Where is the big sigh of relief that the bad news wasn’t the last word?

If we were to celebrate here this morning based on this, we’d have to take all the flowers away, the bells would not have rung us into worship, the choir would have sung in a minor key, and I’d have talked with the children about times they were afraid.

So thank God that we DO know what comes next, and that the story does NOT end where our reading this morning ends!

Thankfully and obviously the women who were the first to receive the good news (though they were frightened at the time) did NOT stay silent; and we’ve got plenty of witnesses who saw Jesus in the days and weeks to follow, to know that he was indeed, really raised from the dead, and not just imagined to be raised by those who loved him and knew him.

And while I love the explosion of beauty and joy that permeates this room and our music and our gathering this morning, I also appreciate the real realness of:
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Because that’s where resurrection is needed the most.
When our hopes have been dashed
When the test is harder than you though it’d be
When things do not turn out as we expect them to
When life is cut short
When someone you thought was a friend turns out to be gossiping about you
When the bad news piles on
When you don’t get into the college of your dreams

The list goes on…. Yes?

We need the resurrection. And I’m not talking about the new life after death resurrection – though we need that too. No, I’m talking about the real, real life need for the resurrection; the everyday life need for the resurrection ,,,The “bad things happen in threes,” and the “I’m afraid to go to school” life need for the resurrection…that each of us lives.

Because as you know, saying nothing because we are afraid didn’t just happen 2,000 years ago.

We are real people with real fears who need not just a resurrection, but each other as well. We’re all looking for someone to say to us, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus. He is not here!”

You see, all this here in church is not just a museum to preserve the memory of things that happened long ago, If all we’re doing here is commemorating an iconic man whose story is retold twice a year to remember his remarkable life lived long ago, then we would not bother to return next Sunday, and the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that…

But we will… millions of people will.

Because Jesus was not just raised 2,000 years ago…. The resurrection is not only a moment in time and history. It is also a way of life and a frame of mind.
Which sees God’s hand in the most remarkable and in the most obvious places,
Which is open to being changed and taking risks,
Which is kind and generous,
Which is humble and vulnerable.

All qualities which can only be sustained and nurtured together in community.
Try as I might, when I am living in fear for whatever reason; I need someone to tell me what I can’t imagine by myself:
That, first of all, things will somehow be okay – it will get better,
That I might not have the whole story,
That I am not alone.

In those moments we need more than an ancient story. We need the person the story is about. We need the real thing.

We need the resurrection NOW. (Remember that Seinfeld episode when George Costanza and his father would yell out “Serenity Now”! when they got frustrated and overwhelmed? We need something like that! RESURRECTION NOW!)

Notice the words (ancient greeting) we spoke at the beginning of worship today.
Christ is risen – He is risen indeed.
Notice that it’s in the present tense…. Not Christ was raised; He was raised indeed!
He is risen! Which is good news in a world that needs to hear it.
He is risen! Which is our hope amid very personal uncertainties and sorrows.
He is risen! The solid ground on which all Christian prayer and ministry stand.

He IS risen! If resurrection were only about the world that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John lived in, there wouldn’t be much good news for us today.

Resurrection / Easter is a proclamation about what God is doing even now. Because Easter is not just one hour once a year – it’s happening all the time in all sorts of places.

Easter happens in the ER when the doctor comes out to the waiting room.
Easter happens at the funeral home when that first glimpse of your beloved in the coffin hits you like a punch to the gut.
Easter happens when the cancer returns.
Easter happens when your beloved says, “We need to talk.”
Easter happens where fear and death is, because that is the place where Easter is needed the most.

So, whether you can shout, “CHRIST IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!” Or whether you can barely utter “he is risen” through salty tears, the risen Christ is with us, to embrace us, to love us, and to continue the process of making this world right again.

And the church – including this church – strives to play a part in that. As people who marvel at Resurrection, we have the joyful, and irresistible calling to be Christ’s risen body, to participate in God’s lively work of healing and redemption, to be a living sign of God’s love for all people.

The song is not just finished – it’s also just beginning!
Stay tuned for next week’s episode!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.