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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter Sunday 04/08/2012

“And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  That’s how Mark’s Easter story ends; an empty tomb but no resurrection appearances, no encounters with the Risen Christ, just the women fleeing the tomb in terror and amazement, for they were afraid.  I like it; I like Mark’s ending.  A word for word translation of the Greek is, “To no one nothing they said, they were afraid for…”  I like that even better, ending as it does with a preposition which you know you’re never supposed to do.

I like it, but I know not everyone does; for some it seems too abrupt or it seems like there must have been a final page that Mark wrote but it got lost somewhere.  Not everyone likes Mark’s ending and because of that several more complete endings were added by various scribes to make it more satisfying, in their opinion.  If you look in your Bible you’ll find those other endings, but I like it just fine the way it is.  “To no one nothing they said, they were afraid for…” 

The reason I like the way Mark ends things is that he makes no effort to provide a neat and clean ending.  Other gospel writers do tidy things up a little bit and provide more in the way of appearance stories and various experiences of the disciples and others; we will hear some of that over the next couple of weeks.  But in a lot of ways this doesn’t seem like the kind of story that should have a neat and clean ending because Easter morning is not an ending at all, it’s a beginning.  It’s the opening up of new possibilities that would not otherwise have been imagined.  I think it’s very plausible that Mark intentionally ended his gospel this way, that he intentionally left things hanging.

That’s the way the Easter story should be.  The tomb is empty and Jesus is among us, he’s out there.  On Easter we know that the Friday crucifixion didn’t mark the end of the story, we know that the absence of yesterday didn’t mark the end of the story; but neither does the resurrection. The story goes on because Jesus is alive and he is among us.  There are more chapters to be written and that is just as true today as it was on that first Easter morning. 

Thinking about this takes me back to a question that is raised and which lingers throughout the Bible, a question that comes from the story of Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis.  You probably remember at least some of their story, how they had dutifully obeyed the command of the Lord to leave their home and to go to a land that he would show them, a land where he would make of them a great nation, a nation that would begin with the birth of a son to Abraham and Sarah who had previously been childless.  But many years had gone by when the Lord appeared again to Abraham in the form of three visitors outside the entrance of his tent.  Abraham extended hospitality to the three strangers who announced again that Sarah would have a child, despite the fact that she was barren and that both she and Abraham were very old at that point.  Sarah, on the other side of the tent, overheard what was said and laughed at the absurdity of it, a perfectly normal response to such an announcement. 

At which point the voice of the Lord asks the question: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?  The question lingers, as it is perhaps the key question because in many ways, how that question is answered determines everything else.  Can the Lord in making this promise go beyond what is perceived as possible and do what is judged to be impossible?  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?  If the answer is, “Yes, some things are too wonderful, too hard, too impossible for God,” then we determine that the universe is closed.  Things are well ordered perhaps, stable and reliable, but nothing new is possible.  What you see is what you get; what has happened in the past will always determine what can happen in the future.

If, on the other hand, the answer to this question is, “No, nothing is too wonderful, too impossible for God,” then the future is open.  The future is in God’s hands and in God’s hands, who knows what might happen?  How the question is answered determines everything else and in many and various ways, the answer that the Bible consistently gives us is that for the Lord, nothing is impossible, or to put in another way, the impossible is possible.  Nothing is too wonderful, too hard, too difficult for the Lord. 

As Christians, Easter represents the definitive answer to this question and as such, it offers hope that would otherwise be impossible.  Easter breaks beyond the normal boundaries of reason, wisdom and common sense so much so that a skeptic, using intellect and reason, would say that the resurrection is just a story, a metaphor, whatever, because people don’t rise from the dead, it’s impossible and we respond, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? and our Easter answer is “No; nothing is too wonderful. He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!”  With those women who came and found the tomb empty on Easter morning, we dare to imagine it, we dare to imagine that this story isn’t over.

The Easter news of resurrection breaks into our world just as definitively, just as shockingly as it did some 2000 years ago.  Increasingly we seem to live in a world that is ending; the economic stability we enjoyed for so long continues to be shaky at best; the government that worked so well for so long barely functions much of the time, brought to a halt by partisan gridlock; our clever technological advances are nice but they don’t fix everything, you sometimes wonder if they really even make things better; the strongest military in the world can’t guarantee security against the threats that are out there.  There’s no need to belabor the point other than to say that the world as we have known it either has ended or it is ending.

But this morning we hear a message that is not an ending, but instead is a word that breaks into a dying world and announces life and possibilities.  On Easter morning we get God’s word that nothing is impossible, that reality is not defined by death and it’s not defined by what has happened in the past.  It’s defined by the resurrection of Jesus, by new life and new possibilities, new life, even beyond death.  The deathly powers of this world and the ways of this world will have their say, but they won’t have the last word just as Friday did not have the last word because, “He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!”

Easter changes reality for us, it redefines reality.  We refuse to be held hostage by the powers of this world that think they control everything, that think they have all the answers because we know that “He is Risen!” is an answer they didn’t expect.  It’s an answer that represents not the end of the story, but a new beginning and that’s why I like Mark’s ending that isn’t an ending.  The story isn’t neatly wrapped up, it’s open.  The tomb is empty.  Jesus is alive and among us, at work in the world and still calling us to follow.  As we follow we can expect to be surprised by the possibilities because “He is Risen” reveals to us that nothing is too wonderful for the Lord.

Alleluia!  He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!

Rev. Warren Geier

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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