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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Easter Sunday 4/5/2015

With the advent of things like DVD’s and instant downloads something that has become popular, at least among some, is what’s called binge watching of popular TV shows. Whether it’s action, crime, mystery kinds of shows like Breaking Bad or 24 or The Sopranos or if it’s more sophisticated PBS dramas like Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife, with these new formats you can watch several episodes at a time, you can watch a whole season in a relatively short period of time without commercials if it’s something from a commercial network. As an aside, what you find then is that minus commercials an hour long show is really only about forty minutes which does have a way of moving things along as you finish one episode and think, “I’ll just watch one more,” and one leads to another and before you know it you’ve blown a few hours.

What happens though, as you get close to the end of a season, is you can’t wait for that final episode. You want to find out how it ends, you want all the loose ends tied up, you want closure for the characters you’ve been following, you want closure for yourself. Being clever as they are though, what often happens is that those who produce and write these shows don’t tie up all the loose ends. They leave you hanging wondering about this character or that character and what’s going to happen to them. You want the bad guys dead or gone and the good guys to live happily ever after but they don’t always tell you. It can be a little bit aggravating, a little bit unsatisfying, making you wish for one more episode that would give you all the answers, but of course they do it on purpose, they intentionally leave some things open.

In this year B of the lectionary where Mark’s gospel is featured, it’s that less than conclusive kind of ending that you get in the Easter story and from the beginning it has bothered people. You get the women at the empty tomb and the announcement to them that Jesus has been raised, the announcement coming from a young man in a white robe, an angel perhaps. But…despite the instruction from the young man to tell the others and despite being told to go to Galilee where they can see Jesus, the women say nothing to anyone for they were afraid.

That’s it; that’s how it ends; let the credits roll. There are no appearances by the Risen Christ like the other gospels have, the result of that being that well meaning scribes decided to help Mark out. Assuming that a page must have been lost or something, assuming that this couldn’t really be how Mark wanted to end things, they added what they thought were more satisfactory endings, alternate endings which you can find included at the end of Mark, in parentheses after verse 8 where today’s reading ended.

I tend to think though, that Mark ended his gospel the way he did on purpose, like those these days who craft endings that leave things unsettled. Modern day writers do it because they know the story they’re telling isn’t over; they want you to come back for the next season or, if it’s a book they want you to buy the sequel. With Mark it’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar. He wasn’t going to write a sequel, but he ended things the way he did on purpose because he knew the story of Jesus wasn’t over.

Closure was not what Mark was looking for because resurrection isn’t about closure but quite the opposite actually! The Romans and others opposed to Jesus, they were looking for closure and they were pretty sure they had achieved it with the events of Thursday and Friday. Crucifixion was messy business but it kept their world neat and tidy, closed off from anyone or anything that might have to do with change. Those in power wanted closure because with that came control.

Resurrection however, is not about closure; resurrection is about new beginnings and new possibilities. Mark knew that; he knew there was no need to wrap things up; he knew that he couldn’t wrap things up because there was so much more to tell, so much more to this story. Resurrection isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning, so Mark intentionally leaves us hanging.

What an ending like that does though, is it brings us, you and me, into the story. Think about what happens when a show or movie or book doesn’t give you that conclusive, tie up all the loose ends ending that you think you want. At that point your imagination goes to work and you can’t stop it. You become part of the story; you join the author as you think about what happens next. In your mind you craft the next chapter or the next episode be it happy or sad, but you imagine the possibilities!

That’s exactly what Mark’s ending makes you do! “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Now first of all, let it be said that while they sometimes get a bad rap, this wasn’t a bad reaction on the part of the women, not a bad reaction to news of resurrection. What are you going to say after all? What are you going to say that makes sense in response to resurrection? Awed silence is probably the most appropriate response to “He has been raised. He is not here.” You need some time to let it settle in. You need some time to try and process that which can’t really be processed. That time is what Mark provides.

But then, imagine the possibilities; what’s next after awe and silence and fear? The young man in the white robe said that Jesus had gone to Galilee and he said that the women and the others could find him there. That might not seem like an especially remarkable statement on the surface of things but it might represent another effective literary technique on the part of Mark. It might be his way of saying to us, his readers that the best way to continue this story is to go back to the beginning and start over because if you go back to the beginning of Mark you find Jesus, and you find him in Galilee. That would make Mark’s gospel kind of a never ending story because the ending would always take you back to the beginning; you start reading it again. That’s one possibility, perhaps another aspect of Mark’s genius.

What Mark does though, besides inviting us to imagine the possibilities for the characters in the story, is to also invite us to be part of those possibilities. With TV shows and movies we can imagine what happens next to characters, we can create different scenarios, different possibilities for them. But as we do that we’re looking at things from the outside. With Mark it’s a little different; it’s different because we are included in the cast of characters; we’re inside the story. What role are we going to play as we hear that “He has been raised! He is not here.” What role are we playing?

That’s the beauty of Mark’s non-ending ending. It leaves you with questions, questions to which you become part of the answer. Whatever your part of the answer is, what’s most important is that it not put Jesus back in the tomb as if none of this really happened. If Jesus is raised, that means things are different; it means that there are new possibilities, that the brokenness of this world will be set right! That’s the new reality we are given, resurrection reality, and as Easter people, we live it! We live the good news of resurrection! The tomb is empty! He is not here! He has been raised! Because of that, the end of this story has not been written; it’s always just beginning! Just imagine the possibilities!

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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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
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