Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Isn’t that amazing how you all were just able to fill in that blank? I say something, and you automatically know how to respond. Like when I say “the Lord be with you”…
“In Jesus’ name we pray…”
“Lord in your mercy…”
“Ah-choo?”… (my reaction is usually “COVER YOUR MOUTH! Gross, man”)
Our lives are full of blanks which we fill on a regular basis, maybe instinctively, maybe after considerable thought, or maybe out of frustration because sometimes we would just rather be told what is supposed to go in that blank.
Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes, wars are started because those blanks were filled in so incorrectly, so full of assumption and presumption, so full of our own thoughts and interpretations, that conflict would arise.
Here is a humorous example of what I mean about incorrectly filling in the blanks…
Ok, maybe that isn’t so much filling in the blank as much as it is just that guy being an idiot. But we often cannot help but interpret things under our own lenses, with our own paradigms, with our own way of understanding the world and we can’t always let go of those assumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions, making something out of “u” and “umption”….
For example, this very day of Easter, this celebration of Christ risen, this recognition of resurrection, well, it is full of assumptions, isn’t it? We assume that this is something that we must remember as Christians, we assume that it is a commemoration of something that has happened a long time ago, we assume that Christ’s resurrection is the high point of our faith, something that we must look to and hold up in order to remain faithful children of God.
So we go all out. We have more flowers than usual. We emphasize different symbols and traditions. We make a grander celebration around this day, the culmination of the Christian faith.
Yes, and this is good. It is good that we are here together in celebration. It is great that we have this high point of the church year in which we as a whole church of God can get together, sing, worship, and eat together. And this is a perfect day for us to celebrate baptism, new members, and us as a community and family. But in thinking that Easter is just that? That unfortunately takes away from the rich meaning of the resurrection story, especially as it is given to us today in Mark.
See, we are in Lectionary Year B, meaning that we follow the Jesus’ life and ministry as Mark describes it all year. But because Mark is so short and oddly written, we often refer to John instead, just to fill out the story and make it all cleaner. Even for today, we have an alternate text which is the resurrection story out of John, and it seems much more popular when you look at different sermons online for today. But not this guy! *thumb pointing to self* I like Mark, maybe because it is written so concisely and without any kind of nonsense and fluff.
And the way Mark explains this resurrection story is quite perplexing. At first glance, it is abrupt and seemingly incomplete. In fact, when you read it in the original Greek, it actually ends like mid-sentence, almost like Mark was saying “you know, it’s like…” or “hey, I was thinking…” or “did you ever wonder…” and then just stopped writing and walked away.
Some of you bible scholars out there would know that there were some other endings edited into Mark over the centuries, because history couldn’t seem to live with ambiguity of how the gospel ends and needed to tie up those loose ends. They needed to clean up the story so it would fit into what we would classify as complete, finished, full and rich. They needed to fill in those blanks…
But in doing that, in cleaning up the story like the other endings do, in trying to complete the narrative, the attempts to complete what seems unfinished, well those assumptions that there must be more to it then ironically takes away from the story instead of adding to it. Because in wrapping it all up in a nice clean package, what does the story then mean? Well, basically it is something that happened so long ago, and it gets longer ago with every passing year, something that is further and further removed from us, something that we can relate to less and less. It becomes something that is nice to remember, and perhaps even uphold as the culmination and focus of our faith, but as it gets further and further removed, something that happened so outside of our memories, so unrelatable to our experience, that it would just be easier to say “meh”.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord be with you.
Lord, in your mercy.
You still have to cover your mouth when you sneeze though. That’s still gross, c’mon now.
But yeah, “meh”. I mean, when we talk about resurrection in this day and age, how does that matter to us? When we talk about miracles to a people who largely haven’t experienced miracles, I mean actual miracles like walking on an unfrozen lake or turning water into wine, what would that even mean? When we even allude to the mystery and mysticism of God and faith to a society so driven by the religion of science and verifiable fact according to that religion, can we really expect anything more than shrugged shoulders, shaking heads, and maybe rolling eyes?
That is what the assumption about Easter does. That is what happens when we try to clean up the Jesus story according to Mark. That is what a world developing under an incorrectly filled blank looks like.
See, I think Mark was intentional in being ambiguous. I think Mark had a reason to finish mid-sentence. I think Mark was very thoughtfully trying to instill something in his readers… and that is the fact that the story isn’t over. It doesn’t wrap up in a nice neat package. It doesn’t end with this resurrection. God isn’t finished yet.
Rather, it is the beginning of the story.
See, Mark’s gospel account begins in a similar concise and no-nonsense kind of way. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” That’s it. no genealogy. No lengthy and detailed birth narrative. No mind-blowing theological statements. Just that this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
But I don’t think Mark was talking about just those 13 words as the beginning, but I think he meant that the following 16 chapters are the beginning of the good news. The whole book of Mark is the start of this story. This gospel according to Mark starts with the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded, but it continues in us, the recipients of God’s grace, the bearers of God’s mercy, the subjects of God’s love.
So if I were to translate the gospel of Mark myself (which would be impossible because my Greek is awful), I wouldn’t try to tidy up the end. I wouldn’t try to wrap it all up in a nice clean package. I wouldn’t add parts to complete the story, rather I would just leave it as is, perhaps add a dot… dot… dot…, intentionally leave a blank for our lives to fill.
So does this make resurrection more relatable? Does it help us see the miracles of everyday life? Does it make life more meaningful, knowing that God’s story of good news and promise continues intimately in us and our community and relationships?
Honestly? How could it not? Sure, we don’t see people walking on water, or turning water into wine no matter how hard we pray for that to happen. We don’t experience magical healing without medical assistance, and we most certainly don’t have our loved ones who have died come back to life. But resurrection isn’t just about miraculous resuscitation from the dead, but it is about bringing life into where there once was death. Healing isn’t necessarily curing terminal diseases, but about mending brokenness, piecing us back together, restoring us to wholeness. See, our lives do have meaning because as part of God’s story we are chosen to be made worthy, chosen to be made children of God, chosen to be made. For God loved us so much that God made us complete and whole and while we sin and fail, while we face trouble and hardship, while we suffer and feel pain and fall into deep and dark pits of despair, God reaches out in that love, reaches into our lives, reaches down in those pits in which we find ourselves and pulls us up and resurrects us into life of love and fullness.
So you see, the blank left at the end of gospel of Mark is filled with the story that continues in our lives. The good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God is revealed in who we are, how we are forgiven and loved, how we are healed and brought into wholeness with God and each other. The resurrection wasn’t just a single event that happened a couple of millennia ago, but it is how God is revealed in our lives every day, how we are invited and brought into community with God and each other, how we can live our lives full of the love, grace, and mercy of God.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Yes indeed, Christ is risen. Risen for us, risen with us, risen alongside us as we live our lives as Easter people, full of good news and promise, resurrected into community and love. Thanks be to God. Amen.