Monday, April 27, 2009

Sermon for Year B Easter Vigil

Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." 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.

Who will roll the stone away?

As soon as they could get there,
as soon as they could take their spices
and go to anoint Jesus’ body,
the women—Mary Magdalene,
Mary the mother of James and Salome—
head out at daybreak to go to the tomb.

It is only once they are on their way there
that one of them begins to think rationally
and asks,

Hey! Wait a minute!
Who will roll the stone away for us?
We won’t even be able to get to the body.

Yes, there are three of them—
but the stone that was placed at the opening of the tomb
is enormous and heavy--
the purpose being to seal the entrance
and to keep the body of Jesus safe.

Who will roll the stone away?

But even their worries
about the practicalities of moving that stone
does not slow them down.
They keep going.
When they arrive at the tomb,
they are stunned.
There is absolutely nothing blocking the entrance.

When they looked up—
they saw that the stone—
which was very large—
had already been rolled back.

They are frightened.
Who did this?
Who could have arrived before us?
Who rolled away this enormous stone?

Yet even their fears
do not slow them down.
They enter the cool darkness of the tomb,
but they find no body to anoint.
Jesus is not there.
Or is he?

There IS a young man there—
dressed in white robes—
who knows before they say one word
that they are looking for Jesus.
He is not here.
He has been raised.
Tell the disciples Jesus will meet them in Galilee.
Oh and by the way, don’t be afraid!

Don’t be afraid?!??!!
You can almost imagine these three women
backing out of the tomb,
their eyes wide with fear,
moving away from this young man
and the light that seems to surround him.
Then once outside—
turning and running as fast as they can,
back to the safety of their homes.

Mark’s gospel tells us that they tell no one.
Who would have believed them?
They could not believe it themselves at that moment.

We don’t know how long it took
but we do know
the story eventually was told.

Eventually those women did speak, did tell others.
How else could the writer of Mark’s gospel
have written down what happened that morning?

And now here we are.
Almost 2000 years later.
The story has made its way to our ears, to our lives.

You see killing Jesus was a terrible mistake.
Not just because of all the good he did in the world.
Not just because of what he taught and how he lived.
Not just because he was willing to take on the darkness of the world
and face death.
Not just because he was the incarnation of love.
Not just because he was an innocent man.

Theologian Walter Wink suggests that illing Jesus was a foolish mistake.
It was like trying to get rid of a dandelion
by plucking up the seed-head and blowing on it —

And the good news of Jesus Christ
began to spread, began to grow,
it hopped over fences and traveled over oceans
and moved through centuries.

Oh, the women might have been afraid,
they might have told no one at first.
But God works in mysterious ways.
Have no doubt that those women found their voices
and told their story.

And now the story has passed to us.
To you and to me.

The love of God is not something to keep hidden away in a dark tomb.
In the life he lived and in the death he died,
Jesus rolled away the stone for US.

The sun has been shattered.
But the sun has been shattered into a million fragments of light.

We are called to go and tell the story.
to spread the good news.

There are long versions of the story,
And there are short versions of the story.
And we each have our own version
of how this story has transformed our life.

But the story we have to tell this night,
this beautiful, glorious Easter Eve,
the story is this:

The stone has been rolled away.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed.



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