Sermon for Easter Sunday April 9, 2012

Sermon for Resurrection of Our Lord B
April 8, 2012
Michael Coffey

Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed.  Alleluia!
Wow.  Christ is risen. What a great ending to an amazing story.
           Well, except, there really wasn’t much of an ending in Mark’s Gospel:
                     An empty tomb.  A strange young man.
                     Some frightened women who run off in silence.
           Sounds like the end of some Swedish art film
                     and everyone walks out scratching their heads
                     and pretending like they understood it all
                     as they sheepishly sip their cappuccinos
                                at the nearby espresso bar.
           What just happened?
           Why did Mark’s Gospel end so strangely?
                     And where the heck is Jesus hiding
                                if he is risen indeed?

Up to this point, the story didn’t look so good.
           Jesus, the one sent by God to restore and renew his people
           faced rejection, misunderstanding, disappointment,
           betrayal, torture, injustice, and execution.
Jesus lived faithfully in this unfaithful world
           knowing full well that there would be a cost
                     to being on the side of love, life, loyalty, and liberation,
           And when facing the cost
he didn’t resort to hatred, violence, rejection, or oppression.
He trusted God and lived his faithful life
           not letting others determine how we would live
                     or who he would be,
                     because God already told him how and who he was.

But then the end comes:
           Jesus’ death at the hands of a powerful,
fear-based, death-wielding empire
           and at the rejection of religious leaders who couldn’t change
                     and welcome God’s amazing newness.

And at the foot of the cross, at the stone-sealed tomb,
           in the endless news of our tragic world’s ways,
you have to wonder,
           as the fear-stricken disciples must have wondered:
                     Does hatred always win?
                     Des death always win?
                     Does abandonment always win?
                     Does oppression always win?
                                Why shouldn’t we just run off in silence and paralyzing fear?

That’s why the Romans did it, you know.
           They were experts at controlling the folks they conquered
                     and keeping the peace, as they called it.
           I suppose you could call it peace
                     if there are few wars or demonstrations against the empire
                                and anyone who tries gets publically executed
                                on the roadside or at the top of a hill
                                           hanging on a cross for everyone to see.
           Yeah, it’s some kind of peace.
                                The kind of peace that existed in Soviet Russia,
                                          or the Jim Crow south,
                                          peace that keeps everyone silent and afraid.

So yeah, by the end of the story
           it appears that hatred wins,
                     death wins,
                     abandonment wins,
                     oppression wins.
           And fear and silence are the only possible human response.

There was a popular and controversial book that came out last year.
           It was by an evangelical pastor, Rob Bell.
He proposed that God’s will is for all people
           to be reconciled to God and each other,
           and that in the end, God will get what God wants.
He proposed that because God is God,
           love wins.  That was the title of the book.  Love Wins.

This is the powerful good news of the resurrection of Jesus.
           No matter how much resistance Jesus faced
                     to his life of divine love,
           no matter how empires and religions
                     try and try to hold onto selfish power,
           no matter how limited our view of God
                     and what God can actually do in this world,
                                love wins.
Yes, even though there is too much hate in plain sight,
           love wins.
Yes, even though there is so much death,
           life wins.
Yes, even though there is too much abandonment,
           loyalty wins.
Yes, even though there is seemingly endless oppression,
           liberation wins.
The women got the to the empty tomb,
           and heard the young man say:  See, he told you so!
           Go back to Galilee and find him living among you.
But they ran off in fear and silence.
           Mark’s Gospel has an ending that doesn’t end the story.
           He wants us to hear that Jesus is raised,
                     and he’s back in Galilee,
                     back at work,
                     back in the mission of God’s kingdom,
                     back at being about love, and life, and loyalty, and liberation.
           And we will find him
                     where ever our Galilee of working for God’s kingdom
                                of love, life, loyalty, and liberation may be.

The women running off in fear and silence
           is a challenge to us.
We know it isn’t the end of the story,
           but it tells us that the end of the story
                     is being told today, in this Galilee,
                     in our work of living for God,
                     in our costly witness to God’s good news.
The disappearance of all of Jesus’ followers in fear and silence
           tells us that raising Jesus from death
was the easy part for God.
           Raising up his followers to new lives of faith and trust
                     beyond fear and silence… that is the challenge!
Jesus calls his followers to a hard path,
           a path of living for God even when it is costly,
           especially when it is costly,
because that’s how the world is changed.
So we are left either in fear and silence,
           or we are left empowered to live new lives
           like it was never possible before.

The New Testament scholar NT Wright
tells a story about a cab ride he took.
The taxi driver asked him what he did for a living and he told him.
So the conversation ensued about faith, and Jesus, and the resurrection.
At one point the cab driver told him:
The way I look at it,
if Jesus Christ is raised from the dead,
everything else is basically rock and roll."

Yes, Jesus is raised from the dead by God’s great creative power,
           and everything else is basically rock and roll.
We have to ask ourselves
           what it means to live in this world
           if love wins, if life wins, if loyalty wins, if liberation wins.
It is to live as if God will get exactly what God wants
           and we are part of the mystery of how God gets there.
It is to live as if love wins, and that changes how we live.
It is to live transformed lives beyond fear
because Jesus is God’s love, life, loyalty, and liberation for us.

We continue to look for and see the risen Jesus
           in our Galilee, our world of working for God’s peaceful kingdom.
You see the risen Jesus in your Galilee
when you don’t let your fear of loving others stop you,
           when you don’t let your anxiety about money
keep you from generous acts
           when you don’t let the market and Wall Street
tell you what you are worth
           when you don’t let haters limit you by their small lives,
                     when you do know moments of surrender in God’s arms
                     when you do hold and comfort the dying
                     when you do speak on behalf of powerless people
                     when you do feed the hungry bodies and souls around you.

With a crucified and risen Jesus as our companion in life,
it is possible to live a bigger life than silent fear
           in the face of hatred and death.
The whole Gospel of Mark asks us:
What are we going to do
           now that we know love wins, life wins, loyalty wins, liberation wins?
                     Live a smaller, safer, silent life?
                     No!  From onw on it’s all rock and roll!
                     Life is God’s song and rhythm and dance!
                                Jesus is the musical key,
                                and we are the notes God is plucking.

What does it mean to live knowing, trusting, risking, placing your bets
           that love wins
           life wins
           loyalty wins
           liberation wins?

It means nothing can stop us
           from loving this whole world with the love of Jesus
           sharing life with everyone, the very life of Jesus,
           offering God’s loyalty to all who are abandoned,
           participating in God’s liberation with all who are bound up
                     in fear and systems of oppression.

Love wins, because God is love.
Life wins, because God grants life.
Loyalty wins, because God is loyal to God’s promises.
Liberation wins, because God is liberating power.

Christ is risen!  Alleluia!
And beyond all reasonable expectations, so are we.


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