Fear and Amazement – and the foundation of faith

Nothing is going according to “the plan”

Not that it didn’t start out well –

  • Arrive in time for Passover: check
  • Seder dinner with best friends: check

but after that, it all went south…

Dinner ends with an argument about who will be faithful.

Jesus is troubled (worried) to death, so he retires to the hills for some quiet time –

his friends seem indifferent.

One of those ‘friends’ turned Jesus in as a revolutionary,

and arrives after dark with a lynch mob.

He was rapidly tried,

convicted of blasphemy, treason and causing a general nuisance,

denied amnesty, and sent to be executed.

Nothing had gone as planned.

It’s no wonder that the women are distraught – not thinking clearly.

Sure – Jesus spoke of an alternative – a kingdom of divine justice and mercy

Love one another – and love God with your whole heart,

but look at where that got Jesus…

The plan is in tatters, and these women hope to salvage some respect

for the memory of their teacher and friend by ministering to his remains at the tomb.

What meets them there, in the early hours of this brand new day makes no sense.

An open grave – occupied by a surprisingly lively young man dressed in white.

The messenger brings distressing words –

He is not here – then reminds them of Jesus promise to see them down the road in Galilee.

It’s no wonder they fled.

Terror and amazement – hand in hand – because neither one on its own is adequate –

our Christian Faith is founded on such primal emotions as these.

But for all the fear and amazement found in this morning’s gospel,

this act of discovery is not the most important piece of the puzzle.

Though it is the last act in the oldest versions of the gospel of Mark –

it is not the final word;

the empty tomb is not the definitive moment for the few who happened upon it.

Do I have your attention now?

On the day that the Christian community throughout the western world

breathe a collective sigh of relief,

and celebrate of the Resurrection of Jesus as the most significant event in the history of creation,

I am telling you that the discovery of the empty tomb is not really that important.

The stone is moved – the body is gone – the disciples are terrified…

and the most important thing is what happens next.

In fear and amazement, the women left.

They went home – trembling; terrified.  They wondered what it meant –

they considered that an empty grave might change the way they looked at the world.

What happened next is they lived with the consequences of Jesus empty tomb.

Only then did they see him.

Only then was the living, Risen Christ revealed to their eyes.

The gift of faith was a direct result of their fleeing in fear –

their amazement  is answered in the real world, on the streets of the city –

in their homes, on the beach…

The life of faith follows the path of fear and amazement;

each in equal measure responsible for our openness to the mystery and majesty of the living God.

Our fear of abandonment draws us into relationship and community.

Our amazement as we glimpse God’s glory in creation invites us to offer praise in worship.

Just as the first disciples came together

to (reluctantly) share their stories (and their sadness),

only to discover that something wonderful beyond their imaginations was happening.

The tomb is empty, and Jesus is among us –

and the most important thing is what happens next.

We gather today to remember the start of something wonderful –

and the most important thing, is what happens next…

God’s glory is loose in the world – God’s messenger has been raised –

death, it seems, is no barrier to the promise of God,

so what are you going to do about it?

We will continue to worship – in churches, in homes, in hospitals, in parks.

We will gather together around the Sacraments –

we will be both frightened and freed

by the promises offered at Baptism and by the hope expressed at the Lord’s Table.

We will reach out to our neighbours and our enemies,

because the love we’ve discovered knows no boundaries.

Will you join us?

Our gathering today is significant – full of faces -full of joy – full of life

But for many who gather today, tomorrow will be ‘just another Monday’,

But the tomb is empty – Jesus, it seems, has Risen –

and that means our former reality has been altered.

The powerful can still take a life, and snuff out rebellion, and demand obedience

But God has been revealed as more powerful than they.

The cross is now a sign, not of torture and submission,

but of the failure of human authority.

The grave is no longer the finish line – but our new starting point.

And the most important part of the story is in our hands – with God’s help.

What happens next is up to you and I.

In the ongoing story of God’s work among us, we represent the newest chapter –

our lives and our stories will be the foundation for another generation of fearful, faithful people.

All because he is not where they laid him;

He is risen.  Risen indeed.

Hallelujah!  Amen.

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