A bar opened in a small town just across the street from a church. Not even a little pub where one could order a beer with their sandwich; but a bar in the most shady sense of the term. One of those places that stayed open half the night, had a dubious clientele, and whose patrons stumbled out the door at closing time. The church’s members were, understandably, concerned. But since the bar wasn’t violating any local ordinances, there was little they could do about it. So, they decided to hold prayer meetings hoping that the power of their prayers would put an end to the establishment. After several prayer meetings, one night there was a horrible thunderstorm. Lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. Being aware of the church’s complaints and having heard about their prayer meetings, the owner of the bar filed suit against the church. A local judge agreed to hear their arguments. The bar owner’s attorney claimed that the church was responsible for the destruction of his client’s property. The lightning was deemed an act of God and they had certainly invoked the name and the power of God for that very purpose. The attorney for the church claimed that the accusation was nothing short of ridiculous. The church could not be held responsible for what had occurred. After considering their statements, the judge rendered his decision. The role of the church in the bar’s destruction was uncertain. What was, however, quite clear was that the bar owner had much greater faith in the power of prayer than did the church members.
Prayer is, at times, a mysterious thing. This morning, during the Sunday School hour, I met with our youth who are going through confirmation and, together, we talked about the topic of prayer. When one joins a United Methodist Church – which our confirmands will do in a few weeks – the first promise one makes to that local congregation is to support the church with one’s prayers. So if, as is generally the case with “lists,” one assumes that that which is of greatest importance is named first, one could conclude that there is no greater or more important action in which we could engage on behalf of Trinity Church than to pray for this church. Now I know that some of you do that. I hope that most of you do that since, as I said, that is a promise we make when we join the church. But what should we pray? And, how should we pray? We may be tempted to pray that time will magically roll back to 1950 when nearly everyone went to church and church growth was like shooting fish in a barrel. Should we pray, specifically, that God will bless us with lots of children and young families and with people with lots of interest in volunteering and new members who are generous givers and skilled leaders?
Well, as I mentioned last Sunday, in these weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, we’ll be looking together at scriptures from the Book of Acts so we can see how the practices of the early Church are reflected in the promises we made when we joined Trinity. This morning’s scripture from the Book of Acts reveals something interesting about the prayers of the early Christians. My reading from Acts picked up, really, in the middle of the story (which is rather lengthy) so I need to backtrack a bit to give us some context.
Acts is the story of the Church’s beginnings. As the gospel of Luke presented to us the ministry of Jesus; the book of Acts presents to us the ministry of Jesus’ followers. Once the Holy Spirit is poured out on Jesus’ disciples, they are filled with the power to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Devout Jews, the disciples continue to carry out the practices of their Jewish faith. One day Peter and John are attending afternoon prayer at the temple when they encounter a man who has been crippled since birth. He is begging for alms from the worshippers who, he trusts, will be in a generous frame of mind. But Peter and John have little in the way of financial resources and so they give the man something of much greater value. They heal him by invoking the name of Jesus. The man is overjoyed. He creates quite the stir and a crowd begins to form around Peter, John and this man. Having gained their attention, Peter uses this as an opportunity to preach and so – since nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd – it soon also draws the attention of the religious leaders who are none too happy about what they are hearing and seeing.
Now, a quick aside to make better sense of this story: Although Israel was under Roman rule in the first century, Rome governed from a distance. It was the Jewish high priest and other religious rulers who maintained law and order on a daily basis. Rome wanted their tax money and Rome did not want any trouble. If there was trouble, Roman troops would descend and march their dirty little Gentile feet all over the holy city of Jerusalem. No one wanted that – neither the Romans nor the Jews. Now Jesus, this simple Galilean rabbi, had created quite a stir and his crucifixion had not put an end to the matter. Now his followers are stirring up the crowds as well. So the religious authorities arrest Peter and John and toss them in jail for the night, likely hoping that it would dampen their evangelistic zeal. But it doesn’t. They also preach the gospel of Jesus to the religious leaders who sense that they are in an awkward bind here because this man they’ve healed just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut either. So they decide to release John and Peter with a warning that they’ll find themselves in even deeper trouble if they keep with us kind of behavior, all this Jesus-talk. But their threats fall on deaf ears. Peter and John make clear they are not about to stop.
And that is where this morning’s scripture reading picked up. Released from prison, Peter and John head back to join the other disciples to inform them of their imprisonment and the interrogation and threats they’ve been subjected to. This is awful – it’s scary and humiliating and dangerous… and so, one might expect them to join together in praying for God’s protection. One might expect them to pray that the religious leaders would lighten up and leave them alone. One might expect them to pray for ministry to be a little easier and not so controversial. But that is not at all what they pray. And what they do pray provides a lesson for us and a pretty good answer to my earlier question of what and how should we pray today for Trinity United Methodist Church.
Their prayer in a nutshell is this: make us bold. Make us bold while you continue to do what we trust you will do as a God who heals and performs wondrous signs. So, for whom are they seeking change? Well, although I’m sure they’d be delighted to have the authorities leave them alone, that is not the change they’re focused on. No, the change they seek is a change in themselves; that they might be emboldened; that they might be more courageous; that they might be willing to risk even more than they are risking now. Wow; that’s crazy, don’t you think? If you ask me, you have to already have a pretty ample supply of boldness to pray for more under those kinds of circumstances. So, how does that happen? Well, their desire for boldness and courage comes from a place of confidence in God and in God’s Word.
1) Notice, first off, that their prayer begins by acknowledging the power and sovereignty of God. Friends, when we face threatening people or circumstances, we need to remind ourselves that nothing and no one is as powerful as God; the one who created all things, including those things that seem, to us, to be threatening or discouraging. Folks, if we do not believe in the sovereignty of God, we will spend our lives crippled with fear and our ministry will be over before it’s even begun. We can’t succumb to fear because God is ultimately more powerful than anything we fear. But how do we develop that kind of confidence in God’s sovereignty and power?
2) Well, through the study of scripture. Notice, in the next part of their prayer, they quote an Old Testament scripture. They are not surprised that their preaching about Jesus has gotten them in trouble because scripture makes clear that there will be opposition to God’s Messiah. They’re not shocked by what’s happened. It’s something they expected. But they couldn’t have known all that without knowing scripture. And the same is true for us today. If we don’t know scripture, we won’t have any idea that being a follower of Jesus is tough work. We’ll expect it to be easy and when it’s not, we’ll be tempted to just bail. We won’t know how to respond when it gets tough. But, if we’re well-versed in scripture, then difficulty doesn’t take us by surprise, and we can rest secure in the knowledge of my immediately previous point – that God is sovereign and nothing that threatens us is greater than God.
3) But what I find most shocking about their prayer is that (as I’ve already mentioned) they do not ask for things to get easier for them. They don’t ask for God to change everyone else. They ask God to begin by changing them. Their concern is not with the opposition they’re experiencing. They already know opposition is coming because of point number 2… scripture tells them that’s just how it goes. So their concern, their prayerful desire, is that God strengthen them in their witness despite opposition. They want God to help them speak the gospel word with boldness. Friends, far too often, if something is a struggle for us, we want God to remove the struggle, don’t we? I admit it; I generally do.
If following Jesus is hard, we pray for it to be easier. If engaging in ministry is hard, we pray for it to be easier. If connecting with our neighborhood is hard, we pray for it to be easier. If growing the church is hard, we pray for it to be easier.
We want others to change so it will all be easier. But what about us? What if we were the ones to change? What if we changed the way we pray? What if we began to pray for God to strengthen us and to deepen our commitment; to give us eyes to see opportunities to share the message of Jesus with others; to give us boldness in the midst of difficulty?
4) And there’s one final thing to point out in their prayer. They ask that God equip them to speak with boldness while God heals and performs signs and wonders. They pray: “Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness while you… While you… Once again, I refer back to point #2. When we know scripture, we know both who God is and how God behaves. When we know what God has been doing throughout history, it emboldens us. God has been caring for his people since time began. For millennia, God has been building up his kingdom. For 2,000 years, God has been equipping his Church. And if all that has been going on for all that time, why would it end now? Hmm? As human creatures, we tend to worry about all kinds of things. And as church members, we worry about our church. But friends, God’s got this. He’s got it. We don’t need to put together a “to do list” for God. God has been caring for this church for a very long time and he’s not about to stop now. And so, perhaps our prayers need some tweaking. Perhaps, we don’t so much need to tell God what we want God to do as we need to be bold in asking God what we need to do. Perhaps our prayer needs to be: God grant to your servants here at Trinity to discern boldly, to serve boldly, to give boldly, AND to speak boldly.
Church, we are in the midst of our vision process. For some of us, that’s exciting. For some of us, that might be a little scary. We want to know what our consultant is doing. We want to know what the Vision Team is doing and what the church council is doing. [Question needs to be:] What am I doing? What are each one of us doing? Most of us have heard that Ghandi quote, “Be the change that you wish to see.” Change begins with each of us. If we’re going to make a change in our community, if we’re going to make a change in our city, it’ll begin with a change in us. It’ll begin with us praying, “God, grant us to speak your word with all boldness.” It begins with our prayer…
In the film, The Way, Martin Sheen plays the part of a father, Tom Avery, who travels to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, a route of Christian pilgrimage that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. In the movie, Tom’s son has died while walking the Camino and Tom wishes to follow his steps, while carrying his son’s ashes with him. The film was written by Martin Sheen’s son, Emilio Estevez. Emilio’s son, Taylor, had journeyed the Camino trail with his grandfather, Martin. Although their trip together was the impetus for the movie, it is impossible not to wunder about the plot line of a father mourning the loss of his son. Emilio wrote the script with the intention that his father would fill the lead role. But one can detect the shadowy presence of Martin’s other son; that wayward child, Charlie Sheen; the one who has so frequently drifted off the path into dangerous territory with his life. Within the movie, from time to time, the father looks off the trail into the distance and imagines that he sees the face of his lost son. Indeed, at the time the movie was in production, Charlie was in the midst of one of his worst throes of addiction.
It is likely you have heard the cliché, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” We can go as far back as Father Abraham in the Old Testament and discover that physical movement, a physical journey, can often be symbolic of our spiritual journey; our walk with God and our following of God’s call over our lives. In Genesis, chapter 12, we first read the divine call and covenant promise God makes to Abram. God’s very first words to him are “Go.” And go Abraham does. At 75 years of age, he leaves familiar territory to follow the call God places on his life. He strikes out for the land that has been promised. And that passage of Genesis closes with these words, “And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.” Life is a journey in which one stage of growth follows another.
In the gospel of Luke, on the very day of Jesus’ resurrection, two of his followers are traveling from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. As they walk, another journeyman joins them, and our narrator tells us it is the risen Lord. But he is not recognized by these two disciples. Jesus, almost comically, prompts them by asking what they’ve been talking about. They express surprise that Jesus wouldn’t already know what all of Jerusalem has been a buzz about… this Jesus of Nazareth: the one on whom they pinned all their hopes; the one who was put to death on a cross, but whose tomb now lays empty. As Jesus walks with them, he talks with them, teaching them what all of this means in light of scripture. They reach their destination and invite Jesus to join them. As they sit down to an evening meal and Jesus blesses the bread, suddenly they recognize him. All along that Emmaus journey, he’d been their companion. He’d been there walking with them all along the way.
And so it may seem appropriate that the author of Luke and Acts identifies the early Jesus movement by the name The Way. A myriad of bible scholars speculate on how the term came to be. Retired Bishop William Willimon writes, “Nearly every religion sees its converts as pilgrims, wayfarers embarked on a journey… Luke is fond of using the image of a journey as a metaphor for what it feels like to be a follower of Christ.”
We are followers of Jesus. And because we are, we are not called to play it safe and stay put. Our lives are dynamic and our spiritual journey is ongoing. We are followers of Jesus, called to respond to the Spirit’s leading.
Over the next six weeks, we’re going to be looking at stories from the Book of Acts to compare the development of the early Church with our spiritual journey today. It is important to remember that our journey begins with God’s movement toward us. We name that movement toward us as “grace.” No matter how far off the beaten path we have strayed, our God is always near because our God is a seeking God.
This morning’s reading from Acts is a well known story of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. It is a story of a journey interrupted and redirected. Paul is on his way in order to arrest members of The Way. But he is abruptly stopped in his tracks when a blinding light from the heavens is accompanied by the voice of Jesus calling Paul to account for the persecution he’s been committing.
We often refer to this story as Paul’s conversion. But what does that mean, really? After all, Paul was no heathen before his Damascus Road experience. We (and by that I mean Christians in general), we way too easily and too narrowly define conversion as that one moment in time when our lives are changed and we first decide to follow Jesus. But conversion is bigger and broader – and far more prevalent – than that. The change God works in our lives through his grace is ongoing and there are many times throughout our lives when God needs to surprise us and to redirect us. Paul was no heathen, but a good Jew and, after all, Judaism had been around for a long time. It would be wrong and rather self-aggrandizing for us to degrade this story with anti-Semitism. It would be far more helpful were we to recognize a little of Paul in all of us. We like religion to be predictable and comfortable; to be what we have already learned and come to expect. But our God is a God of surprises and it is more than a little unsettling when God goes off script. Saul begins his journey to Damascus believing he is a defender of religious truth. But, he is in the dark until the risen Christ sheds light on his spiritual short-sightedness.
But, how does that work? Should we all be waiting for a blinding light or earthquakes or storms or other inexplicable cosmic phenomenon? Well, I wouldn’t rule out the dramatic. And yet, that blinding light and heavenly voice are only one piece of Paul’s conversion. We dare not miss what is, perhaps, the most intriguing part of this story: the presence of an otherwise unimportant and unknown Christian named Ananias. I mean, God struck Paul with a blinding light; he spoke to him in a voice heard not only by Paul, but by the men who accompanied him. I have no doubt Jesus had gotten Paul’s attention. And yet, the Lord chooses this reluctant Ananias to bring his message home. It is through Ananias’ hands and words that God will restore sight to the blind Paul. Before his arrival, Paul is just stumbling around in the dark – literally. The only vision Paul experiences for three days straight is a holy vision sent from God of this guy named Ananias about whom we, as readers of this story, know nothing, except that he is a disciple of Jesus. One of the most important and famous scenes in the entire book of Acts has as a crucial character a man we’ve never heard of before and will never hear of again. In Acts, quite frequently, characters give lengthy speeches. At Pentecost, the apostle Peter’s sermon to the crowd stretches over 22 verses. Just before his martyrdom, Stephen gives a speech to the council that is 53 verses long. If there is one thing the writer of Acts enjoys; it’s characters who talk a lot. But not Ananias. He is a man of few words. He gets one verse, one sentence. That’s it. But it is a verse that begins with a shocking salutation: “Brother.” “Brother Saul.” That is an address used among fellow disciples. Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Paul to hear himself addressed in that way by this member of the The Way that, three days prior, Paul would have arrested for heresy?
The story of Paul and Ananias is a reminder to all of us that God is always at work and often in ways that take us completely by surprise.
But it is even more a reminder that we need one another on this spiritual journey. We need one another. We need those who will call us brother or sister. We need those who care to such a degree that, even though they dread the very thought of it, they will still muster up the courage to speak God’s word to us. After all, Ananias was pretty apprehensive about this encounter. Yet he still did what God called him to do.
We need one another because this is not a journey we can walk on our own, this life of Christian discipleship. As many of you know, we are currently in the midst of a Visioning process here at Trinity. Just a few weeks ago, we adopted a new vision statement and the statement we developed reflects this fact that we cannot mature as Christian disciples on our own. Our vision statement is this: Growing in love and service through relationships with God and community. Say it with me: Growing in love and service through relationships with God and community. We need one another. And we need to do more together than worship. Worship is important. But it is not enough. In the weeks ahead, you’re going to hear a lot about Trinity coming together through small groups to cultivate deeper relationships with Christ and with one another. And you’re going to hear a lot about us getting out into the Centennial community to connect with people. And I guess you could say that it’s a new plan we’re developing; a new strategy for church growth and revitalization; except that there really isn’t anything new about it. Being a follower of Jesus has always been about a life-long commitment to spiritual growth and maturity. It’s not a “flash in the pan,” just-say-you-love-Jesus kind of thing. The Book of Acts tells us in chapter 2 that those early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer…” We’re told that day after day, they spent time together in worship and at table fellowship. They knew that if they were going to mature as disciples and that if the church was going to be healthy and grow, they would need to be fully committed not only to Jesus, but to one another. Friends, we can’t just come to worship and go home. That’s not Church. That’s just attending a worship service…. And maybe you don’t think your role in the church is really that essential. But let me remind you, some guy named Ananias – this guy who drifted on stage for a one-sentence line – forever altered the course of Christendom simply because he obeyed God’s command to “go” and to minister to Paul.
Friends, to be a Christian means to be on a lifelong journey during which we experience God’s grace through a multitude of means… not the least of which is one another.
I hope some of you, during the Lenten season, checked out the Voices of Trinity blog on our church website. We’ll be using it again during this sermon series. A testimony from Betty Ruth Jackson will be posted tomorrow morning. But I want to close this morning with a bit of what Betty shared. She wrote:
My spiritual journey began when my parents taught me “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. One Sunday morning the Baptist minister of our little church offered a chance to respond to the gospel. I went forward and went home to tell my parents. Their response was “You are too young and would have to give up too much”. Later I reported this to the minister, with a little fear in my heart, and did not become a member but did continue attending Sunday School.
The Youth Fellowship at the local Methodist Church had special emphasis on inviting people to their church when I was a freshman in high school. The experiences in this church family, especially the MYF and the mentoring of the pastor’s wife, opened the possibility of going to a Christian college.
Taylor University was my “home” for four years, offering some challenges and opportunities, but looking back I do not see myself asking questions about the Bible, my faith and the world that others have talked about in describing their journeys of faith.
A short term in Korea began to open up some different pathways to show love for God and others. In Seminary at Candler School of Theology, the great message of the Gospel, God loves me, became very real. [Yet] even here I somehow dodged some of the challenging questions of mature faith.
One of our pastors at Trinity encouraged us to read “The Bible in a Year.” It was as if I had never read the Bible before. About this same time our Lamplighters Sunday School class began some challenging studies and discussions about the meaning of the Bible, as well as how it was written, and what difference our understanding could make in our witness/living for Christ. My questioning period has come about 60 years later than for most people and continues as the Vision Team and Trinity Church members wrestle with how we can be God’s Church in the 21st Century.
The story goes that, at the funeral of the great escape artist, Harry Houdini, as two of the pallbearers, Dillingham and Ziegfield, carried Houdini's casket out of the church, Dillingham leaned over to Ziegfield and whispered, "Ziggie, I bet you a hundred bucks he ain't in there."
Apparently at the time of their deaths, Houdini had more believers than our Lord.
Because all four of our Easter gospel accounts are in agreement that, early on that first Easter morning, Jesus' followers had pretty low expectations. In Mark's gospel, it is Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome who go first to the tomb. They go there early in the morning right after the sun has risen.
I don't imagine it was hard for them to get up so early. I'd guess they hadn't gotten much sleep over the last couple of nights. We've all had nights like that, haven't we? When a loved one has died or some great grief has befallen us and it seems as if the only thing darker than the blackness of the night is the sorrow in our souls.
I remember like it was yesterday a September evening in 1997. We’d just finished dinner. The phone rang and it was my dad on the other end telling me that my only brother, 47 at the time, had died suddenly of a heart attack on the way home from work on the train. I remember that first night when I went to sleep. I didn’t really sleep much. But when I did and I’d awake, even before that news registered in my mind, even before I was fully awake, I just had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know some of you, probably many of you, know what I mean.
When I was pastoring in Dayton, Ohio, a 19 year old young lady, who doctors had been treating for tension headaches, had a sudden rupture of a severe brain aneurysm. That first night she hovered between life and death. The next morning when I visited the hospital, I asked the father if he had gotten any sleep. He said, "Oh, I slept like a baby. I woke up every hour or so crying."
Those three women had stood at the foot of the cross and watched Jesus die a slow and agonizing death. No doubt it was an image seared into their minds and not easily shaken from their grief-stricken souls.
And that's how Easter begins – hardly an auspicious start. It began with sorrow and darkness, even despair. And that, perhaps, is a good and healthy thing for us to acknowledge. Because, you know, Easter is more than brightly colored eggs, the holiday ham, and happy children fueled by a never-ending supply of chocolate and sugar. Easter is a holy day, not a holiday that requires us to swallow the lump in our throats, suck it up, pretend that the struggles of our lives don't exist. Church is not a place where we must put on a happy face, like the Eleanor Rigby of Beatles fame, wearing a face that we keep in a jar by the door.
No, Easter may just be the most appropriate occasion of all to admit and acknowledge just how difficult our lives can be.
As those three women of Mark's gospel made their way to the tomb that morning, their minds were troubled. Jesus was dead and, what was even worse, they couldn't imagine how they would move the massive rock that covered his tomb to anoint his body. It was an important religious ritual. But even more than that it was one final opportunity to demonstrate their love for Jesus; something they no doubt needed for closure. But their anxiety about that stone was unnecessary and their worry was needless. For, when they arrived at the tomb, the stone was already rolled away. What's more, as they entered the tomb, they were greeted by an angel. Now, the angel appears to have only heightened their anxiety. Angels generally do. That's why, pretty much anywhere you look in the bible angels have a standard opening line: "Do not be afraid." Next, the angel delivers news too wonderful to even comprehend, apparently. She assures them: they’ve come looking for a dead man. But they’re not going to find him here in this place of death because he has risen from the dead. Jesus is no longer in this tomb of death for he has risen to life.
Then the angel gives the women a commission, a job to do. The angel tells them that they are to GO and TELL because this is news too wonderful, too miraculous for them to keep it to themselves.
But here's where Mark’s Easter story takes a bizarre twist. Because, did you notice how the women responded to the angel's news? Oh, they go alright. But they don't go and tell. Instead they flee in fear with mouths slammed shut. The gospel writer tells us: "They told nothing to any one, for they were terrified."
You know, "fear" plays a pretty prominent role in the gospel of Mark because, strangely enough, when people experience the power of Jesus to sustain and restore life, it doesn’t fill them joy and peace and comfort. It scares the begeebies out of them. It completely freaks them out. They don’t know what to do.
Mark tells us that on one occasion Jesus comes walking across the sea toward his disciples in the midst of an early morning storm. He has power to command the wind and the waves. That’s good, isn’t it? But it just fills them with fear.
In Gerasene Jesus encounters a man with a legion of demons. Jesus casts them out of a man and into a herd of pigs who run off the side of a cliff and fall into the sea where they drown and are destroyed. Not a good thing for the pigs. But what can I tell you? Jesus was Jewish. The people from the village come out to see this man; once completely out of his mind. Now he’s clean and clothed and in his right mind and sitting there listening to Jesus. It’s miraculous. But the villagers tell Jesus to go away; they want him to leave their town… because they're afraid of his power.
When Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured on a mountain and standing in the presence of Moses and Elijah, they are petrified.
And most of all, anytime Jesus tries to teach his disciples about his impending death in Jerusalem, they are horrified. After Jesus is arrested, Peter is so afraid that he denies even knowing Jesus. And none of the disciples can muster up the courage to hang tough with Jesus 'til the end.
But, that was before Easter, right? Didn't Easter change everything? I mean, surely the miracle of resurrection brought all that fear to a quick and thorough end, wouldn't you think?
So how can this be? In this morning’s scripture, these women have received the best news ever imaginable. How on earth, face to face with an empty tomb, can they possibly remain silent? How, face to face with an angelic messenger, can they possibly keep quiet? How, now that Jesus' pre-crucifixion promises have been fulfilled and proven true, how can they possibly keep the good news to themselves?
And, perhaps the biggest question of all, how could our gospel writer have given us an ending so troubling and so disappointing?
Well, if it does trouble you – as it troubles me – I assure you, we are not the first to be troubled by this gospel ending. As a matter of fact, in most bibles today, if you read beyond this morning's verses, you will see editor's notes. They give you information on the amendments to Mark's gospel – a shorter ending and a longer ending. Both of which are significantly more encouraging than this morning's ending. You see, even from the start, Mark's original version seemed to beg for a re-write.
And those amendments to the original provide the good news that someone did tell. And there's nothing hard to believe about that. We could be at Denny’s right now eating an omelette or at home reading the paper with a cup of coffee. But we’re not, we’re here. Look around you this morning. Look around this sanctuary. Obviously someone told. If they hadn't, we wouldn't be here today celebrating the good news that, at least initially, scared those poor women speechless.
But you know, I for one, think that Mark is a better story-teller and a pretty gifted evangelist because maybe it’s not so bad to be troubled a little on Easter. Maybe from time to time, we need to be challenged and we need to ask ourselves: "Did Easter change everything? Did it change everything for us? Did the miracle of the resurrection bring our fear to an end? Did it loose our tongues to go and tell?"
Mark is a gifted story teller, a gifted evangelist, because he draws us into the story. We become more than an audience; we become participants. Mark’s open ended conclusion invites us to pick up the pen, so to speak, where he left off. My friends, in chapter 1, verse 1, Mark tells us that his story is the beginning of the gospel, the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And you and I are the builders on that foundation, that beginning.
But some of you here this morning might have come to church carrying your own fears, your own anxieties, your own low expectations. Your morning may have begun in darkness… that’s more than likely since we live at the end of the time zone. But it’s light out now. And Jesus isn’t in that tomb anymore. He is risen. Easter, my friends, isn’t the end of the story; it’s the beginning. This morning’s gospel story is wonderful words of life for you and me because Easter has changed everything. Easter has brought light out of darkness; hope out of fear; power out of weakness; and most of all, life out of death. Jesus’ crucifixion looked like death; it looked like defeat; it looked like the end of the story. But it was just the beginning.
Do you believe that Jesus ain't in the tomb?
If you do, then it changes how we live. And it becomes good news that we cannot possibly keep to ourselves. So, GO and TELL because “Christ is risen!”
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