(Preached at Alma United Church & Melville United Church on April 23, 2017)
Call to Worship:
A pastor was speaking to a group of second-graders about the resurrection of Jesus. One student asked,
“What did Jesus say right after He came out of the grave?”
The pastor said,
“The Gospels do not tell us what Jesus said.”
The hand of one little girl shot up. “I know what Jesus said: He said,
A preacher’s young daughter asked, “Mommy, every Sunday when you first come out to preach, you sit up on the platform and bow your head. What are you doing?”
The mother replied, “I’m asking God to give me a good sermon?”
The little girl replied, “Then why doesn’t he?”
Would you pray with me and for me please…
The Sunday after Easter in the ancient Greek Orthodox church was traditionally called “Bright Sunday,” or “Holy Humour Sunday.” Recent online efforts have resurrected that tradition, and it’s easy to understand why.
Christianity from time to time has tended towards severity and humourlessness. We’ve undecorated our sanctuaries—taken away the stained glass windows and the carvings and the statues and the icons and the painted ceilings that were once used to instruct the illiterate faithful and direct our consciousness to the glory of God, but which eventually became more about the glory of the church.
Dancing and music were sometimes seen as detractions from worship that led to licentiousness, and were eliminated from worship.
Living was serious business, especially in former times when the work was back-breaking and constant even for the more well-to-do, and premature death from disease or accident was a fact of life.
Especially in Protestant theology, the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus was in the forefront. When faced with that sacrifice, laughter seems somehow inappropriate.
Mark’s gospel was the first gospel written. Both Matthew and Luke based significant portions of their gospels on the gospel of Mark. They also had significant input from other sources, most likely including a collection of sayings that scholars call “Q,” with quite probably some word-of-mouth stories added in.
One or more of those circulating stories must have included the accounts of what happened after the resurrection, because the most ancient manuscripts of Mark’s gospel ends here, with the women running away from the empty tomb, terrified and saying nothing to anyone. Perhaps he died before he wrote the rest of the story, or perhaps that first manuscript was torn and that last bit got lost, that part that tells us about the women spreading the good news to the disciples and about Jesus appearing among them. Or perhaps for Mark, in those early, harsh days after the resurrection and near death of the entire fledgling church, that was the end.
It reminds me of those churches where laughter and music and joy are not invited into worship.
We seem to be stuck on the cross, mindful of and perhaps grateful for the sacrifice of Christ, without really comprehending the entire truth.
We’re afraid of the resurrection.
Because in our world view, when people die, they stay dead, unless they become ghosts or zombies.
In our world view, when the leader of our small group is arrested and publicly executed for bucking the system, our new way of being, our new life, is over, and it’s back to the same old, same old.
In our world view, might makes right. Evil endures. Satan always wins.
Sometimes we forget that we meet as a church on Sunday, and why.
Not Friday, when Jesus was crucified.
Not Saturday, the traditional Sabbath for the Jewish tradition which gave us birth.
The day God played a great big cosmic joke.
Look at me, Satan. Look at me, world! You can’t kill me, for death has no power in my world.”
We know that there was more to the story than Mark recorded. Not because someone later added not one but two endings to Mark’s gospel, and not because Matthew and Luke recorded the women going to the disciples.
We know because two thousand years later, we are here.
That tiny, frightened band of followers grew to over three thousand on the day of Pentecost.
Those three thousand have grown, so that today about 2.2 billion people are Christian. That’s one out of every three human beings alive today.
Sometimes we get stuck in Good Friday. When we look around our shrinking congregations, we are afraid.
I say to you, open up the door to this tomb, go outside, and rejoice in what God has done.
Christ is alive, and at work in the world.
Amen and hallelujah!