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Mark 16:1-8a

Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024

Holy Trinity Cathedral


“Day One”


There’s something missing here in our Easter gospel.  Our reading from the end of Mark has no “and they lived happily ever after”.  No appearance of Jesus Christ.  No twelve apostles taking the good news out to the world.  No triumphant church.  The last loyal followers of Jesus run away, and the concluding sentence hangs on an awkward conjunction.  “For…”. For what?  What happens next?  The good news is that our sacred story is not linear but circular.  Instead of coming to an end this morning, we are taken back to the beginning, to day one, where we will meet the risen Lord. 


It was the third day after Jesus was crucified.  On Friday he was laid in the tomb before sunset.  The Jewish sabbath then began, when no work could be done, even the work of grieving.  So the women waited all Saturday and through the night until dawn on the third day, when there was enough light to come to the tomb.  Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and Salome come expecting a final goodbye.  They bring spices with them. Not to embalm or preserve the body- that was not the Jewish way- but to anoint and honour the memory of a loved one.  In spite of the things Jesus had said about the possibility of resurrection, they are looking back rather than forward. 

The place of memories is the tomb.  In Greek a tomb is literally a “menmeion”- μνημεῖον.  And the way in to that place of memories is through the entrance, or door, “thuras”-  θύρας.  The trouble is that there is a huge boulder that is blocking their way.  The women ask “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” Physically, their need is for someone to help move the barrier back so they can enter to anoint the body.  On a deeper level, the door to their memories is blocked by their grief.  They have forgotten what Jesus taught and showed.  They have doubted the power of God to love and heal and raise up. 

Then they look again.  The stone is gone, the tomb is empty.  The day has taken a terrifying twist.  Wasn’t it enough that their dear Lord was crucified and died like a criminal? Has someone stolen or disposed of his remains to further hurt and humiliate?  But the interior is not quite empty.  There is a stranger greeting them.  He tells them that if they are still looking for Jesus, they will not find him here in this place of memories of death.  “He is risen.  He is not here.”  They are told to return to the place where they first heard the good news - in Galilee.  The women, the disciples, even (especially) Peter who needs convincing, will see the risen Lord if they go back to the beginning.  To Day One of their encounter with Jesus. 


Here is where that little joining word at the end of the gospel comes in.  “For” is a way out of fear into faith.  “For” takes us to the first chapter of Mark’s gospel: the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  We are invited to remember the call to come to the Jordan river with John the Baptist.  We hear the voice of God proclaiming Jesus as beloved Son.  And we experience again the water that marks us as Christ’s own forever.  The beginning of our faith journey is with Jesus in baptism.  And our Galilee is where we live and work and worship. The good news comes to us today, where we are now.


Easter is our way out of the house of regret and hurt and loneliness.  If those women had not gone out from the tomb to seek the risen Christ, we would not be gathered here this morning.  But they did not stay silent, despite their fears.  They remembered their baptism, the teachings of Jesus, the healings and forgiveness and love that had been shown, and so they believed in the resurrection.  They proclaimed the good news that Christ is risen and will come again.  As the first apostles, they did go and tell the others about taking a new step in the journey.  It is up to each of us to look again for Jesus’ presence ahead of us.  And every time we doubt and stumble and get overwhelmed by anxiety, we have a lifeline.  The covenant of baptism ties us to the One who loves us into new life. 


Easter is Day One of the new life.  It is not the happy ending of a story.  It is the turning of the page that puts us back at the beginning of who we are, and who we are for.  For those of you who have been baptised, do you remember the day?  Has someone you love told you the story?  Are there photos?  And for those of you who have not yet come to this public declaration of faith, are you ready for your Easter?  This morning, we affirm the promises that we made or were made for us in our initiation to the faith.  We are sprinkled with holy water to remind us of the forgiveness and mercy of God.  And we come to the table this morning to look for the risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.  So is resurrection one day, or day one?  Amen.