Draft text of the homily, please do not cite without permission.
Was anyone surprised by that Gospel reading?
Did you notice anything odd about it?
There’s no Jesus.
The oldest versions of Mark’s Gospel end just like this.
Exactly the way we heard it today.
“So the women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
No neatly wrapped up dramatic ending.
No clever tag after the final commercial break.
Just this: A command to follow him back to Galilee.
And a promise that he will meet them there.
And several women standing amazed—literally beside themselves—in fear.
Fade to black.
Is it what you expected?
We all had a number of expectations this morning.
I woke up this morning, and the world looked much as I expected it to.
Walking over here—
everything looked very familiar,
so much so that I probably didn’t even notice much.
The news was as grim as it always is…
The weather was…predictable enough.
When I got here, the church looked beautiful.
The choir rehearsing sounded amazing!
All the flowers were stunning, everything was gleaming…
But it’s Easter after all so, I expected that, too.
Did you have some expectations about what you were going to hear today?
Stories about people seeing the resurrected Christ.
Meeting him on the road and not recognizing him.
Mistaking him for a gardener.
You probably know these stories.
Or you have a sense of these stories.
You know how it’s supposed to go.
How it ends.
But not today.
Today there’s none of that.
Just this young man in a white robe telling us to go back to Galilee.
No wonder that ever since Mark’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus was composed people been tacking on additions trying force some kind of closure to this abrupt ending.
But this stark ending is significant.
In many ways we’re still standing outside that tomb—seized with terror and amazement—grappling with what the resurrection might mean—
with the world around us struggling on “same as it ever was.”
This unexpected ending of Mark comes like a flash of light in the darkness.
Like the first glimpse of spring blossoms after a long, dreadful winter.
Like a voice that insists, “pay attention—the world doesn’t work the way you think it does.”
Sure, everything may look the same.
Rome is still Rome.
The rich and powerful are still rich and powerful.
The poor and marginalized are still poor and marginalized.
But Easter insists that the stories we tell ourselves about why this is so—
the narratives that get the most air time over and over—drummed into our brains—
the ones that insists the Powers That Be are the Powers That Be because, well, that’s just the way things are.
It’s always has been this way.
That story—as we stare into this empty tomb—
that story is not so convincing anymore.
The resurrection shines some divine light on all these truths we’ve held to be self-evident and says,
maybe they’re not so self-evident after all.
Maybe the status isn’t so quo.
The empty-tomb flips the script and says:
Wait a minute,
there’s another story to be heard, and told…
one that says the real power in the world—
is not coercive, and violent, and fear driven—like human empires,
the real power is persuasive,
We stand amazed at the thought of the Resurrection because that’s where we glimpse the fullness of the reality in which we live and move and have our being.
The emptiness of that tomb reveals that the ground of all being is not rooted in competition and greed
in fear and shame
but in solidarity,
Mark’s abrupt ending is unexpected and intentionally challenging—because Mark wants to wipe the mud out of our eyes and retune our ears to a different frequency.
One that proclaims that the arc of God’s love is long and that it bends irrevocably towards the social form of love which is justice.
The empty tomb reveals all that this morning, but Mark offers no proof of the resurrection,
only more profound questions.
It’s the ultimate cliff-hanger.
“And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
And we’re left wondering…
Will they ever tell anyone?
Will the disciples head back to Galilee like he tells them?
Will they follow Jesus away from Jerusalem—the center of their world—and go back to the margins where it all began?
Will they follow Jesus into the world and continue to be his disciples?
Without any proof?
Trusting only in the promise that he will be there ahead of them?
Will they somehow work through their fear and amazement and actually do something?
Mark dares to suggest that the proof of the resurrection is to be found ONLY by following Jesus back out into the world.
By following where he leads,
going where he tells us to go…
wherever that might be…
And if we do screw up our courage to leave the tomb…
committed to following…
to seeking proof of the resurrection out there…
we will find him.
Tomorrow a group of parishioners will gather here to prepare and then take meals to share with over 150 unhoused people on Boston Common as part of the Oasis dinners program.
They will see Jesus.
Recently a group of teens and adults took part in City Reach, there’s a reflection on that trip in the back of your bulletins.
They saw proof of the resurrection in that experience.
When groups from All Saints go on Habitat builds, or to the farm school in El Hogar, Honduras, or the nursery school in Tanzania, they meet Jesus.
They see proof of the resurrection.
When we proclaim the gospel through transcendent, sacred music we’re offering proof of the resurrection.
When we teach and nurture in Sunday school or through parenting, or grandparenting, or tutoring we’re offering proof of the resurrection.
When we’re standing in solidarity with the marginalized, and advocating for the transformation of unjust structures we’re living proof of the resurrection.
When we care for and tend the gift of creation we’re taking part in the ongoing resurrection.
And as we stand amazed at the empty tomb Mark’s young man is saying: “Look:
Jesus showed you the way.
Now it’s your turn.”
The time is still fulfilled.
The reign of God has—this day—come even near
because the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the primary sign of God’s reign of love and justice breaking into our world.
The unexpected and challenging ending of Mark insists that the resurrection will be seen
if we have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.
How do we develop eyes to see and ears to hear?
Christians over the centuries have discovered that we develop these senses through Christian practices
stewardship of creation,
Coming here and hearing again the stories of our faith—
hearing our stories,
reinterpreted in light of the scriptures—
we are schooled in the arts of discipleship.
Coming here to share in communion with God and one another
we are formed as individual Christians
and as the Body of Christ,
and we are strengthened to follow Christ into the world as his disciples.
The church, at it’s best, is uniquely qualified to teach us to see and hear the reality of the resurrection.
The practices we learn here enable us to go out into the world
and bear witness to the resurrection by being the disciples that the Jesus of Easter calls us to be.
Maybe you expected to hear that the resurrection was something that happened once
a long time ago.
You’re certainly not going to catch me saying that it didn’t.
But Mark’s unexpected good news is that it wasn’t necessarily ONLY something that happened once,
a long time ago.
We still can be—
and indeed are called to be—
witnesses to God’s ongoing, loving, life-giving, resurrection.
So this morning we find ourselves again, outside an empty tomb.
Looking for evidence of the resurrection amidst the amazement and terror and wonder and grief of our lives.
Hearing that Jesus has once again already gone out in the world ahead of us.
He’s still out there, waiting…
just as he promised.
Shall we go and meet him?