You’ve Heard The Story. Keep Writing It.

Hi friends!  Happy Easter!  I hope you all have a wonderful and joyous resurrection celebration.  We were busy and blessed at the church.  There was a lot going on, but I felt like we had something for everyone on different walks of life.

Here is my sermon – short and sweet!  This story speaks for itself.

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 1, 2018

Mark 16:1-8

You’ve Heard The Story. Keep Writing It.

My uncle went to mass on Easter one year and the priest got up for his homily, paused and said, “You’ve heard the story. Think about it.”

And then he sat down.

Every year on Easter morning, I am tempted to do the same thing. After all, this story kind of speaks for itself. The tomb was empty! Death did not win! God’s love was victorious over the grave. It is because of this story that we gather in the first place; that we believe in the mystery, but also the grace of resurrection.

This story is, perhaps, one of the greatest ever told.

And yet, the account of the Jesus’ resurrection that we just heard from the Gospel of Mark has got to be the most anticlimactic of the four Gospels.

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels; it is thought to have been written first and also used as a spine for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as they were written. The original resurrection narrative in Mark is the shortest and least-involved of the four Gospels. It ends where this morning’s reading ended, which, when you read it, is kind of abrupt:

So [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.[1]

That’s it.

Jesus did not actually appear to anyone in this narrative. The women did not run with great joy to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and Jesus had risen. Jesus did not walk along the road to Emmaus or break bread with his disciples when they arrived or show them the marks on his hands and in his side. The disciples were not commissioned. Jesus did not ascend into heaven. This narrative ends with three women fleeing the empty tomb, terrified.

In a way, this story seems unfinished.

Eventually – in the late second century – a longer ending was added to the Gospel of Mark. It is more conclusive; in line with the resurrection narratives of the other three Gospels, the longer ending wraps up the story in a neater bow. Rather than the women fleeing the tomb in fear and not telling anyone what happened, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the disciples and then ascends to heaven.[2]

I think, more often than not, most of us prefer to have the story end this way (which is probably why the longer ending was added in the first place). There is closure; there are not as many unanswered questions.

Which begs the question: What if this ending was never added? What if this story – the story we just heard read this morning, abrupt ending and all – was our only account of Jesus’ resurrection? Would the Easter story feel unfinished? Would the Christian story feel unfinished?

But here’s the thing: The Christian story is unfinished. And I do not say this in a bad way, either. I say this in a God-sized, grace-filled, possibilities-are-endless kind of way.

The Christian story is still being written because we are still writing this story – in the lives we are living, in the stories we are telling. The Christian story did not end with Jesus’ death; it began with his resurrection, when people experienced the Risen Christ.

And friends, that is very much still happening today. Like the women who went to the tomb and saw that the stone had already been rolled away, we, too, experience the Risen Christ in our own lives. Sometimes we experience the Risen Christ is big ways; in those life-changing, conversion-like experiences. But very often we experience the Risen Christ in the ordinary moments of our lives; when we show compassion, kindness and love; when we feel the strength of the faith of a church community, just like this one, living out Christ’s call to serve; when we gather around a table with our family and friends and break bread together.

Perhaps the ending to this resurrection narrative was so abrupt because it was never meant to be the ending; the story was supposed to continue, not only in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and the earliest Christians, but also in our lives, today. We are supposed to be writing this Christian story as we live our lives today.

Friends, if you take one thing out of this service, let it be this: You are still writing this story. The life you lead, the choices you make, the Good News you proclaim – all of this continues the narrative God started the moment the women approached that tomb and found the stone had already been rolled away, the moment they realized the prophecy had been fulfilled, the moment the bold and radical truth was proclaimed that God could do the impossible and that love would win over and over and over again.

The narrative is not anticlimactic. It just wasn’t finished.

It still isn’t

So … You’ve heard the story. Keep writing it.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] Mark 16:8, NRSV
[2] Mark 16:9-20 {The Longer Ending Of Mark}

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

The Son Will Rise

Hello and Happy Easter!

I usually post my sermons on Sunday evening, but I figured everyone would be celebrating the Easter holiday and not waiting with baited breath for my sermon to post.

A few weeks ago, Jon and I went to see The Lion King when it came to PPAC and as I was watching, I had an idea for this year’s Easter Sermon.  After watching April the Giraffe give birth on Saturday morning (yes, I was totally sucked in!), I thought about going in a different direction, but really wanted to stick with this message.  So stay tuned for an April sermon illustration! :)

I preached out of Matthew this year.  I tend to bounce back and forth between John and wherever we are in the lectionary cycle, but have preached on John for the past few years and really was looking for something different so I turned to Matthew this year.

I hope you all had a blessed Easter celebration!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 16, 2017

Matthew 28:1-10

The Son Will Rise

Did anyone happen to catch The Lion King when it was at PPAC a few weeks ago? It is one of my favorite productions to see live (the opening sequence gets me every time) and I was thrilled when a friend of mine texted me and asked if I wanted his extra ticket. I am not sure who was more excited, the six-year-old girl that was sitting behind us or me.

Bruce will tell you that I have a hard time getting through any musical without having some sort of deep theological reflection on it. But, The Lion King, especially, always gets me thinking; about life and death, relationships and community, pain and anguish and hope and trust in the promise of resurrection.

Now that last one might be putting a lot on Disney, Elton John and Tim Rice, but hear me out: During the song Endless Night, Simba, still deeply mourning the loss of his father, feeling heavily the guilt of his death and wondering how he could ever go back to his homeland, sings to his father, who is no longer with him on earth. He cries out that he is alone and cannot find his way out of the darkness.

And then the chorus starts:

I know that the night must end and that the sun will rise.
And that the sun will rise.
I know that the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine.
And that the sun will shine.[1]

This got me thinking about Easter; about the cries of those who loved Jesus who watched him die on the cross, who visited the tomb and who then held onto hope until resurrection came on that first Easter morning.

I say this every year, but I will say it again: As people of faith, we cannot fully understand the power of resurrection without first experiencing the pain of the crucifixion. This is why we put in the time during Lent, doing the hard work to see who we are, who we want to be and who God is calling us to be. This is why we come to worship during Holy Week, why we listen as the story of Jesus’ death is told and why we, like Jesus’ first followers, hold onto hope until resurrection comes on Easter morning.

Because as people of the resurrection, we do not want to ignore the crucifixion. We do not want to turn away from the hard parts of our faith; we want to face them head on, knowing that resurrection is coming, knowing that on Easter morning, the Son – and the sun – will rise.

This morning we heard the story of the resurrection as told in the Gospel of Matthew. In this telling of the Easter story, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb and an angel of the Lord appears and rolls away the stone to reveal an empty tomb. The women are afraid, but the angel says to them:

Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.[2]

Just as he said, the Son did, in fact, rise.

This morning we not only rejoice in Christ’s victory over the grave, but we also remember that this was a promise Jesus made in his lifetime. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection three times; three times Jesus made the promise that the Son would rise.

And this promise was fulfilled.

And, as people of the resurrection, we know this was not a once and done thing. This is a promise that God still makes to us today: In the midst of our own pain, suffering and darkness, the Son will rise.

The truth is, the world can be a really scary place to live in sometimes. But on this Easter morning, I am here to remind you that in the midst of the scariness, therein lies a promise: A promise of hope, a promise of love and a promise of resurrection.

And do you know what? A lot of times people do not want to hear about or talk about the scary stuff in life because it might bring them down or challenge them in a way they do not like. But I think the Easter story gives us permission to talk about our own struggles. Because facing them head on does not mean that we are succumbing to them. It just means that we are as confident in God’s ability to create resurrection today as God did 2,000 years ago when two women found that tomb empty. We believe, even when we are standing in the midst of our own darkness, that the Son will rise.

So may we, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, bear witness to this promise. May we see the presence of angels in our lives and know that the promise of resurrection has been fulfilled. And then may we leave quickly and with great joy and run to tell the world that death has not won, that resurrection is real that the Son will rise.

Love wins! Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] Endless Night, from Disney’s, The Lion King, music & lyrics by Elton John & Tim Rice
[2] Matthew 28:6, NRSV

The Hope We’ve All Been Waiting For

I hope you all had a blessed Easter celebration! Our service was so wonderful … I’ll share more photos and stories in the coming week. For now, here is my Easter sermon!

11117179_1434341170199654_1065587847_n

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 5, 2015

Isaiah 25:6-9
John 20:1-18

The Hope We’ve All Been Waiting For

I told the confirmation class last Sunday night that this winter is turning me into a crazy cat lady who only talks about the weather.

I wish I could say that I was exaggerating, but that is the absolute truth. This winter just about pushed me over the edge. The snow, the ice, the month-long sub-freezing temperatures – at one point I was absolutely convinced that winter was just never going to end, that we had somehow entered this literal weather vortex that was stuck on the winter cycle.

So there I was this winter, with nothing else to do but stay inside with my cat and complain about the weather. And then there I was where I started to complain to my cat about the weather …

I needed spring to come this year. I waited and waited and waited for spring to come this year.

I always say that it does not matter what a person’s favorite season is, but that most people need spring more than any other season by the time it comes around. And boy, oh boy – did we need spring this year.

I do not normally preach from the Old Testament on Easter Sunday, but I could not help myself this year when I saw this passage from Isaiah come up in the lectionary. Because at a time when so many of us are desperately waiting for spring to come, we are reminded by this ancient prophecy that God’s grace can always be found in the midst of our waiting.

It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Now clearly the people that this prophecy was aimed at were dealing with much greater struggles than my frustration with the snow. Destruction of land and exile are much more serious problems than the fact that I have not been able to wear my cute spring and summer shoes in three months. But I think the prophet’s words do remind us of something very poignant about who we are human beings. It points to the nature of us – all of us – needing something to help us along this crazy journey through life.
Life is not easy; I think we can all agree to that. We all feel hurt and pain and anguish at some point throughout our lives and this prophecy shines a light on those times where we are waiting – sometimes desperately waiting – for something to save us from the darkness that is surrounding us.

We wait. We wait for a cure. We wait for a relationship to be mended. We wait for a spouse or a child to come into our life. We wait for a job. We wait for pain to disappear. We wait for conflicts to go away. We wait for our lives to have some sense of normalcy.

We wait.

Well guess what? We are people of the resurrection and we do not have to wait any longer! Christ rose and we are saved! Christ rose and we are free! Christ rose and we no longer have to be alone! Christ rose and we have proof that God is always with us and that God’s love always wins! Christ rose so that we can always carry with us that beacon of hope that new life is always possible, even if we have to wait for it to come.

Winter aside weather, we all face real struggles in our lives. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me that one of their favorite parts of worship every week is the part where we lift to God in silence the “prayers that are still too raw to be spoken out loud.”
Because we all have them.

We all have things in our lives – pain, struggles, anxieties, sadness and hardships – that we hold onto. Or – perhaps more accurate – that hold on to us.

But you know what? The resurrection not only proved to us that God always knows these silent prayers, but also that we can surrender these prayers to God in a way that completely frees us from the burdens they place on us.

Because the resurrection proved that God’s power is so much greater than the burdens of the world.

Life does not have to weight us down. This world that we are living in is far from perfect, but the resurrection proved that God can do amazing things, even in the midst of chaos. The resurrection proved that even with all of the imperfections of our earthly and human lives, God can shine light in the midst of darkness, bring hope to the hopeless and give life to something that seems lost.

Resurrection was not a one-time thing; resurrection happens every single day of our lives. And today, as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we also celebrate the ways that we are living out this story in our lives as well. We celebrate the ways that – even when we are struggling and even when we are waiting – we see proof of God’s work all around us.

We practice a faith that is grounded in the foundation of resurrection to new life. We have to believe that this is possible in our lives as well.

As Christians experiencing Lent, Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, the resurrection is what we have been waiting for. But we have to remember – we have to believe – that resurrection happens every day. And if we believe this – if we truly believe this – then we are assured that the hope that we are constantly waiting for is happening all around us.

God is with you, my friends. God’s love was victorious on the cross and God’s love is victorious in our lives today. This is what we have been waiting for! This is the Good News that calms the chaos of our lives, that resurrects the things around us to new life.

Christ is Risen, my friends! He rose then and he is risen now!

So let us go and live our lives as people of the resurrection, proclaiming to the world that even in the midst of chaos, the hope that we have been waiting for is already here.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.