And here is my sermon from our 10AM livestream! It was so lovely to have a trumpeter and a vocalist in worship with us this morning – and to hear the organ! What a blessing. Here is my sermon, as well as the video from the livestream.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 4, 2021
Show Up Anyway
What I love about the Easter story is that it does not require us to have all the answers.
It just requires us to be faithful.
We just heard the story of the resurrection as told in the Gospel of Mark. This gospel is, by far, the most anticlimactic of the four gospels when it comes to the Easter story. You may have noticed that Jesus does not actually appear in this narrative. In fact, the story does not end with Mary or the disciples telling people that Jesus has been raised; instead, the women flee from the tomb, terrified.
If you look at this story in the bible (in the Gospel of Mark), itself, there are two endings; one short passage that follows the end of our reading where the women briefly tell Peter and those around him what had been commanded of them and then there is a longer ending, one scholars believe was actually added later on, where Jesus, himself, appears to Mary Magdalene and then to the disciples.
So the original ending to this gospel does not end with resurrection neatly tied up in a bow. It ends here – with an empty tomb and a whole lot of questions.
But like I said, what I love about the Easter story is that it does not require us to have all the answers. It just requires us to be faithful.
And these women were. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Salome – they were faithful.
Let’s back up for a minute.
After Jesus died, as soon as the Sabbath was over, Mary and Mary gathered up the spices that they would need to anoint Jesus’ body and they went to the tomb. And the thing is, at the time, they really did not have a plan for what they were going to do when they got there. They even had a conversation about this; they asked themselves on the way to the tomb who was going to roll the stone away for them.
And, if you think about it, this conversation about who is going to roll away the stone really sets up the narrative for what happens next when they arrive at the tomb and the stone is already rolled away.
It is a little bit of subtle foreshadowing.
But my point is this: They went to the tomb anyway. Mary and Mary gathered up the spices that they were going to need to anoint Jesus’ body and went to the tomb. They had no idea how they were going to get in when they got there, but they showed up anyway.
Now, I realize that I am projecting a lot into a small and potentially insignificant part of this story, but as someone who likes having a plan and knowing how, exactly, everything is going to line up, I am fascinated by these women in this story, because if someone had met them along their journey and asked them how, they were going to get into the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they would not have had an answer.
But they were faithful.
They showed up anyway.
Now – isn’t that what we have been doing all year? Not really knowing, sometimes, what we were going to have to do or how we were going to do it, we showed up anyway, sometimes in person, sometimes from our cars and sometimes virtually. Not necessarily always having a plan, we showed up anyway. Not having the ability to take part in beloved traditions and familiar routines, we showed up anyway.
For significant parts of the last year or so, we have had far more questions than we have had answers.
But we have been faithful.
And we have shown up anyway.
But this is what it means to have faith, right? To believe in the things that we cannot see, to trust in the things that we do not understand.
What I love about this passage, especially where it cuts off with Mary and Mary fleeing from the tomb without actually seeing the Risen Christ, is the fact that it leaves room for questions. Resolution to why the tomb is empty or what the heck happened overnight is not wrapped up neatly in a bow, rather there are some loose ends hanging around. This story reminds us that it is okay if sometimes we experience fear or anxiety in our own lives and faith, if we have questions or if we still have a few loose ends that need to be tied up.
But this is actually a more realistic understanding of how our faith works, anyway – especially now. Even with the situation with the pandemic hopefully starting to improve, we still have a whole lot of questions and not a lot of answers about what comes next. We do not necessarily have a plan; we do not know how we are going to roll away the stone when we arrive at the tomb.
But we have faith that it will happen.
Like these women who gathered up some spices and just started walking, we have faith that we are going to figure it out when we arrive.
But this is resurrection; it is the promise that God will help us figure out the details, it is the reassurance that we do not have to have all of the answers, it is the hope that, sometimes against all odds, we will emerge from the darkness and shine God’s light into the world.
Last year I preached Easter Sunday alone from my house. And I think, even years from now, I will look back on that Easter as one of the most faithful moments of our generation for this church.
Because it did not feel like Easter Sunday last year; it still felt like Good Friday. At the time, we were still very much deep in the valley of the unknown when it came to pandemic. Hope was there, but it was really hard to hold onto.
And yet we still showed up. With few answers and the most broken of hallelujahs, we showed up and proclaimed the Good News that Christ has risen.
We were faithful. We have continued to be faithful. And we will continue to be faithful as we figure out what comes next.
Despite the fact that I am still livestreaming from an empty sanctuary, I do have a lot of hope for what comes next. It was wonderful to gather with actual people outside on Redway Plain this morning for our sunrise services! And I am grateful for the technological advances we have made over this past year that will hopefully make it possible for us to reach a point over the next few weeks where we can move our livestream outside and invite people to worship in person if they would like to. I am amazed at the way the work has continued within our boards and committees, work that has not only nurtured our church, but reached out to and touched the community, as well. In a time where we are, as the old adage goes, “flying by the seat of our pants,” we have accomplished so much. We have figured it out as we went along. We have remained faithful.
Friends, today we take a moment to celebrate the Good News that Christ is risen. We celebrate the Good News that death did not have the final word, that love always wins, that God is stronger and more powerful than any obstacles or challenges we might face here, on earth. Today we take a moment to celebrate the Good News that resurrection is real – and that there are no lost causes.
This is, after, what we do, as Christians on Easter, pandemic or not. We proclaim this Good News! We take this moment to rejoice in God’s redeeming work in this world.
And tomorrow, we will gather up our spices and figure out what happens next. Even without answers, we will show up anyway.
Thanks be to God!