the one about the joke...
April 2, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from April 1, 2018 - Easter Sunday

Text: Mark 16:1-8


Grace and peace to each of you this wonderful morning of the Resurrection! Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

We’ve arrived again! Again, we get to shout and proclaim – HE IS RISEN (HE IS RISEN INDEED, ALLELUIA!)! Again, we are able to gather in joy and glory to celebrate what God has done in the world. Our Lord Jesus, who is the Christ, is victorious over sin and death and we are invited into that victory. This is a good day. It always will be. It always has been. The gloom and sadness of Good Friday and the holy quiet of Saturday is overshadowed by the hope and joy this day proclaims. Our sin that has led to that death, has been wiped clean because of the empty tomb.

So, of course it seems only appropriate that this day – this year – falls on what the secular world calls ‘April Fools.’ The ‘gotcha’ day! A day full of jokes and moments and times that we have to be ever more thoughtful about the news we see on the screens we won’t be able to tear our eyes from (because we want to see what outlandish jokes can be perpetrated).

I still remember the first ‘gotcha’ that someone used on me – as my dad declared boldly that a triceratops was outside our apartment balcony while we were living in San Diego. Sadly, there was no ancient dinosaur. Though, as I remember it – the joke wasn’t all that funny, not to me.

And that’s mostly what we experience on April Fools. Excitement about something new and then the devastation and underwhelming reality that this too isn’t true. It’s just a joke. Nothing to see here.

As we view and experience this day of April Fools, we get to do so in the context of celebrating Easter Sunday. It is as if this day that God has pulled the wool from own eyes. We’ve been had in a ‘gotcha’ moment as well!

Of course, there’s something different about this one. In this ‘gotcha’ no one is coming into this event and potential reality of death feeling excited, joyous, or looking for a good time. In fact, those who are entering the holy place of the tomb are in deep sadness and frustration.

The one they believed to be the Son of God, the messiah come down to bring freedom and salvation to the world has died. They watched it happen. They saw the nails forced into his body. They experienced his final breath. The women cared for their Lord’s lifeless body, helped wrap him in burial clothes, and placed him into the tomb.

For all they’ve seen, they know what to expect. This day isn’t going to be a good one as they began that early morning trek to the graveside. As they walked to the tomb, they even pondered how it was that they were going to roll away the stone so that they might ritually attend to their Lord’s body.

Yet, when they arrive they experience God’s foolishness. The one who has gone to the cross and died is no longer present in the tomb. A messenger has informed them that he has been raised from the dead. Death no longer lurks here, only new life.

Astonishment and bewilderment abound. And, not so surprisingly a heavy dose of fear as well. So, much fear that our text ends with the women who came to ritually prepare the body, they hear the news, and run in fear and we are told that they won’t be telling anyone.

Yet, we know that that last part isn’t true – April Fools again, or should I say, Easter Fools! For the women did tell, preach, and proclaim. We know this because we are here celebrating this day. The gospel of Mark is the earliest written gospel, so it only makes sense that their fear was eventually overcome by a desire to share this good news. Because not only are we hear, but three other gospels were written to share this news with the world.

But, when we hear the ending of this gospel – the true ending that is – it doesn’t sit well with us. It really doesn’t. It is why someone much later felt like they needed to add something else so that the gospel didn’t end on this note (that’s where we get the longer ending which was written much later according to scholars and research). Where those who are the first to hear such wonderful news run away in fear. It doesn’t make sense. Yet, I heard a story that I thought fit pretty well to how we can experience this ending and what it can lead us to do in response.

So, everyone knows of Beethoven right? Well, the story goes that Beethoven was notoriously difficult to rouse from slumber. He just never wanted to get up and on with the day. He’d rather stay in bed than anything else. So, his maid after numerous attempts to wake him came up with an ingenious plot. She’d go to the piano in his room and play a small part of one of his pieces. But, the kicker is she would intentionally end that piece early. Hearing just a small part of his music, but not finished, was the thing that would finally get Beethoven to get out of bed, to finish the piece, and begin his day.

Has anyone ever done that to you? I’m not good at remembering (most) music, but I know that there is a good chance if I say – ‘Shave and a hair cut.’ Someone is going to finish it. (thank you)

Perhaps we are left on this intentional cliffhanger in Mark’s gospel to rouse us from our own slumber. Perhaps Mark knows that the women shared this story (he had to hear it preached from someone right?!?) but, as an encouragement to wake us in our faith to share this good news of Jesus’ resurrection, he only shared the first part of this particular story of sharing so that we might feel compelled to finish what he left off.

Endings like this bring questions, helps us dive deeper into the story. We want to know more.

The season of Easter reminds us that God has, and God is reaching out to the world – to each of us – and inviting us into this story. Inviting us into this life and love that is always and forever ours. God has come down to be with us and lives life and death to full and completeness. We remember this story of the one who has come to be with us and has risen from the grave ­for us.

We get to share that story. We get to share the good news of this day. We get to proclaim and shout of this love to the world. What great news it is. The ‘joke’ of today is that death has lost its sting, that death no longer reigns over us. The death is no longer the last word. April Fools indeed!

In Jesus’ resurrection we have been given new life – renewed life. So that we might live this life for others and with others.

We don’t live our lives of faith in accordance to how our Gospel story ends this day. We don’t run in fear without telling anyone. But, we do live out our life following in the footsteps of those bold women at the tomb. We know they shared this story because we are here. We are here gathered with one another as we hear this story again all the while knowing that we aren’t he only ones hearing and sharing this story. We are gathered in the body of Christ – around the world – literally billions of people – who are sharing and proclaiming this empty tomb this morning. We aren’t alone in this endeavor, but we gladly and boldly share this good news together.

We live our life sharing this good news of new life. Inviting others to be a part of it. A life that welcomes, encourages discussion, asks questions, and builds relationships. A life that is lived out in love for others because our God, our Lord, has lived and continues to live out that love for the entire world.

We get to share the biggest ‘gotcha’ of all. We get to share the joke that puts death in its place. We get to share the story of the tomb. The one they thought was fully, but is completely empty. Easter Fools! Amen!

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