“Resurrection Horizon”

April 5, 2015

 

 

Mark 16:1-8

 

Easter morning wakes us up and calls us to look toward a horizon full of life.

It’s been said that “Every life is lived toward a horizon, a distant vision of what lies ahead. The quality of our action depends heavily on whether that horizon is dark with death or full of light and life. When we envision a horizon that holds the hope of life, we are free to act without fear, free to act in truth and love and justice today because those very qualities seem to shape our own destiny.”[i]

What is on your horizon? What are you moving toward?

The resurrection set our sights on new life and then moves us in that direction.

Listen to Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome on the way to the tomb.

They are coming to grieve, to finish the burial rites. Perhaps in their shock over the recent events, they are not speaking much. But Mark tells us they ask one question: “Who will roll away the stone for us?”

The stone sealing the tomb announces destruction as the horizon and death as the limit of what is possible.

The question the women ask is our question as well.

Who will roll away the stones of violence, hatred, hunger?

Who will roll away the stones of despair, of greed, the stone of dull lifelessness that entombs so many—leaving us, as the hymn says, rich in things but poor in soul?

Is there anyone who can roll away the stone for us?

Easter gives us God’s answer to that question.

When human possibility reaches its limit, God does something new, something unexpected.

At that tomb the God who created gives all creation a new horizon. So the early Christians called this day of resurrection the “eighth day”—the beginning of a new creation after God’s Sabbath rest. So in our time the United Church of Canada affirms: “We believe in God, who has created and is creating.”

This new creation is one in which resurrection answers crucifixion, life answers death.

Listen to the question of the women and you may hear God’s life-giving answer.

The stone is rolled away and the messenger of God announces: “Do not be alarmed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”

There are many responses that one can have to that message from the empty tomb.

Perhaps those words lighten your heart and fill you with joy. You are one of those people who go from the empty tomb with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

Perhaps those words inspire your action in the world. You go back to the world ready to proclaim the good news by feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger and loving your neighbor.

Or maybe you greet those words with doubt and skepticism, simply walking away from the empty tomb, looking elsewhere for a word of hope.

Mark’s gospel gives us one of the more surprising and—upon reflection—one of the more realistic responses to that message at the tomb: The women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.

That mixture of terror and amazement is not unusual, really. It seems to accompany most significant events in life.

What parent isn’t filled with both fear and amazement when they first hold their new child?

What young adult isn’t seized with both deep awe and great excitement when they graduate and face a new world filled with opportunities?

When Easter comes in April, we are usually more amazed than fearful. We open our eyes and see signs of springtime and new life everywhere.

The butterfly comes out of its cocoon—what seemed dead is alive and beautiful.

The daffodils on the Pentecrest have pushed their way up through the ground—the hard, cold earth brings forth life after all.

The grass is green once more—what was drab and brown is now filled with color.

Along with the rest of creation, we made it through another winter. It is as though not just Christians, but all of nature is ready to celebrate the good news and new life of Easter.

And it is all quite amazing.

I remember the warm weather that met my family on childhood Easter trips to southern Illinois. It was a welcome change.

With the warm weather, however, there were also tornadoes.

As a child, I think I associated Easter with tornadoes more than tulips. There was the time we drove toward strange-colored, ominous skies, listening to the car radio for weather reports. There were occasions when we took shelter in my grandmother’s basement until the storm passed.

We were never harmed, but often threatened.

The tornadoes of this season are also parables of Easter. They remind us that the renewal of life that comes with springtime is not without upheaval and danger.

Springtime itself is an occasion of amazement and fear.

And so, too, is resurrection. We are threatened with resurrection.

We are threatened with resurrection because it challenges our old ways of living.

Which brings me to eggs, those small symbols of Easter. They look like a stone. They seem sealed tight like a tomb. And yet out of them comes new life.

And there’s that old story about the man who goes to a psychiatrist, concerned about his brother, who thinks he is a chicken. Do you remember this?

“Tell me the symptoms,” the doctor says. “Perhaps I can help him.”

“Well,” the man replies, “he clucks a lot, he makes nests in the corners of the rooms, he pecks at the furniture.”

After thinking for a few minutes, the psychiatrist says, “It sounds like a simple neurosis.allH\\\\Hhhhhhhhh

 Bring your brother in and I think I can cure him completely.”

“Oh no, Doc” says the man. “We can’t do that! We need the eggs!”

We are threatened with resurrection, because it challenges our old ways of living. New life threatens to take away the eggs we have gotten used to.

All too often our horizons are death and destruction.

We embrace the notion that there are “acceptable levels of death” from carcinogenic chemicals.

We tear apart families in the name of border security.

We are content with an economy that gives us an incredibly high standard of living while allowing children around the world to face disease and starvation.

We cling to anger, bitterness, hatred, and resentment.

We need the eggs.

The Guatemalan poet, Julia Esquivel writes:

Accompany us . . .

and you will know what it is to dream!

You will then know

how marvelous it is

to live threatened with Resurrection!”

Resurrection threatens our old ways. And Resurrection invites us to dream—calling us to new life and health.

Resurrection is the new possibility that God offers to all people. Jesus is not to be found in the tomb, but goes ahead of us.

He goes ahead of us in all those occasions of joy and beauty that speak of life and creativity and power and strength.

We see him ahead of us where people are weak or broken in body, mind, or spirit.

We never know when or where we will encounter the risen Christ. We only know that we cannot escape him.

He goes ahead and calls us to come along.

Fear and amazement. We experience them both at the empty tomb. We experience them both any time we are really alive. By God’s grace we are resurrection people, able to live with courage and strength in the face of such fear and amazement.

Wake up and open your eyes.

Come and see what God has done.

Look up, for the horizon holds the hope of life.

We are free to act without fear.

We are freed to act in truth and love and justice.

We are free to pursue lives of beauty and creativity.

Run.

And tell the others.

Christ is risen.

Christ is risen indeed.



[i] Parker Palmer, The Active Life, pg. 139.