Rev. Dr. Merritt's Early Easter Service Sermon 2012
“Where is He?”
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
Early Easter Sunday 2012
JESUS IS RISEN: He is risen indeed!
One point that I find interested each year as Easter approaches is this. The most amazing thing that has ever happened in all of history; the resurrection of Jesus, the single event that permeates every verse for the rest of the New Testament, the event that causes people like you and me from ages past and for ages into the future to dedicate our lives to following the Son of God, only get’s about eight verses of detail in the gospels. Isn’t that odd? Four complete gospels and only about 8 verses each of detail about the resurrection of Jesus. Well, let me assure you these eight verses are packed with information, so let’s consider some of it together.
First of all I believe the story of Jesus’ resurrection very much belongs to the female characters in the story. Remember Mary first heard the words of the angel telling her what God was going to do through her. Remember Mary was there when Jesus appeared for the first time teaching in the temple, to everyone’s amazement. Remember Mary watched as Jesus was persecuted, tried, convicted and was led up that treacherous way to Calvary’s hill. And it was Mary who stayed there to the very end as he son was tortured and finally assassinated by the Roman government. This morning, we see Mary still present approaching the tomb of Jesus. This really is her story.
Mary and Salome arrive at the tomb and immediately see the stone at the front of the tomb had been rolled away. A “young man” (neaniskos) announces to the women that Jesus is not there and that he has been raised from the dead. He tells the women to go and tell Jesus’ disciples what had happened but they are frightened so they run away without telling anyone.
Most biblical scholars believe the original Gospel of Mark ended right there. If that’s the case we are left with what Professor David Lose describes as “a resurrection scene without Jesus that ends in failure.” That would mean that the disciples failed and that these two women disciples failed, too. He suggests, “ Looked at this way, I can totally understand how a well-intentioned monk, after reading this ending in dismay, suddenly thinks, "I can fix that!" and adds a short, sweet ending, that while it sounds like nothing else in Mark, at least brings things to a better end. We know better that that. We know, as Fr. John Donahue writes, “that Jesus resurrection constitutes the decisive event in a sequence of eschatological event that will usher in the kin-dom of God.” Not some kingdom way out there in the sweet by and by or up there somewhere or over there somewhere, but right here in this place right now with the followers of Jesus gathered here.
I love Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Why that poem on Easter Morning; Here it is. JESUS IS RISEN: HE IS RISEN INDEED. Jesus has overcome temptation, persecution and oppression and he is risen, and so will you. Jesus was tried, convicted, and assassinated and Jesus is risen, and so will you. Jesus has overcome death and the grave and lives alive and well, and so will you! Let this be the day and let this be the moment when we proclaim it together, with one slight change. Jesus is risen, and I’m risen, too. Try it. Jesus is Risen, and I am risen, too.
Now embrace it, live into it, hold on to it where ever you go. Jesus is risen; and I am risen, too. God bless you this morning – Happy Easter.
Gospel Reading Mark 16.1-8
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.