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Easter is a celebration of rebirth. In the Christian story, Jesus is physically resurrected from the grave and this brings a resurrection of the spirit of joy to his scattered followers. Resurrection comes in many forms.
Call To Worship:
Welcome to this house of worship on this day of beauty and glory; welcome to this place of celebration. May our hearts be open to hope, our minds open to new truth, our spirits open to miracle and wonder. May we be open to renewal, to the rebirth of body and spirit, to the resurrection of possibility in our lives.
READING: Mark 16:1 – 8
16When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.*
We gather here today, people of many different beliefs about God and the Bible and Jesus. But we gather to hear the story and ponder its meaning for everyone.
If the birth of Jesus at Christmas is the birth of Promise into the world, the promise of what is yet to come; Easter is the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise.
The Christian story of Easter for the disciples of Jesus is one of deep hopes. They leave their old lives, their jobs and their families to follow him, because they believe in him. They believe in his message. After they have followed him for several years, Jesus enters into the city of Jerusalem where he is hailed by the crowds as the king of Israel. This is a great moment, he is entering in to claim the kingdom!
His followers had believed many things about him. Some thought he was going to ride into Jerusalem and reestablish the kingdom of David; some thought he was going to be the new Moses, some thought he was going to be Elijah returned from heaven. All believed that something great was about to happen. He had entered into Jerusalem to cleanse the Temple and to claim his crown; to overthrow the Romans and to begin the reign of God.
But, far from becoming the new king in Jerusalem, he died. He challenged the Romans and the hierarchy of Israel and was crucified. There was no kingdom, no angels descending from heaven, no liberation.
The ministry of Jesus was a failure, and it appeared that everything he had claimed was false.
What a shattering disappointment that must have been. His disciples must have been in despair, must have had broken spirits. And yet…
On the Sunday following his death, the tomb was found to be empty and the Disciples believed that this was due to the resurrection of Jesus.
They had gained a new understanding of his message, of his words about the kingdom of heaven. They believed in the return of Jesus from death, that he was the first of children of God to be resurrected.
Over time they developed a different, more spiritual understanding – they came to believe that God was offering eternal life.
Before this happened, three women go to the tomb of Jesus in order to anoint his body, to prepare properly. And so they buy spices and go to the tomb and they find the tomb empty and someone tells them that he has risen from the dead and has left.
Let’s think about these women for a moment or two. They women know that there is a great stone in front of the tomb, blocking their access to the body, and they do not know how it will be moved. But they go anyway. They go to the tomb even though it may be impossible for them to get in. Their minds tell them that a wall blocks access, blocks their path; but they go anyway.
Wondering if they can get in, they decide that they will go as far as they can with only a vague hope that having done so they will be able to fulfill the task they set for themselves.
They have no reason to believe that the stone will be moved, so why bother going? How many times in life do I stop myself from doing something because there really is no point? There is no point in going on, no point in walking that distance because there is just going to be a large stone, a wall, a barrier blocking the path anyway, so I have no reason to go on. But these three women did.
Why? I don’t know. Mark does not tell us. All we know is that they went despite the fact that it was pointless.
Sometimes we need to recognize when an act is futile, and we need to set aside actions that are draining and have no purpose. It is important to know when something is impossible.
But here is the paradox: sometimes, if we persist in doing the pointless, we can achieve the impossible. Or, better put, the impossible will happen because we persisted, the stone will roll away and the tomb will open before us, miracles will happen. And we will be there to witness these miracles because we persisted despite.
That message to strive applies in all of life’s circumstances.
Some years ago I was unemployed (I had quit my job) and I spent months applying for a new job. I applied to any job I thought I might vaguely be qualified for. Months went by with no responses to my resumes. When it finally came, the job I got was one I had not applied for, but my resume had been kept on file by the agency and they contacted me when a different job opened up. Persistence counts and sometimes the door that opens is not the one we expected to have open.
We live in a time of war and turmoil, the time of the Great Recession. One message of Easter is that despite the difficulties in our own lives, difficulties of fear or illness, or unemployment, all things are possible if we keep striving.
For Christians, Easter is promise of the resurrection, both in this life and in the life to come
For all of us, Easter is the message of resurrection in this life. Keep striving, do not give up.
If we strive, then some force—divine or human, natural or supernatural—will push aside the barriers, will roll away the stones.
On this beautiful Easter morning let us be grateful; let us be joyful; let us move forward; let us walk on with faith. Great things lie ahead
As surely as in this season earth returns to life so our lives will be reborn.