Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Great Disruption

Easter Vigil B 2009

Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
An empty tomb and frightened women: this is where Mark leaves things for us to sort out.

Sure, you can look in your pew or home Bibles you will see, usually in tiny print, short and long so-called "endings", but these were added by people in the church a century or two later who were disturbed that Mark offers no narrative of the Risen Lord appearing to anyone like the other three gospels do. All he gives us is a messenger boy and some truly upset women whom we are told tell no one the message.

Long assumed to be the oldest Gospel, Mark leaves it to anyone who wants to take the time to carefully contemplate his telling of the tale to make up their own minds on the matter of resurrection and have their own encounter with the Risen Lord!
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Much speculation, as you can imagine, surrounds this unusual stopping point. The simplest answer very well might lie in the opening sentence of Mark: “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark sees no need for an ending to the story. The story of the Risen Lord continues right down to this night! There is no need for testimony from anyone. The messenger in the tomb has said it best, "...he has been raised."

Note the passive voice, "has been raised." Jesus is the object of the action done by another. This other has seriously disrupted the normal patterns of life and death. The women know exactly the identity of the unnamed subject of the passive verb. Fear and trembling is a time honored reaction of those in the Biblical narrative who come face to face with a revelation of the God who creates life and death in the first place. Surely God has the authority to disrupt and change things. Leaving the question for those of us reading and hearing this Word of God's, Are we willing to accept the ways in which God seeks to disrupt and change the rules of our world?
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

We are those people who through Baptism need not spend our time arguing or debating just how such a thing as The Resurrection of the Body can possibly happen. Nor do we need to waste time over the historicity of the thing. We only need to discern its meaning for us today.

For this it helps to remember that although Mark’s account may be the first and oldest of the Gospel accounts, there is an earlier Biblical witness, and that of course would be Paul! The earliest mention of an encounter with the Risen Lord is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, comprising much of the first chapter of that epistle. “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed to me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ!” Gal 1.11-12 Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
And Paul is the earliest of Biblical witnesses to reflect upon just what this means for us, and what it means for Paul is change, death to one’s old self, and becoming a new creation in Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2.19-20

Several days a week as I do my contemplative prayer here in the sanctuary, I read this from 2 Corinthians: “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, Behold the new has come! All this is from God who through Christ reconciles us to himself and gives us the ministry of Reconciliation.” 2 Cor 5.17-18
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

So what Paul tells us is that we can have individual experiences of the Risen Lord beyond all that we have been taught or have read; that the Risen Lord is the crucified one announced to the women at the tomb, who loves us and changes us; and that by our Baptism we are made new and given a specific ministry, that of Reconciliation.

Anyone looking at the church today from outside would find this to be fascinating, given all the bickering, carping, moaning and debate that exists both within and between churches! We often look like anything but those who are called to reconcile the world.
We are clearly in need of some serious disruption of the ways in which we look at and live our lives!
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

So there I was in Atlanta’s Heartsfield Airport, my flight delayed for hours, sitting in a two-gate sitting area with others who had already been delayed even longer. I am sure you can picture just what this looked like, or specifically what we all looked like: grumpy, unhappy, sweaty, angry, and not particularly pretty! I decided to plug in my earphones and listen to the Gorecki Third Symphony, a particularly mystical piece of music. I was reading a passage from Evelyn Underhill on the Fruits of the Spirit, where she quotes Paul and observes that the fruits he lists all proceed from Love.

“To be unloving is to be out of touch with God. So the generous, cherishing, Divine love, the indiscriminate delight in others, just and unjust, must be our model too. Be ye perfect. To come down to brass tacks, God loves the horrid man at the fishshop, and the tiresome woman in the next flat, and the disappointing Vicar, and the mulish parent, and the contractor who has cut down the row of trees we loved to build a lot of revolting bungalows. God loves, not tolerates, these wayward, half-grown, self-centered spirits and seeks without ceasing to draw them into His love. And the first-fruit of His indwelling presence, the first sign that we are on His side and He on ours, must be at least a tiny bud of this Charity breaking the hard and rigid outline of our life.” Underhill, The Fruits of the Spirit, p.15

I then closed my eyes and began to pray with my sacred prayer word, which is Ruach, the Hebrew word for Spirit, Wind and Breath of God.

Near the end of the third and final movement of the Gorecki, after some time in silent prayer, I opened my eyes. That’s when it happened. Everyone in the seating area, the mobs of people streaming up and down the concourse, was transfigured. They were glowing with a brightness that no fuller on earth could make them! And they were smiling, happy, gliding around the gate area. I just stared with my mouth open for how long I do not know. But I was seeing them all as God sees them, and it was good, it was good, it was very very good! I think I was smiling with them. I no longer feared that if I stood up and stepped away someone would swoop in and take my seat.

Suddenly, without warning, and surely without any notice on my part, the Gorecki evidently finished, my MP3 player shuffled to the next file, which of course was the letter “H” for Howlin’ Wolf, the Greatest Hits! What a surprise! I laughed out loud. And I laughed hard! The vision was gone. People were looking at me with that, “Why is he laughing?” kind of look. The spell was broken, and we were all back to our sweaty, angry, grumpy selves. But I had seen with my own eyes how God sees us all, and my sisters and brothers, it was good.
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

There’s not much more to say. Which I believe is Mark’s point by ending “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” just the way he does. Mark is hoping we will each take a look inside the empty tomb and catch a glimpse, a vision, of just how God sees us and loves us, really really loves us, no matter how irritating, disappointing or revolting we or others may think we are.

Know, my sisters and brothers, little by little,
It takes time
Jesus will reveal to you just how much
He watches over you and loves you.
He calls you to follow him
So that you might do something beautiful with your life
And bear much fruit.

The world needs you,
The church needs you,
Jesus needs you,
They need your love and your light.

There is a hidden place in your hearrt
Where Jesus lives
This is a deep secret you are called to live
Let Jesus live in you
Go forward with him!
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
And so are we, and so are we….Amen.

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