Saturday, April 7, 2012

See For Yourself!

Easter Vigil 2012 – Mark 16:1-8
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills
We Awaken In Christ’s Body

The text of the Hebrew Exodus has been read and the words of the mystery have been explained. How the Sheep was sacrificed for the salvation of the people.

Now grasp this, dearly beloved: How it is new and old, eternal and transient, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal, the mystery of the Pasch.

It is old according to the law, but new according to the Logos/The Word. It is transient in terms of figure, but eternal in terms of grace. It is corruptible because of the death of the sheep, but incorruptible because of the life of the Lord. It is mortal because of the burial in the earth, but immortal because of the resurrection from the dead.

The law is old, the Logos new. The figure is transient, grace is eternal. The sheep is corruptible, the Lord is incorruptible, who was immolated as a lamb, but resurrected as God!

For as a sheep he was led to the slaughter, but a sheep he was not; and as a mute lamb, but a lamb he was not. The figure is past and the truth has been revealed: in place of a lamb it is God who has come, and in place of a sheep, man. And in man, Christ, who contains all.

Thus the immolation of the sheep, and the rite of the Pasch, and the letter of the law are accomplished in Christ Jesus. For the law has become logos, and the old has become new, coming from Zion and Jerusalem. The commandment has become grace, and type has become reality, and the lamb the son, and the sheep, man, and man, God.

For born son-like, and led forth lamb-like, and slaughtered sheep-like, and buried man-like, he has risen God-Like, being by nature God and Man.

He is all things: inasmuch as he judges, Law; inasmuch as he teaches, Word; inasmuch as he saves, Grace; inasmuch as he begats, Father; inasmuch as he is begotten, Son; inasmuch as he suffers, sheep; inasmuch as he is buried, Man; inasmuch as he has risen, God.

This is Jesus Christ to whom be Glory for ever and ever. Amen!

So there! So it was that in the city of Sardis, in Asia Minor, around the year 165, on such a night as this and before such a cloud of witnesses as this, Melito the Eunuch began to proclaim the Paschal Mystery. Few texts that I know sum up as richly and as succinctly the many layers of jubilation, the many waves of glory which in this feast wash over us and overwhelm us like the waters of Baptism. For this is the Passover, the feast of our Redemption, of our deliverance from slavery, from darkness, from sin, and from death, into the liberty, light and life of the Risen Lord.

Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Then there is Mark. An open tomb, a “young man dressed in a white robe,” and frightened women who "say nothing to anyone": this is where Mark leaves things for us to sort out.

The additional text in your bulletin was added by people in the church a century or two later who were disturbed, offended, confused: if the women said nothing to anyone, how did we get here?

Long assumed to be the oldest Gospel, Mark is clear and succinct: there is a large stone rolled aside by a mysterious force, a therefore open tomb, or as we tend to say “an empty tomb,” but there is a someone inside - a young messenger robed in white. The Biblical word for messenger is “angel” – the root word of the opening verse of Mark’s gospel, “evangel” or “Good News – Good Message. Have any of us noticed that this is the only appearance of an angel in all of Mark’s account?
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

So Mark, arguably the oldest of the four gospels, begins with the Good News, the Evangel if you will, and concludes with Good News delivered by an angel dressed in white, seated, calmly explaining to three frightened women, “Do not be alarmed,” (always the opening line of every Good Angel), “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified (that is who He is forever and ever). He has been Raised (as he promised!); he is not here (pretty obvious, but comforting to know our eyes do not deceive us). Look, there is the place they laid him (just an empty space and silence). But go (we have a job to do, no time to linger and wonder just how this all came about), tell his disciples (who abandoned him long ago and are nowhere to be seen at the cross or the tomb!) and Peter (first called, first named of all the disciples) that he is going ahead of you to Galilee (That Jesus! Always one step or even two ahead of us!); there you will see him (We want to see him, we need to see him, we just plain need him to be alive!), just as he told you (His Word is good, the Good Angel assures us!).”
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Or, would it be more accurate to say, “Alleluia, Christ 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 life and world?
Alleluia Christ has been raised! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

“So 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.” End of story. End of Mark. Nothing to anyone. Nothing to anyone. So, how do we know about all of this? How do we, or how does anyone for that matter, know that Christ has been raised? How do we know the Dead One is on the loose? How can we know if they said “nothing to anyone”?

Mark of all the evangelists is perhaps the shrewdest storyteller of all. Perhaps of all time! Do we see how ending it all right there with no appearance stories, no road to Emmaus, no eating fish with the disciples, no walking through closed doors, no breathing on them, no invitation to touch his hands and his side, do we see how this engages us at the deepest dimension of our being? Mark makes us, forces us, to want to know the Risen Lord for ourselves. Mark does not leave it to chance. Mark does not leave it to hearsay. Mark does not make it easy. Because, really, go back and read the entire Gospel of Mark. Does anything come easy in his telling of the tale? Mark’s Gospel tells of a costly discipleship, a costly freedom, a freedom bought with crucifixion and carrying our own crosses.

Does it not stand to reason that if Mark’s Jesus demands that the cost of discipleship, the cost of being a Christian, is to carry a cross, that anyone who picks up that cross will do so only if they experience the Risen Christ for themselves? With the last verse of the gospel, Mark seems to say, “Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take the angel’s word for it. See for yourself. Look deep within that open tomb and see for yourself – for unless you do, you will never pick up your cross and follow Him!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Besides, consider for just one moment – how does one put something like The Resurrection into mere words? How is one to describe such a thing, such a one-off, one-time, reversal of all that we think we know about life and death? Sure, go ahead and read Matthew, Luke and John. Or, read the earliest account of an appearance of our Risen Lord Jesus in Paul’s letter to the Galatians - “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

The Gospel proclaimed to me is not of human origin! Mark got that! Mark understood what Paul was saying! Paul who goes on to write in his Second Letter to the 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!

Are any of us here willing to raise his or her hand and honestly proclaim that you are in Christ? That you have accepted the “ministry of reconciliation” he gives us and live that out every day in all that we say and all that we do? Seriously my friends, would the church look like it does if we took this ministry of reconciliation at all seriously? Would the world look like it does if we were exercising this ministry of reconciliation seriously?

If you ever thought the cost of discipleship was steep, just ask Paul, the New Testament’s earliest witness - Paul who willingly did ‘hard time’ in jail repeatedly for exercising ‘the ministry of reconciliation.” Paul was a repeat offender in exercising the ministry of reconciliation. Paul was in Christ. Paul was a new creation. Paul was of the new creation Jesus came and launched in our midst!
Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

The Gospel, the Good News, is not and cannot be from human origin! Mark knows this better than anyone, so the women say nothing to anyone. It is up to us to see for ourselves, which means we had better get serious about seeing. We better get serious about looking. We better get serious about allowing ourselves to be made new – from the ground up, totally, completely new. We need to look into the open tomb and wake up. What Mark knows, what Paul knows, what countless Christians have known – by which I mean experienced in the deepest dimension and reaches of their being, not some mere intellectual understanding of the thing – is that once we experience the Gospel that is not of human origin, once we encounter the Risen Lord for ourselves,we will wake up! We will wake up and find ourselves having been raised – not by anything we think or do for ourselves, but like Mark and like Paul and like Jesus, we will be awakened, raised up, and find ourselves in Christ’s body.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Saint Symeon the Theologian, a 10th century monastic in Byzantium puts it like this:
We awaken in Christ's body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? -- Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ's body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

May we listen to these ancient voices: Paul, Mark, Melito the Eunuch and Saint Symeon. They have known Christ in the flesh. They bear witness to life lived with the Beloved awakened "in every part of our body." They invite us to look into the open tomb ourselves. Look inside and see – the tomb is open, not empty. No it is very full – full of the real presence of the Risen Christ in the lives of those who have seen him, picked up their crosses and followed him. Look – see where they laid him?

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.

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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