Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!
Listen to Sarah’s Easter message “Love Casts Out Fear”
Mark 9:2-10 Common English Bible (CEB)
2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them,3 and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One[a] had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, wondering, “What’s this ‘rising from the dead’?”
Sarah’s Easter message “Love Casts Out Fear”
Three heartbroken, traumatized, scared women, Mary, Mary, and
Salome, go to the tomb early in the morning. They’re in that shell-
shocked, numb stage of grief. I get the feeling that they don’t entirely
know why they’re going to the tomb. They want to anoint his body, but
he’s dead long enough, there’s a stench no perfume will cover. They
aren’t even sure how they’ll deal with the stone. But what is there to do? So they go.
I imagine them kind of arguing on the way. One of them confident, saying we’ll figure it out. And another one saying, I don’t know. But I don’t what else to do. Then one of them, bringing up the rear, muttering, I don’t know why we’re bothering. We’re not going to be able to do it. This is so useless.
They get there, and the stone’s been moved. The thing they were so
worried about turns out to be nothing. How often does that happen? The thing we’re worried about turns out to be not the problem at all. The stone’s the least of their problems.
They are expecting to find death, because if there’s one thing you can
count on in life, it’s that dead things stay dead. But they don’t find
anything dead. Instead they just find… emptiness, absence, nothing.
Which is worse.
It says they were startled. I bet. Deep in that tomb, it seems they catch a glimpse of a teenager who says, “Don’t be alarmed…” Right.
“He’s going ahead of you to Galilee. Go back. Go back to Galilee and tell the others. He’s not here, he’s been raised. Go back to Galilee.”
Overcome with terror and dread, they fled. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. And they ran.
That’s it. That’s the end of the story, at least the way Mark told it. Doesn’t feel like an Easter story, does it?
But it is. This was the first Easter story that was told, or at least the first one that was written down. It’s the first resurrection story. I think it’s essential. I think it’s the most real resurrection story that we have.
A wise friend of mine is fond of saying that resurrection happens on both sides of the grave. She’s right.
Sometimes we think about resurrection as just something that happened to Jesus’ corpse one really wild day. Or we think about it as something that’ll happen to us after we die. Those are both valid ways of imagining the resurrection, but if that’s all that we imagine then we’re missing the point. Resurrection happens on both sides of the grave.
When it happens on this side of the grave, for us, as it did for those
women, resurrection is most often a process, not an end result.
Resurrection is a process. Even for Jesus. Every gospel account says,
“He was raised;” it took some doing. Even more for us. It’s not a one and done sort of thing.
For these women, resurrection was born deep in the darkness of that
tomb, and it unfolded over time, on the road, as they ran.
They’re running in terror. They are so scared. And that’s okay. Of course they were afraid. The angels always say, “Don’t be afraid,” but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be afraid of. There are lots of terrifying things in the world and in our lives.
Resurrection begins for these women as they hit the road running in
terror, running back to Galilee, back to their people, their community. I am convinced that at some point between Jerusalem and Galilee their running stopped being so much about fear and began to be something closer to excitement.
Because love casts out fear. And they weren’t running alone. They were together, and they’re running back to community. This is the first thing resurrection did for them. It sent them back to community.
So often our impulse in the face of death, hardship, shame, or fear is to isolate ourselves, draw in, circle the wagons, hide, go to our room.
This is true for all sorts of hard things in our lives. Grief can isolate us.
Addiction is often born in a sense of disconnection and loneliness. Mental illness, abuse, and trauma can make us hide in shame. Affluence, or a preoccupation with security, these things isolate us. In all of this and other things too, we’re often afraid to tell the truth about how hard things are. We’re afraid to ask for help, afraid to admit we need help, afraid to admit how afraid we are. That fear, over time, becomes a tomb.
That’s why we’re here this morning. Because we need the reminder:
Resurrection happens, and love casts out fear.
Resurrection begins when these women turn and run, together, back into their lives, into their relationships. Yes, they were still scared. That’s fine. Resurrection is a process.
But here’s what’s amazing to me. They did go back. They did tell. It says they didn’t, but that’s a brilliant piece of literary irony. Because of course they told. We’re here. The story doesn’t end where it says it does, for them or for us. They went back and they told.
Resurrection sent them back into their relationships, their community, and their love, and that love cast out their fear.
This is how resurrection works in our lives, too. This is the kind of
resurrection I see among us. It’s resurrection that’s at work when
someone walks into a room for the first time and says, “My name is Bill, and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s resurrection that’s at work that keeps him coming back. It’s resurrection that’s at work when we find the courage to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake.” It’s resurrection that’s at work when we ask for help, admit our fear. It’s resurrection that’s at work when families long estranged, reconcile, and when we dare to challenge long held beliefs that are killing us and others, and when we dare to tell the truth about how it is.
Resurrection happens, and love casts out fear. When we turn toward
love, we discover that we are no longer trapped by shame, fear, and
death. We are no longer sentenced to silence and secret keeping. We are not alone. There is a divine solidarity in the worst of human misery. God is there—on the cross, and in the tomb. Even there, resurrection happens, and love casts out fear.
It’s a wild, unlikely story, but early one morning three women went to a tomb, expecting to find death. It was empty, and they fled, speechless and terrified. But as they fled, as they ran toward their loved ones, friends, and companions, resurrection happened, and love cast out fear.
Here’s the good news they carried, and that we’ve carried ever since:
death does not win, life endures and abides, love conquers all. Their
voices grew stronger and their cry rings out over all the world, even here, even now.
Would you stand and join me in affirming our faith. Like the women, you don’t have to have it all figured out, or even believe it all…