Tag Archives: Easter

He Isn’t Here! Sermon on Mark 16:1-8 for Easter B

April 5, 2015

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But 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. But 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.” 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. – Mark 16:1–8

You would think that Mark would end his story of the “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1) with a satisfying resolution, a happy ending. But he doesn’t. Continue reading

The Scent of Myrrh

This afternoon, I sat with a woman who has decided it is time to die. She told me stories of her childhood, of her parents and her grandparents. She told me stories about her husband and their life together. It was a good life. She has no regrets. There are many things she doesn’t understand, but she’s done with asking questions. She’s done, period. This is a woman who has always done exactly what she set her mind to do. She has set her mind now to die.

I didn’t want to tell her that deciding it is time to die and actually doing the business of dying are two different things. From what I’ve seen, dying is hard work. I remember another woman, who lay on her deathbed for weeks. When she awoke one morning, she exclaimed, “Oh no, I’m still here!” When I asked how I could pray for her, she answered, “Just ask Jesus to bring me home.” She was ready for death, but death was not quite ready for her.

This afternoon, I anointed a woman’s forehead and hands with oil, scented with myrrh.  We prayed together for God to give her peace. In less than a week, I will anoint congregants’ hands with that same oil as part of Good Friday worship. Myrrh was one of the spices brought to Jesus when he was a baby. It was probably one of the spices brought by Joseph of Arimathea to prepare his body for burial. The beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, wrapped in the same perfume.

We enter into Holy Week waving palm branches. It doesn’t take long for the joyous shouts of “Hosanna!” to change into “Crucify him!” The hard work of Christ’s death is described in vivd detail as the week progresses. Each year,  we enter into the mystery of death that becomes life, the finite becoming infinite, as we move toward Easter. But before we can fully experience the joy of resurrection, we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And it is hard work.

Rotten Snow

The Brothers Frantzich have a great little song , “When Winter Lets Go of Minnesota,” that has been rolling around in my head this past week, as I watched the snow melt.  I wait impatiently for the thermometer to let me join in on the line, “It may only be fifty degrees, but we’re doin’ yard work in the raw,” but so far, we’re just glad the temperature lingers above freezing several hours a day.  We may still have remnants of ice dams on one part of our roof, and the deck is still a foot deep in rotten snow, yet I remain confident that we will see Spring sometime before June 1st. After all, there are bare spots in the yard, and I saw ducks on the creek yesterday. There is hope.

I really don’t like this season between seasons, this not-winter-anymore-but-definitely-not-Spring thing. The snow is ugly, and the melting reveals all sorts of nasty trash that I could easily ignore when it was covered in a pristine white blanket. It’s still too cold for anything to grow, and the dull browns and grays emerging from the slush give no promise of green, no sign of life. As the snow and ice melt, they form some new substance that only time and sunshine can dissolve. This substance, mostly water in some semi-frozen form, contains all the dirt, all the dead vegetation, all the junk that has been lying in suspended animation since Thanksgiving. It isn’t pretty.

Maybe the thing I like least about the melting mess is that it reminds me of my interior self, and that isn’t pretty, either. All the junk, all the dirt, all the dead stuff I have left in suspended animation for far too long pops up into my consciousness, and I am forced to take stock of the rotten snow in my soul.  Good Friday nearly does me in every year. The darkening shadows of Tenebrae cannot hide the pock marks that pride, selfishness, and laziness have left on my spirit. I want to jump ahead to Easter Sunday, to eat chocolate and dance with the little girls in their pretty dresses as we sing, “Alleluia! Alleluia!” together. I do not want to shovel rancid snow off my frozen heart.

Then Jesus says, “Do you love me?”
And, like Peter, I answer, “Of course!”
But Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”

And I want to make excuses, remind Jesus of the rotten snow that hasn’t completely melted in my soul….

“Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
“Tend my sheep.”