Easter Sunday (Pascha)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
April 20, 2014
Central Passage
Mark 16:1-8

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“They fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were sore afraid.” (Mark 16:8)

Not exactly the verse you might expect the gospel account of the resurrection to end on, but there it is. The most ancient of the texts of the gospel according to St. Mark end with the words, “for they were sore afraid.”

You know the feeling. You’ve been at the receiving end of some potentially good news but the fear in you springs up. What if what happened isn’t what I thought it was? You apply for a job or ask a girl out on a date, or maybe you missed a call from your bank or maybe you missed a call from the doctor. All could be potentially good news, but fear gnaws at you. The job won’t pan out. The girl will say ‘no’. The bank is calling to tell you you’re out of money, or owe money. The doctor’s office is calling to confirm your worst fears. You don’t have the whole story and so you are afraid.

In our better moments we’re able to quell the rising fear, reminding ourselves that we don’t have all the information and our fear is irrational. But at other times it doesn’t matter that the fear is irrational, we are sore afraid.

But when the matter is cleared up, when you get the job – or don’t – when the girl says ‘yes’ – or ‘no’ – and when the bank was just calling to say you forgot your sunglasses on the counter – your fear is gone; vanished like a fog in the morning sun. Even if the doctor’s office has less than great news, still your fear abates. Now you know something. Light has dawned and the shadows have begun to flee.

It’s in that in-between place where we find the women at the tomb. And it’s in that in-between place where the world finds itself, and perhaps where we find ourselves. Something has happened but no one knows quite what. There have been reports that God is real, that heaven is for real, that God’s not dead. Rumors fly and opinions weigh in. Some say one thing others say another thing. The words of Pontus Pilate from Good Friday still ring in our ears: What is truth? And even though we’ve gone to see the recent so-called ‘faith-based’ movies, still we struggle with doubt. That is, in fact, why we go to see those movies. We go to be shown a little more of the answer. We go to see that what we believe is viable and perhaps provable. What we’re looking for is for someone to establish the truth.

But the trouble is that things such as the flurry of recent movies or the philosophic postulating of so many aren’t actually dealing with the real question, the real fear. No one is afraid that heaven isn’t for real. No one is afraid that God is or isn’t dead. What we are afraid of is our sin; that we will be accountable. That is what those women at the tomb were afraid of. After all, they had brought spices for burial. A clear sign that they had not believed that Jesus would rise from the dead. The disciples had all fled on the night of the Lord’s betrayal. And you, too, have betrayed the Lord by your life. We pretend to want to know if heaven is for real or that philosophy is answerable because no one is condemned by the answers. But what we really want to know – what the world wants to know – is whether the God who was crucified and is risen comes as friend or foe.

Believers or unbelievers flock to see these movies because, frankly, they’re safe. Walking back to your car you can boast in your faith tweeting that has now made it to the big screen, or you can flood facebook with all the “wrongness” of them. But they won’t change your mind. They won’t change your mind because your mind isn’t consumed with thoughts of philosophy and after-life speculation. Those are tangents and distractions. For everyone who says they’re waiting for proof or that God is knowable, I’ll show you someone who is afraid of their sins. Not their philosophic sins, but their lies and their lust, their greed and their hatred, the sum total of their lives. In truth, your mind – the minds of all mankind – is consumed with whether or not you’ll be judged.

That’s why so many come to church on Easter but not Good Friday; on Easter but not again until next Easter. Easter is safe. It’s full of bunnies and eggs and happiness. Surely no one will condemn you and show you your sin on Easter. After all, Jesus rose from the dead to do away with sin and sadness. He is risen from the dead and death has lost its sting! Easter is when the preacher has to preach safe and go along to get along. We avoid church because we’re afraid of being judged. For we still buy the serpent’s lie that we can know good and evil without God.

But here you get the rest of the story. You already know that Jesus is risen – even the silver screen tells you that. You even know why He is risen: to do away with sin and sadness and to scatter the darkness and being life and immortality to all mankind. These things the women at the tomb knew, too. They knew that God wanted to do away with sin and to bring life and immortality to light. Ironically, far from the place of being condemned, here is where you are justified by the risen Christ.

But here, at this holy convocation He brings you peace; reconciling you to God. The Lord does not leave you in your fear, but brings you to His Father’s house to show you mercy.

Here you receive His risen body and blood to confirm in you His forgiveness and that you find your share of His eternal life before God. Yes, you are a sinner; yes you deserve death and hell. But also, YES, Christ is risen from the dead and comes with healing in His wings.

Going to church isn’t about being a good Christian – though good Christians go to church – neither is it about proving this or that theological or philosophical proposition, as such things are really just tangents and distractions to the real thing. Going to church, attending the Lord’s gathering is about participating in the risen life of Jesus, receiving His holy, divine absolution, learning from Him that He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; that upon Him was the chastisement that has brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!)

+ In Nomine Iesu +