Enough Faith for our Journey into the Unknown Mark 16:1-18
Beth Henricks April 3rd, 2016
Friends, I am so glad to be with you today and have been praying this week that my message would be God’s words and that this time we have together will be holy and we will experience and be moved by the presence of the risen Christ.
I have been reveling in the majesty and glory of our Easter Sunday that we shared together last week. It was a beautiful day of hope and fulfillment of God’s promise that death is not the end of our story. It was amazing to be with our children in their joy of finding hidden eggs, the beauty of our choir and organ, the hopeful message of what the resurrection story means to each of us, the flowers and the wonderful fellowship that we experienced after the service. I think we all felt a mountaintop experience last Sunday that fills us with hope.
But my mind has ben thinking all week about the aftermath of the resurrection. The glory of Sunday is now followed by a Monday of our complicated lives. How is my life without the physical presence of Jesus now different after his resurrection? How does this resurrection event impact me? This was a pivotal moment for Jesus followers 2,000 years ago and for us today.
When Jesus started his ministry, he called men and women to leave their jobs, leave their homes and families and travel with him to share the ideas of a new way of life in God. These disciples left their occupations because they believed in the message of Jesus – that they would change the world with a radical love to all regardless of social status or class, or gender. A message where the oppressed, the poor, the “other” would be welcomed and given a place of honor at the table. Where fulfilling all the elements of the law was less important than a changed heart full of God’s Light. The power of this message as well as the power of Jesus call must have been strong for these people to turn their lives upside down.
This ministry that Jesus started with his followers was not one that set out to create a new religion - they were looking to change the Jewish faith. The Jews had experienced oppression over various times throughout their history. It is likely when the book of Mark that we read our scripture from today was written, around 65-70 CE, the Romans were destroying the temple in Jerusalem and burning whole Jewish villages to the ground. In this context, the Jews were looking for someone to come from God to save them. As time went on, many of the disciples believed that Jesus was this new Messiah and would establish a new kingdom here on earth and they wanted to be part of this.
But things were not working out as they had planned. Jesus was having a huge impact on the people but the Jewish and Roman authorities were not going to buy into a new social and religious system that would take power away from them. Jesus gave lots of hints to his disciples that he was going to have to suffer and die but that he would live again. His resurrection would break the chain of death. But they did not understand his words.
So when we hear the reaction of the disciples and followers like Mary Magdalene in our scripture reading today, we see that they were afraid, they didn’t tell anyone what they saw and some of them didn’t believe. What were they to do now? This wasn’t what they had expected at all. They had given up their jobs and their families to be a part of this movement with Jesus and now he was gone. How could they possibly go on without Jesus leading the way?
They were also afraid that their association with Jesus would result in their own suffering and death just like Jesus. They knew these rulers would come after them too as part of this movement. They were afraid about what their future would be.
Friends, how many times have we faced a future where we were afraid? Things come at us that we don’t expect and we really don’t know what to do? The plans we have made, the outline we have prepared for our lives can get shattered. Unfair and unjust things happen to us and we really don’t understand why. We get broken apart through illness, divorce, job loss, broken relationships, devastating results of a situation, death. This wasn’t suppose to happen to us - we have embraced a
faithful life in God. We have tried to do the right things. But we don’t understand what is happening and we feel fear.
The question is - what do we do when we are facing our life and peer into darkness? Parker Palmer , one of my favorite Quaker writers said - “If you hold your knowledge of self and world wholeheartedly, your heart will at times get broken by loss, failure, defeat, betrayal, or death. What happens next in you and in the world around you depends on how your heart breaks. If it breaks apart into a thousand pieces, the result may be anger, depression and disengagement. If it breaks open into greater capacity to hold the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the result may be new life.” This is it for me - this is what the resurrection is about and what Jesus was trying to show his disciples.
Our suffering is Jesus suffering. Our life will have suffering and there is no way that we can avoid this. We can make a lot of the right decisions but we will still experience suffering. And loneliness. And pain. But our hearts can break open into greater capacity and we can experience new life. Jesus was telling this to his disciples when he appeared to them after his death. He told them that this new life would take them far beyond what they could have imagined. This is our salvation. We no longer need to fear the darkness. We are truly not alone. The risen Christ is now at the center of our heart. We are a new creation in Christ.
And look what these disciples and followers of Christ did as they took their faith and walked into the darkness? They brought the good news of the resurrection to many people in the land. They performed healings, they established assemblies of believers. They opened up the story of Christ to Gentiles and brought them into relationship with God. They started a church that has influenced the world more than any other movement. They weren’t perfect, they made mistakes and they fell down along the way. They suffered and some were killed for their beliefs. But they took their new life with Christ into the world, into the darkness and began to work towards that new kingdom of heaven here on earth.
As we move into a time of unprogrammed worship where we expectantly wait for God’s voice speaking to us, I ask that you pull out your bulletin and look at this picture of Quaker artist James Turrell on the cover. All of
Turrell’s works are focused on the concepts of light and darkness and he frequently put us into the picture to experience this. I particularly like this picture because we are staring into an abyss, a darkness, an uncertainty. But the Light is behind the darkness and peaks out to us. We do not have to be afraid because the Light is there. We are not alone.
During our time of intimate worship with the divine, I ask that if you hear a message for you alone to hold that and embrace that in your heart. If you feel a sense from God that this message needs to be shared with others please be obedient and stand and share with us.