Christ is Risen!

This is the sermon I preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Easter Sunday morning. The text was Mark 16:1-8.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Today, we conclude our series, Altered by the Spirit. Today’s theme is “Life Altered” and indeed it was for Jesus and the disciples.

We love Easter, don’t we? Perhaps we got some new clothes. I’m wearing a new clergy
blouse. When I saw the color, I couldn’t resist. It’s called rose. I was thrilled when it
arrived in time for Easter. But is that all there is to Easter?

As children, we went to Easter egg hunts. Or our parents hid eggs in the yard for us to
find. I remember, my father always taped a penny to every egg. Is this what Easter is
about? We enjoy our own children, nieces and nephews and grandchildren enjoying this
annual ritual. But is that all there is to Easter?

We love getting together with family for a wonderful meal. Is it ham or turkey in your
family? Growing up, it was ham. With Ray, it is turkey. Next weekend will be our time of
celebration with my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Nick. They are coming down
from Rochester. Family times are precious, but is that all there is to Easter?
All of these may be part of our celebration of Easter, as we recognize Jesus' triumph
over sin, death, and the power of the devil. Let’s look more closely at Mark’s view of
Jesus’ resurrection and how some women celebrated the first Easter.

My Gospels prof declared there is no resurrection account in Mark’s gospel. According
to Bible scholar Lamar Williamson, "Mark's ending [to his gospel] is no end; only the
reader can bring closure."Another odd thing about Mark’s version is that it ends with a
conjunction meaning “however” or “for.” We don’t end sentences like this, let alone
books. The gospel continues in and through us.

The women in this text have been with Jesus from the early days of his ministry.
They’ve been in the background, but have supported his ministry all along. They were
there as he suffered death, and they are here ready to do the things normally done to
dead bodies. “Spices were used not to preserve the body, but as an act of love, and to
mask the growing stench of a corpse” (netbible.com).

But, their very action of preparing to anoint Jesus’ body with spices shows us they did
not believe that he was alive, raised from the dead. We may judge them harshly, as
they knew him so well.

I don’t think I would be much better, how about you? It is so hard to believe what Jesus
and God’s word calls fact, when what we see in front of us is so contrary to that.
Fear is a great motivator. It can save us from doing something harmful to ourselves or
others. In our brains, it affects the fight/flight emotions. But it can be paralyzing. Of
course, the usual words of the young man, likely an angel, are “Do not be alarmed.”
Alarmed in Greek is defined as, “throw into terror or amazement 1a) to alarm
thoroughly, to terrify 2) to be struck with amazement 2a) to be thoroughly amazed,
astounded” (New English Translation, notes). The women weren’t just scared. They
were thoroughly terrified, with a mixture of amazement and astonishment.

The three were so impacted by fear, terror and amazement, the text states, that they
said nothing to anyone about their experience with the angel in the tomb. They had
been instructed to “Go [and] tell,” but they didn’t, at least not initially. Somehow, some
way, the word got out and spread throughout the Holy Land and all over the world. We
can assume that their lives were “Altered by the Spirit.”

We have all experienced fear at one time or another. The dogs and I have seen coyotes
in the backyard. That certainly scared me. We read up on them and then would go out
with bright lights at night and during the day prepared to make a loud noise to drive
them away.

When I lived with my young family, in Bethlehem, in the Holy Land, late one evening, we
heard soldiers going to our neighbors’ houses, knocking loudly and shouting. They
eventually made their way to our apartment, and we were scared. They didn’t bother us
and went away. Both instances created paralyzing fear in me. They both called for care
and caution.

In the book of Acts, we find many examples of these fearful, unbelieving followers of
Jesus, whose lives were altered and described as, “These people who have been
turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The work of the Holy Spirit had made their
lives and world topsy-turvy. Their lives were altered, and they shared that good news
with their world.

Have we allowed our lives to be altered by the Spirit? Or are we just here because
that’s what’s done, what’s expected on Easter? Such altering is not something we can
accomplish on our own. It is God’s work, thank God. God is God and we are not! I thank
God for that.

The Holy Spirit expels fear from our lives, enabling us to spread the gospel, the good
news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. He is alive! Death could not keep
him in the tomb.Are we open to letting God work in us, enabling us to do things we never thought we
could for Jesus’ sake? I grew up in an ordinary suburban family. Church and God were
not part of our lives, though I had my first communion and confirmation. Somehow, God
took hold of my life through a friend. My life was altered, and here I am with you today.

One doesn’t have to be a “professional” minister to serve God, to be a spreader of the
Gospel, to have your “Life Altered” by the Spirit. Martin Luther taught:

Plain, ordinary work is transformed into a Christian vocation as the Christian exercises
his faith-active-in-love. Work is no longer simply a job or occupation; it is a calling, a
vocation. It is a summons from God. Vocation is also where the Spirit sanctifies the
Christian’s life, not in a self-centered quest for perfection, but rather in humble service to
the neighbor. (Robert Benne, Martin Luther on the Vocations of the Christian)

 

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