April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday, Choose Your Own Adventure – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell
To listen to this sermon, click here: Z0000075
When my kids were probably middle-school age, they discovered a series of books called “Choose your own adventure” books. They were written on a very, very low literary level, and every story was pretty much the same as every other story, as far as I could tell, but they were all the rage for while at our house. The way it worked was that at various points in the exciting adventure, the reader was given a choice of two options. For an example, the hero, you, are passing by a creepy abandoned house, and you hear a scream from inside the house. Do you 1) run like crazy and get as far away from that house as you can? Or 2) run into the house and find out what is happening? And depending on your choice, you turn to page whatever and find that you have been eaten by a monster or found a secret passage or something – and the story continues, with more choices and more exciting adventures.
Every Easter we read the story of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is the greatest adventure story in the history of the human race, bar none. And because we have four gospel accounts, we are blessed to hear the story of Easter morning from four different perspectives.
Matthew tells us how the faithful women, who had stayed with Jesus to the end, came at the crack of dawn to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. He tells about the earthquake that shook the huge stone away from the entrance of the tomb at the descent of God’s angel, and how the angel met the women and calmed their fears and gave them a little tour of the empty tomb. And then Matthew tells us how, when the women ran off to tell everyone what they could hardly believe themselves, they ran right into Jesus himself, and fell at his feet in sheer joy and wonder.
Luke, the doctor and historian, gives us lots of names and details in the story. He tells us that the women had come carrying the spices they had prepared for anointing Jesus’ body properly (because it had been done in haste on the eve of the Sabbath, and by men,who might not have done quite the best job of it). Luke tells us there were not one, but two, angels when the women arrived, and he tells us that when the women ran to tell the rest of the disciples what they knew, the men refused to believe them and Peter ran off to see for himself.
John tells us that he went with Peter to check out the women’s story – and that incidentally, he, John, got there first. And he tells us that when he and Peter found everything exactly as the women had described it they still didn’t know what to make of it. And then John gives us the tender account of Mary Magdalene, who was the very first to hear the voice of the risen Jesus, when he spoke her name, as she wept in the garden. And John tells us that Mary was the first evangelist – the first person to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ Resurrection.
And then there is the account that Mark wrote for us, the gospel we read this morning. One of the fascinating things about this account, I think, is that as the gospel of Mark was copied and recopied in the centuries after Jesus’ death and Resurrection, scribes often tacked on endings, filling in the blanks from the other gospel accounts. They seem to have felt that Mark gave his story too much of a cliff-hanger ending, that surely it would be better to give it some resolution. Some later manuscripts of Mark’s gospel add the story of Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus, others tell about the women who brought word back to Peter and the rest of the disciples. But the earliest manuscripts that we have available, the ones most likely to be Mark’s own version, just end like this: “And they (the women) went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” End of story.
Mark brings us to that very moment when the women had seen for themselves that the huge stone had been rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, that the tomb was empty and that the dead body of Jesus was certainly not there. And as if that were not confusing enough, they had come face to face with an angelic messenger from God, who spoke to them, telling them that Jesus – the Jesus whose agonizing death they had seen with their own eyes – had gone ahead of them and would meet them in Galilee.
And then Mark ends his story, leaving the women there, running from the tomb, in silent, trembling, terrified amazement.
And I believe, though of course I can’t say for sure, that Mark leaves the women at that very moment, because he wants to bring us to that very moment as well. What do we make of the body of Jesus that was certainly dead (we remembered that in solemn sadness on Friday night) but then….was simply not there anymore? What are we to make of an angel – or two – whose clothes are so bright you can hardly bear to look at them, and who were seemingly sitting around waiting for those women just so they could give them the good news? What are we to make of a living Jesus who speaks, and who eats fish, and whose feet can be grasped, but who can enter a locked room without bothering to open the door? What are we to make of a living Jesus, who bears the fatal scars of his own death – but lives and breathes?
Mark leaves us to meditate on the Resurrection in our own silent, trembling, terrified amazement – and to believe, or not. On this Easter morning, Mark has left us to choose our own adventure. And we have come here to choose, and to celebrate, the True, Risen, Living, Jesus.
Alleluia! The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!