What’s the last note?

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Easter, Year B, April 5, 2015

Isaiah 25.6-9; Acts 10.34-43; Mark 16.1-8

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson


Grace and peace to you from the One who has been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

My friend Elly (who is with us today) is both cursed and blessed with perfect pitch.  Blessed because she can easily read music and also know any note immediately.

But! Perfect pitch is also a curse for her. To drive Elly nuts, my husband, Jon, will sing a song and not finish it. Like if he were finishing the song of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” he’ll sing: “Like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you…”

Or, he would sing the last word, but on a note that was really off key: “Like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.”

It greatly disturbs Elly to not have a song end like it’s supposed to end, to not have resolution.

Our Gospel reading today of the resurrection story of Jesus has no resolution. We could say, “It doesn’t end like it’s supposed to end!” The salvation story of the entire cosmos according to the Gospel of Mark end with fear and amazement, where the witnesses to the promise proclaimed and the empty tomb say nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

What’s the last note? How is this story resolved? It’s like a movie ending with a black screen and the words: “To be continued…”

There were people who were so disturbed by this ending of the Gospel of Mark that they decided to write 11 more verses, a shorter version and a longer version, to tidy things up. In these verses the women tell what they saw, Jesus appears to disciples, and he ascends into heaven.

But scholars agree that terror and amazement are what ends the Gospel of Mark. It is not a tidy ending all wrapped up with a bow, and this is why I find the resurrection story according to Mark so powerful and compelling.

I find it so because life and death are anything but tidy and often don’t have much resolution. People die suddenly and tragically, we often hurt the people we love the most, all over there is war and violence, and no goodbye is ideal saying everything one wants to say.

I can’t help but think of all of the stories Peder told about his ancestors in his Good Friday sermon.  Painful story after painful story.  Untimely deaths, the loss of a family farm, the shame of unwed pregnancy, daily toil and struggle to survive, and one individual leaving the only land and family she had ever known never to see them again.

None of these stories were tidy or had resolution. Frayed ends, disappointment, fear, uncertainty.  We know that life can be like this, and most like this when death is involved.

On our way home from worship Liz said to me, “Good Friday without Easter must have been terrifying.”

The women who went to the tomb that first resurrection dawn did not know Easter was coming having witnessed Jesus’ murder only two days prior.  Instead of finding Jesus body in the tomb they find a messenger who speaks the good news to them in their grief and confusion: “Do no be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.”

He has been raised …

So what if Jesus has been raised?  Has it made a difference in your life?  Does it make a difference in your life?  Will it?

It has made a difference in mine.  In fact, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the angel’s promise at the tomb has sustained and saved my life.

Many or all of us have experienced the death of loved ones or situations in which when we look around all we seem to see is hopelessness and pain. We are on the campus of a correctional facility for goodness sake.  So many of us have suffered, really suffered because of loss, addiction, blame, guilt, shame, homelessness … you name it.

I myself have lived through the deaths of my first husband, 3 uncles, and 4 grandparents.  All of these deaths have been painful, tragic, and untimely.

The death and resurrection of Jesus, most especially in these times, has touched my life more deeply than anything else on this earth because it tells me that death is not the end, that Christ swallows up death forever, and that God destroys its power and its ability to render us hopeless.

Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead are supposed to speak directly to all of the ways in our lives that we feel alone, mistreated, and misunderstood, but never more so than when we have to face our own death.

Because of who Jesus is and what God has done through him, Christ meets you in your darkest of nights, sits with you in your loneliness, walks with you in your sickness and trials, and will ultimately take your hand when you give up your breath and bring you into new life.

The power of the resurrection lies it in its ability to affect us now in the present, not just in the future God has planned for us.  There are signs all the time that resurrection is real:

Hope as one stares into the grave of a loved one.

Laughter in the midst of and after loss.

Sobriety in addiction.

Forgiveness in severed relationships.

Healing in sickness.

Belief in unbelief.

Peace in war.

Springtime flowers after a harsh winter.

Courage in the face of ones own death.

This is why resurrection matters and doesn’t need to be all neat and tidy.  The promise breaks into our unresolved messy lives and speaks a word of truth … that you are loved and are offered new life every time you open your eyes to each new day.

Jesus’ resurrection is not just so that we can feel good and have a few Easter eggs today.  He was raised from death so that we can live our lives and bear our pain and our loses in light of the promise of the resurrection.  It is meant to give us hope even when we cannot understand it all.

The Gospel of Mark is meant to be understood as a whole.  Jesus’ whole life and ministry was always about resurrection, always wanting new life for all those he encountered. He met people where they were at, healed, challenged, taught, loved, died and rose again so that the power of the love of God and the power of the resurrection could be real in your life.

I find the second half of the witness of the messenger in the empty tomb just as powerful as “he has been raised.”

“…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.”

Jesus goes before you. You will see him in your daily, ordinary life.  Because he lives, he meets you in your cottage or home, when you pray in your room at night, when you gather around a table with others…this communion table today…when you serve and love those around you Jesus is present in your life.

May the witness of the messenger and the power of Christ’s resurrection sustain your faith and give you hope this day and always.