Summit Presbyterian Church
April 8, 2012
Mark 16: 1-8
Easter Fear, Easter Joy
"They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." These are the last words that Mark wrote in his gospel that began: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God." It's a strange ending. So strange that early scribes who copied Mark's gospel added endings of their own -- you can read them in your Bibles. These endings include appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples, and the proclamation of the good news throughout the world. These endings make sense. They make sense logically, because the women must have broken their silence or no one would know about their visit to the tomb. They make sense theologically, because the last word in the good news of Jesus Christ is not fear, but joy. "That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright," says the hymn, and it was, for Jesus had conquered death. "Let shouts of Holy Joy outburst," we just sang, "Alleluia, Alleluia."
So the last word is joy but it seems Mark didn't get that memo. Oh, maybe he didn't mean to end there - something could have happened when he was on the final chapter. His dog could have eaten the last page. But in the gospel we have, he ends with the silence and fear of the three women. Three women who loved Jesus. Three women who had the courage to go to the tomb (unlike their bretheren). Three women who then fled the tomb, seized by terror and amazement, so frightened they couldn't speak. But sometime later, outside of Mark's telling -- perhaps in Galilee, as the Angel promised - they met Jesus, and their tongues were loosened. Or the Holy Spirit moved within them and they realized the empty tomb was good news. We don't hear about that moment of conversion, the happy reunion with tears and embraces, the moving from silence to speech. And it's good that Mark didn't tell us, because if he had we had we may have forgotten how frightened the women were. We may have forgotten how slow they were to believe.
We may not have realized how much those first witnesses were like us. Frightened, and saying nothing to anyone about the things that scare us most. That new pain in our leg, the results of a medical test. A child who seems to be losing their way. Conflict with family or friends. Gun-toting citizens who think some people just look dangerous or who don't care who gets caught in the crossfire. Climate change. War. All kinds of dangers, all kinds of pain, all manner of powers and principalities that frighten us into silence.
But it's in those places of fear and silence that the risen Lord comes to us, too. Offering the comfort of his Holy Spirit as we struggle with pain and illness. Promising to be there when two or three are gathered in his name, so there's nothing we can't talk about. Granting us hope and courage as we face the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced. Assuring us that when we leave this mortal coil, we have everlasting life in him. Inviting us to turn to him, and to trust in his love. Do not be alarmed, said the angel -- Christ is not here, he has been raised!
You may remember, beginning in the 80s, a poster used by AIDS activists that had a lavender triangle on it and the words Silence=Death. Those words referred to the silence of people with AIDs who were - understandably - afraid to speak up, given they were already stigmatized. They referred to the silence of the gay community, which was still largely closeted. They referred to the silence of good but fearful people: people frightened of getting AIDS, people frighted of being associated with people who had AIDS. And they referred to the silence of the Reagan administration. These posters urged people to break their silence. It took a while, but as more people started speaking and taking action, things changed. Attitudes changed, programs were begun, money was spent, lives were saved. There's still much work to do around AIDS, there's still much suffering, but the breaking of silence - by many different kinds of people - led to life.
The women, while they were silent and fearful, still remained in the shadow of the crucifixion. When they fled in terror, saying nothing to anyone, they still had one foot in the tomb. But once they starting speaking, everything changed. Once they began sharing their story of the empty tomb, of the angel and the good news, they entered into the joy of discipleship. Once they trusted in the Risen Christ, they had new life.
If silence=death, Sharing=joy. Sharing Christ's love by caring for one another = equals joy. Sharing the forgiveness we know in Christ by forgiving one another = joy. Sharing in the mission of Christ's church by serving the least of these and standing up for justice = joy. Sharing in worship, prayer and song = joy. Sharing the news that Christ has risen, that death and suffering does not have the last word = joy. So, along with those three women, let's joyfully share the good news: Christ has Risen, Christ has risen indeed! Alleluia, Amen.