On March 20th this year spring arrived. I know because the TV weather guy tells me, and they’re always right. A few days later, I awaken – sun shining, warm breeze, birds singing, trees and flowers budding – yes, it’s spring. Then I open my eyes, look out the window. “It’s snowing. Dang” – well, somewhat close to what I said. And that is like the first Easter – shock and fear. The nightmare continues.
That first Easter morning as Mark tells it doesn’t go well. The women arrive to find the tomb unsealed which startles them. An unknown, unnamed fellow dressed in a white robe, an alb perhaps, maybe indicates the first Episcopal priest, greets them (I say that to see if you’re paying attention). Actually, he is probably an angel. The white robe, a give-away – and his words, “Don’t be alarmed.” Remember how angels say something like, “Do not fear,” before delivering frightful news? “You’re looking for Jesus. You’ve come to the right place – but he’s up and gone already. Go tell the disciples and Peter he’s waiting in Galilee, just as he told you.” Well, they throw it in reverse and back out as quickly as possible. What’s going on? They’re speechless – literally. They say nothing to anyone. And Mark’s gospel ends, right there – fear and silence.
But not for us. We know the rest of the story. And if anyone here flees this day you’ll be fleeing church, racing to an Easter brunch ahead of the Methodists. You’d be crazy to get up on a Sunday morning, dress as nicely as you, and come here if the last word of Easter is: “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Embracing a failed, dead messiah as God’s plan takes time.
And why Galilee of all places Jesus could go, if the angel’s speaking truth? Jesus could have done better by showing up with a grand re-entry into Jerusalem, pulling up at the Temple, knocking on the door, “I’d like to see the high priest. Tell him it’s someone he knows.” Or imagine Jesus at the palace, calling on Pilate: “Your Excellency, someone’s out here to see you.” That would really shake things up. But no, Jesus shows up to powerless people like you and me: people who are slow to understand, unfaithful, can’t love fully, can’t remember his words or take him seriously. Only after Pentecost does Peter boldly proclaim Jesus crucified and risen; and Paul telling of his experience with the risen Lord; and Matthew, Luke and John to fill in what Mark lacks. “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Are you afraid? Do you know what to say? We know the story won’t stop there.
I think that’s Mark’s genius. He sets us up and hands off the story. We now are Easter’s evidence and witnesses. When the Lord is risen in us a new day and reality dawn. Easter is the union of God in Jesus, and the divine life breathed into us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We confidently acclaim, “Alleluia Christ is risen” – gathered here solely because Jesus is alive, risen in us, sending us into all the world. Look around you this morning. Are people here because of an idle tale, a wispy vision, a forged story? Even with your doubts, and as hard as this story is to believe sometimes – you are here, the evidence of resurrection. You have been to a Galilee where Jesus meets you, and is alive for and in you. Only God can pull this off, by the Holy Spirit drawing us up into Jesus’ new life. Without resurrection Jesus would merely be a nice guy who tried hard, a decent martyr with unusual gifts, a footnote of ancient history. Without resurrection, the disciples would have scattered, gone back to fishing, never into all the world preaching a new kingdom breaking in on us. Who would be persecuted and die for what’s not true and real? We are witnesses of resurrection – as wonderful and disappointing as Christians and the church can be. Marks hands us his pen. So what do we do?
We cannot explain how Easter happens. We are heirs of what comes next. His followers interpret his death differently than any other crucifixion in history. God comes to us in Jesus, a God who won’t let us stay lost, who shows us in Jesus’ life that sickness, evil, and suffering don’t last; a God with high expectations for us, but an even greater capacity to love and forgive us; a God who whose mercy and justice finally defeat hatred, prejudice, violence, bullying, demeaning jokes, stupid caricatures of those we fear, darkness and even death. Encountering the risen Lord reconfigures our passions and priorities, transforms and redirects us. Nothing in all creation is irredeemable or escapes the love of God. That is Easter.
(Added for the second service today) Baptism is the sacrament that transforms our understanding of our relationship to God. Baptism is the act we commit, or others commit for us to grow into of the risen Lord reconfiguring our being. Today Fletcher Donnelly Foley will receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. He will grow into this Easter story and he will find its meaning for him. We as witnesses of resurrection promise his parents we will help them to help him learn the story. He is baptized as a sign of Easter faith – and that no one escapes the love of God. We are all Gods’ beloved.
Soon we’ll leave here. Tomorrow we’ll hum other tunes – tell other stories. But we’ll keep coming back to this one. For some reason you came today to hear it again, to experience the God who meets us when life is beyond fixing; who gives new beginnings at dead ends; who turns failures into victory we’d never imagine on our own; a God who comes to us in brokenness, resurrecting us from the messes we get into. What joy to receive and hear that news. What terror to receive and hear that good news. God counts on people like us to bear the life of the risen Lord. We cannot leave “saying nothing to anyone.”
“Alleluia, Christ is risen!” We are the evidence. Frederick Buechner writes, “If it is true, there is nothing left to say. If it is not true, there is nothing left to say. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. For some, neither has death.” We tell and live the truth. We are God’s Easter people.
 Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words (HarperOne, 2004).