The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire



April 1, 2018
Easter Sunrise Meditation

Easter Meditation - 10:00am Service *

Scripture Mark 16:1-8
* (click here)

The Rev. Robert Vodra

Easter Sunrise Meditation  

     It is impossible to believe.  We just cannot wrap our heads around it.  We gather together at sunrise, about the time the women came to the tomb.  When they arrived, the stone blocking the entrance was rolled back, and Jesusís  body was gone.  But the women get a word of hope, where there should have been none.  Jesus was dead, there would be no more healing, no more miracles, no more teaching.  It was good while it lasted, but they killed him; their job was to prepare the body for its final burial. 

     But this man in the tomb says ďNot over yet.Ē  Well, he was more elegant with his words, but basically that was what he was saying.  Donít get down, you only thought Jesus was here, but he is not.  Now go, tell the others and go to Galilee, go back to where it all started, and there you will find Jesus. 

     As a minister I want to explain it all.  I went to school for 3 years to learn it, and a lot of time studying after that time.  And I still can not explain the resurrection.  I have heard many ideas.  Some take the Bible as fact. It says that Jesus rose, and that is what happened.  Others feel this is a story - Jesus was killed on a cross, but what if his body was not buried properly, according to the Jewish laws?  Maybe the body was stolen, buried in an unmarked grave. 

     But what I do know is that Jesus is not dead, and you will not find Jesus sitting around waiting for us to find him.  Jesus was not in the grave where the women expected him to be.  He could have hung around for a few hours, and then went with them. No, Jesus is gone, and you better get going if you are going to catch up with him.  But in order to find him, donít guess where he will go; go back to where it all started. 

     For Jesusís disciples it was a physical place they were going back to, but for us I would like to think of a mental place.  When you first learned about this Jesus, were you young or old?  What was happening in your life?  Who was with you?  You may not be able to go back to those physical places, but maybe if you can go back to where your mind was, that is where you may find Jesus again. 

     I think that the women finding the tomb empty is telling us that Jesus may not be where we expect to him to be.  If God were predictable, life would be boring.  God appears in our lives when and where we least expect it.  Jesus is risen - That is impossible to believe, but true.  But we believe that, because we see the risen Christ in each other and all around us. 


Easter Meditation

     This morningís Easter story comes from the book of Mark.  Each of the 4 gospel stories, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all tell the story of Jesusís life.  So really 4 separate stories, each author writing what they have heard, and what they feel are the most important parts to share with their readers.  If you go back to the start of Mark you notice there is no birth story, no manger, no angels or shepherds, no wise men, no story of Jesusís birth at all.  Either Mark didnít know how Jesus may have been born, or it was just not important to his story.  If you are writing a story of someoneís life, you may or may not include every piece you know.  

     So Mark starts his story with the words ďThe beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ...Ē I suggested the week that we had that phrase for our text of the day, that those first few words were not the first words of the first chapter, but really were meant to be the heading or title of Markís gospel.  The beginning of the Good News, the beginning of the gospel, not the story of Jesusís  life, but just the start of this story.  And then Mark jumps right into Jesus, with John the Baptist at the River Jordan, being baptized.  The beginning of the Good News.  But if that is the title, not just of that chapter, but of the whole book, it starts to make our reading today make more sense.  

     Jesus has done a lot over the past 15 chapters.  Mark tells us about his preaching, his healing, some miracles, he is hung on the cross and dies.  The morning after that, nothing happens; itís the sabbath.  Jewish people celebrate the sabbath on Saturday, so no work is done that day.  Early Sunday morning it is time to prepare the body for burial, so the women go to the tomb.  The stone is rolled back, and there is a young man who basically says ďHe is not here, get moving.Ē  The women flee from the tomb because they were afraid - that makes sense - and then tell nobody. That does not make sense.    

     Now if you look at a Bible and go to this chapter in Mark, you will see that after this passage there are two possible endings, usually labeled possible ending #1 and possible ending #2.  Remember that for hundreds of years after this gospel was written, until the printing press, it was copied by hand.  If you were copying this, from a hand written copy to another hand written copy, when you got to the end of that line, you would be looking around to see where you dropped the last page.  If they fled and told nobody, then how did you get the story written down. So those two possible endings, most scholars believe, were added later, by others with good intentions.  

     Maybe Mark did mean to leave it there.  If this whole book is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, his rising from the dead is still part of the beginning of the good news.  If you are writing a good book, you donít give away the ending in chapter 1.

     That is what I think Easter is really all about.  Sure, the stories of Jesus are important, but that was just the start of it.  His crucifixion, his resurrection, the start of the story.  And I hope the end of the story is Godís kingdom, we pray for it every week.  

     Parts of the middle of the story are already written.  And there are some amazing parts.  People who have done great things, at least in part, because of their faith.  And you donít even have to go to an encyclopedia or google to find those people. Many are around us every day, working for justice and equality, speaking up when they see evil and praising the good they see.  And just like any story there are parts we would like to forget.  Some horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity.  And that is our history, the good and the bad.  

     But each day we turn to a new blank page.  In fact, you can turn to that new blank page any time you want and start a new chapter.  The continuation of the good news of Jesus Christ.  

     Jesusí message is pretty simple to remember.  Love one another.  That is, however, much harder to actually do.  There are people who are hard to love.  You know who they are.  I know who they are.  In my life they have different names, different bodies, but they are the ones who just get under your skin.  Seems they do things just to upset you.  The more passionate you are about an issue, the more negative they are about the same issue.  If you suggest option A, they insist on option B.

     We go back to the stories of Jesus.  We remember that he sat and talked with the Samaritan Woman at the well.  He became friends with the tax collector and prostitutes.  He taught us that God loves us all, even those little children.  Easy to say, easy to remember, hard to do.

     Unfortunately, as we write our chapters, we can not go back and erase.  Our mistakes, and the mistakes of our forbearers, we live with.  But with each new page, we have the opportunity to love as Jesus loved.  This does not mean agree or accept.  We should still stand up for justice and equality, but I can still disagree and love you.  

     So start your new chapter anytime you want.  Right now could be the time in which you decide that it is time to start that new chapter.  Today we finished reading the first part of the beginning of the good news, now it is our time to write the middle.