Easter Sunday – The Unfinished Story…

Easter Sunday – The Unfinished Story…

Easter Sunday: The Unfinished Story
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Mark 16:1-8

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with Phil sharing the way that Mark records the resurrection narrative and how we have the opportunity to write the next part of the resurrection story!

I want to spend a little time while the kids are outside making the Easter Egg bags to explore one aspect of the Easter story that our reading from the Gospel of Mark highlights…

Did anyone else feel that this reading … I don’t know … finished abruptly … like it wasn’t quite finished.

Since January, each week in church we have been working through the gospel of Mark – story by story – and we have noticed that Mark writes in a way which feels … rushed.  He barely finishes one bit when he is onto the next story. 

And now, as we have reached the end of the gospel – the last chapter … and it has this weird ending.  As Mark tells it – the women go to the tomb and find it empty … and a young man in white says, “You are looking for Jesus.  He is not here – He is Risen.  He’ll meet you in Galilee”.  And then Mark writes in the final verse in his gospel …

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

And that it.  That’s the end of the Gospel.  As I said … it feels … unfinished.  Like the last page is missing.   Did they go to Galilee?  Did they see the Risen Jesus?  What happens next? We get none of that … just “they said nothing because they were afraid”.  The End.   It’s a weird way to end a gospel. 

As I said, … It feels unfinished.

On the side – if you go home and look in your bible, you might find that this last chapter of Mark has an additional 12 verses added on.  There is evidence that around 60 years after Mark published his gospel, the leaders of the church couldn’t handle the “unfinished nature” of Mark’s gospel and finished it for him.  These extra 12 verses which were added do wrap things up nicely … but this is not what Mark intended.  His OG gospel has this open-ended, unfinished feel.  And I think that there is something profound in this.

I wonder whether Mark left his gospel unfinished because he wanted to convey that this Good News of Jesus and the Good News of Easter is … unfinished.  That there is more to the narrative of how the risen Jesus can speak and change people’s lives that is still to be written.  This story is not ended … and we are given the opportunity to be part of that story.

Do you get what I am saying here?  In Mark’s style of rushing from story to story, he has written about Jesus death and then onto the resurrection and then … and then what?  It’s like Mark is pointing at us and says … you write the next bit.  You decide what happens next?

As I said, the early church leaders about 60 years after Mark took up this challenge and added an extra 12 verses – talking about how the risen Jesus did meet with them and others and encouraged them to share this good news everywhere!  But that was their ending … what is your ending? 

This weekend, we’ve experienced the darkness of suffering Maundy Thursday; Jesus’ death on Good Friday and this morning we have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and – like Claudia – the transformation that this brings.

But what does this mean for you?  As you pick up this unfinished story … what are you going add?  What narrative are you going to write?  What difference has the cross make in your life?  What transformation does the resurrection bring in the situations you are facing?

The narratives we write will be different from each other because the situations we find ourselves in are different.  A simple approach to this might be to ponder the question, “Which part of the Easter story has been jumping out at you this year?  What part of the Lent readings or Maundy Thursday or the cross or the resurrection narratives have moved you or made you think?

I read this story of a woman who felt that her whole life was falling apart.  Her marriage had broken down after love was replaced with anger and abuse.  Her kids had made bad choices in life and were now suffering the consequences.  And now her doctor had told her that she may have cancer and that they would need to do some more test.    It was like she would be dealing with one tragedy when another would strike.

She was sitting in a church at Easter looking at the crucifix on the wall and in her mind, she yelled at this crucified Jesus … Why aren’t you helping?  You have no idea what this is like – to feel alone and abandoned … forgotten by God.  And then the Good Friday words of Jesus was read out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”.  Tears flowed freely as she realised that Jesus could relate to her.  And even though her life wasn’t transformed into something that was easy, she was changed that Easter because she now knew that Jesus understood and that Jesus would never leave her.

Another story I read a long time ago was about a lady from one of those gospel churches in the states.  She said that the image that comes to mind at Easter is a fork.  Not a fork in the road, but the cutlery fork.   The pastor at her church asked her why she links Easter with a fork and she replied, “I love to coming to the church social evening because there was so much great food.  I love that moment when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, because someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork!’ and I knew something better was coming—like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.”  She went on to explain that Easter is her “keep your fork” moment.  “I feel so blessed in my life but every Easter when I hear about the cross and resurrection … it is like God is leaning over and saying “Keep your fork … the best is still to come”.   I like that.

So how was the message of Easter spoken to you this year?  If I asked you after the service, what might your story be?

As I approached Easter this year, I wondered how I was going to feel?  How was I going to react to the Easter message of death and resurrection in the light of my sister’s death six months ago?  What I have found is that I have been leaning a little more towards Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15.

For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is linked with our own resurrection.  Paul logically steps through … if Christ was raised from the dead, then we can trust in the promise that as humans … death is not the end for us, that we too will be resurrected just like Jesus.  And I guess because of my experience of my sister dying … I have found myself leaning a little more into this promise.   

It’s really tough when someone you love dies … but the resurrection of Jesus means that this is not the end of the story.  The good news of Easter Sunday is that just as Jesus was resurrected to eternal life; I can find hope, I can trust that my sister has also been resurrected; transformed … and experiencing eternal life.  I guess that this would be part of the story that I would add to Mark’s unfinished gospel.  That we can have hope, even in the midst of our grief, that death is not the end. 

That would be my story … what about you? 

Where you find yourself this Easter?

What does the cross or resurrection mean for you?

But note – we don’t have to work this out alone.  God has blessed us with people around us, and a church community so that together we can work out how the good news of Easter helps and transforms us.

Take this amazing cross that we have used this Easter as an example.  I have had a few people ask if the cross was my idea.  Well … that is hard to say because while I love being creative, most of my creativity comes in collaboration with others.   

Sure, I started the idea after seeing something on the internet – using tiles and paint – and shaped that into something we maybe could use in church.  But it was the worship support team that helped refine and improve those ideas, and Geoff worked out the practicalities of the cross.   Liesl took the idea of wrapping and came up with that tender, loving act that we saw on Friday, and Edwina and Mia took the idea of adding colour and created this masterpiece we have today. 

In the same way, while Mark invites us to continue his unfinished Easter story … we don’t have to do that alone.  We are all here to encourage each other and help each other as we work out what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for us? 

I can see the kids getting anxious to get the Egg Hunt underway.  I am sure that for many of us, today will be filled with energy, maybe family gatherings, maybe eating lots of chocolate.  Whatever your day holds … don’t leave Mark’s story unfinished. 

Work out what God might be stirring in your life today. 

Ponder what this Good News of Easter means for you…

– the forgiveness and grace that comes through the cross

– the offer of help and healing for our brokenness

– the new life that the resurrection brings and the transformation that comes from experiencing the risen Jesus

What is it about this Easter message that you find yourself leaning towards today … and what might be the next part of the story that you write.  Don’t leave the Easter story unfinished … work out what’s next. 

If you would like to talk to me more about this then give me a call this week … I’d love to chat.

May we all experience the fullness of the Good News this Easter.  Amen