8 April 2012 ~ EASTER SUNDAY ~ “Embracing the Awe”

Scriptures:            Acts 10:34-43                          Mark 16:1-8

Awesome and amazing God ~ In our excitement and our celebrations this Easter morning, open us up to hear Your word of hope as we embrace the amazing gift You have given us.  Amen.

AWESOME is a word that is almost overused these days.  Things that are beautiful and breathtaking, we declare are AWESOME.  Two people reach an agreement regarding a particular event or problem, they declare it to be AWESOME.  In other words: that instant or agreement is a moment that is filled with AWE.

SO:  I gotta ask:  What fills you withAWE?

What AMAZES you?

Our Gospel reading today is from Mark … and Mark’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus is short and sweet and to the point with NO frills added.  As I read through the Gospel, I found 2 pivotal moments that draw us deeper into the story.

The first is THE SPICES.  Unlike Luke’s gospel … this author tells us that the women ~ Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome ~ went and BOUGHT the spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  They didn’t raid their cupboards and use what they had on hand.  NO!  They pooled their meager savings and purchased the freshest … most aromatic spices that their money could buy.

Remember: in those days ~ there was no embalming of a dead body.  The bodies were cleaned, anointed and wrapped in clean linen … and placed in a grace, allowing the natural process to take over.

Jesus had been buried now for several days … and now the women were taking the spices in order to remove the stench of death from their friend … a friend who had died a horrible death on a cross.  And, what a wonderful aroma those spices must have provided … the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, frankinsence and myrrh perfuming the air as they made their way to Jesus’ grave.

The second pivotal moment that caught my attention was the conversation about THE STONE.  Perhaps the women were so intent on making their purchase and preparing the spices that they never took time to think about how they wouldGETto Jesus’ body in order to give it the proper preparation for final burial.

And, soNOW~ as they make their way through the dark, as the first rays of dawn streak the sky …NOW~ as they make their way through a silent cemetery … it is onlyNOWthat the women are concerned about WHO will roll the stone away for them.

In those days, a large stone would have been placed over the opening to the grave … not only to protect the body from the elements but also to deter grave robbers and scavengers from desecrating the tomb and the deceased.  What a true testimony it is to these women’s love of Jesus and dedication to providing a proper burial for Jesus that their FIRST thought would be to obtain the sweetest spices … and THEN to wonder who might be in the cemetery who could help them get into the tomb!

BUT: as we just heard … when they reached the tomb … they saw that the stone had already been removed and the tomb was open. NOW:  think about this for a minute.  It is dark … you are in a cemetery … every sound is accentuated …ANDyou are standing in front of an open tomb.   What would YOU have done in that moment?!!!  Stand frozen in place, too scared to move?  Run away as fast as your legs could carry you?

Well, these women must have been made of sterner stuff that I!  Because we hear that the women enter the tomb!  No hesitation … they don’t stop to peek around the opening first … they don’t debate the issue … they simply walk right in!

And, there they discover a young man … a messenger of God.  … who quickly reassures them and calms their fears (yeah!NOWthey are afraid!!), this angel tells them that Jesus is NOT there … that, just as Jesus had foretold, He ‘has been raised’ …ANDthat He is now heading to Galilee, where they will find Him.

And then the angel commissions the women … “Now GO!  Share this good news with the disciples … and especially with Peter, who rebuked Jesus and denied even knowing Him while Jesus stood trial.”  In other words: this news is too good to keep to yourself … GO and SHARE it with everyone!

CHRIST IS RISEN!  ALLELUIA!!  CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!  Our Easter greeting is STUPENDOUS … MAGNIFICENT … simply the MOST WONDERFUL news that we can share with each other!  News this wonderful stirs our hearts … brings big smiles to our faces … fills our hearts with hope. ANDIT SHOULD BE CELEBRATED.

I would like to share a brief story with you.  Many years ago, I lived in Athens, Greece for 4 years.  In the Greek tradition, Easter is an even more important holiday than Christmas … and is celebrated to the max!  I will never forget attending church on Holy Saturday evening.  The worship service started at 11 PM, in a church that was dark, dreary … the beautifully ornamented walls and statues draped in somber cloth.  Just before midnight, the entire congregation, carrying unlit candles, would move outdoors … followed by the old Babas … the senior cleric of the church … who would emerge carrying a lighted candle.  Slowly, silently, we would share the candle light with each other.  And, right on the stroke of midnight, the Babas would intone:  Χριστός ανέστη … which means: CHRIST IS RISEN!  And, precisely at that moment: people would begin blaring their car horns … and the boats in the harbor would begin tooting the boat’s horn repeatedly.  THIS was a major celebration … a celebration that rivals and surpasses our New Year’s Eve celebrations.

In other words:  this was party time!!!  News this wonderful MUST NOT be kept to yourself …AND, faced with news this stupendous, I don’t think it would be inappropriate for us to have balloons and streamers drop down on us at this moment!!!

On this glorious Easter morning … we celebrate that we are an Easter people … that we are people of the Resurrection.  And, as people of the Resurrection, we also inherit the same message and commission that the angel shared with the women 2,000 years ago.  The gospel tells us that those women left the tomb, filled with terror and amazement … trying, I am sure, to comprehend the news they had just heard YET, ultimately, fulfilling their commission.

Surrounded by the warm glow of our celebration of Christ’s resurrection this morning … we will leave here ~ knowing we have experienced God’s immense love, personified in the presence of our Risen Savior … forever offering us the promise of forgiveness, presence, peace and love for all eternity.

As we move from here to our family celebrations and into the coming week … may we Live (with a capital “L”) fully as Easter people … following Jesus who will always meet us on the road to our own Galilees … and, at the same time, sharing the Good News:  CHRIST IS RISEN!  CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!!!


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