"When Things Don't Resolve" Easter Sermon by Vicar Sarah Kretschmann
Read Mark 16:1-8
The ending of our Gospel text today is a disorienting one.
We have gotten used to Easter texts and stories which leave us with an encounter with Jesus, a declaration of joy, a newfound understanding, a feeling of wonder at the resurrection.
But Mark’s Gospel does not end that way. Mark’s Gospel ends, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark’s Gospel ends in fear, in fleeing, in silence.
Mark’s Gospel just doesn’t resolve.
And honestly, I can relate.
I thought that we would have a resolution by now. A resolution to this pandemic that has claimed so many lives. A resolution to the economic hardship that has come in its wake.
I thought and hoped communities would be gathering together on the other side of this difficult year, hearing the Easter story, the resurrection, the promise of new life in a different way. But even with the hope of vaccinations and improved treatment, COVID cases continue to rise in our city. And, like Mark, we haven’t yet reached that resolution.
Maybe you, like the women in today’s story, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Salome, are feeling held back from your full Easter joy.
Maybe you, like them, just can’t find the words.
And that is ok.
It is ok if you need to pause for a moment. To allow yourself to feel all the realities of Holy Week, of this Holy and Challenging Year. It is ok if you just can’t find the words for the loss; the pain; the grief; the confusion; the fear; the amazement; the hope for new life.
As I have been struggling to find words this week, turning to everyday resurrection stories, stories of new life, of new beginnings that I encounter at work has been a source of inspiration for me.
My current call is with Lutheran World Relief. Founded by Lutherans in the United States at the end of World War II and grounded in Lutheran theology, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) fights global poverty by helping people adapt to the challenges that threaten their livelihoods and well-being. As an organization, we provide aid in emergencies and help families restore their lives. We partner with communities to build and grow rural economies. We hope one day to break the cycle of extreme poverty in the world, so families and communities can thrive.
There are many resurrection stories in the work that we do. Stories of hope and of new opportunities.
A favorite of mine this month is the story of Walaa Ali al Ali, a refugee who fled the violence in her home city of Aleppo, Syria, to seek refuge in Lebanon. She struggled to adjust at first, taking on odd jobs to survive, but with training and supplies provided through an LWR partnership, Walaa has learned the ins and outs of beekeeping — giving her a new source of income as well as a dream for the future.
Walaa lovingly cares for her four beehives, and in time, hopes to expand her work. One day, she would like to open a restaurant incorporating her love of cooking and honey into this new life she is building.
Now entering its 11th year, the Syrian crisis remains the world’s largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. And alongside resurrection stories, like Walaa’s, there are also so many stories of those still facing violence and poverty. Stories with disappointing endings, like our Gospel for today. Stories that do not have a resolution. Stories of fleeing in fear.
The disciples knew a thing or two about fleeing in fear.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were terrified. They feared they would become victims of Empire, like Jesus was. They feared for their lives and fled back to their homes in Galilee.
This is why in Mark the mysterious man in the empty tomb assures the faithful women, “Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.”
Jesus goes ahead, ready to meet them as they flee home in their time of great fear.
And that truly is the good news, for the disciples, for those fleeing war and seeking refuge in our time, and for us.
Jesus is going ahead of us.
We may not get a resolution in Mark’s Gospel text today, but we do get a promise. A promise that there is no fear that can keep us from experiencing resurrection. Even in the midst of terror and trembling, upheaval and uncertainty, Jesus is going ahead of us, ready to welcome us into new life. Amen.