Easter 3B, 2012
Luke 24: 36b-39a, 45-48
A Liturgy is also available
IN THE AFTERGLOW OF EASTER WHEN LIFE MATTERS MORE
I’ve got another bone to pick this morning!
Not with any of you, I might hasten to add.
But again with those who prepared the Lectionary.
As you already know this year the gospel story emphasis
is on the storyteller we call Mark.
But if you do just a brief skim of the set gospel readings since Lent,
there has only been four of Mark’s stories selected.
And there won’t be any more until we move into the season After Pentecost.
That’s four stories out of a possible 16!
(Although I did drop in an additional Mark story a couple of weeks back).
Some claim it is because Mark’s stories don’t add up to much - volume wise.
That we need to supplement his stories with the stories of others,
to fill up the whole year.
But one in four is not a supplement. It is take-over!
Well, I don’t want to give up on Mark’s Easter just yet.
So bear with me as I again spend some time with this original storyteller
before we see where Luke’s story fits in.
The storyteller we call Mark has the earliest Easter story in the whole of the New Testament.
And it really is a surprising story.
The first surprise is: Mark’s story is so brief. Eight verses to be exact.
If we compare this with the other gospel storytellers:
Matthew’s story has 20 verses,
John’s story has 56 verses, while
Luke’s story has 53 verses.
The second surprise is: Mark does not have any so-called ‘appearance’ stories.
All the appearance stories are found in the other,
much later, gospel accounts.
What Mark does have is the indication:
the disciples will see/experience/be aware of, Jesus in Galilee.
And the third surprise is: Mark’s Easter story ends very abruptly.
The women fled from the tomb.
“They didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone: talk about terrified...” (Mark 16:8 Scholars Version).
Such a surprise and puzzling ending was deemed
“unsatisfactory as early as the second century, when a longer ending was added to Mark (16:9-20)” (Borg & Crossan 2006:196).
It is on to this story, Mark’s story, that the other storytellers
- Matthew and John and Luke - expanded and changed.
Indeed each storyteller has his own collection of different stories.
Matthew’s stories are set in the garden and in Galilee.
Luke’s stories are centred on Jerusalem
combined with a commissioning - our gospel story today.
John’s stories combine garden and Jerusalem.
One storyteller did not expect his local audience
to pick up the other storyteller’s text and ‘fill in the gaps’, so to speak.
Neither are all the stories easily reconcilable.
Of them perhaps this is all that can be said:
“(They) are the product of the experience and reflection of Jesus’ followers in the days, months, years, and decades after his death”
(Borg & Crossan 2006:198).
Today is known as Easter 3,
we are “still in the shadow, or afterglow, of the resurrection at Easter” (Rick Marshall P&F web site 2006).
So what can we say of all this? Perhaps these claims.
(i) Jesus lives.
Jesus is not among the dead, but among the living.
His spirit “was still coursing through their veins” (Patterson 2004:4).
(ii) God has vindicated Jesus.
God has said ‘yes’ to Jesus and ‘no’ to the powers who executed him.
Stephen Patterson has what I reckon is this important comment:
“The followers of Jesus did not believe in him because of the resurrection. They believed in the resurrection because they first believed in him and in the spiritual life he unleashed among them” (Patterson 2004:121).
True, his death mattered to them. But only because his life mattered more...
So they began to speak of his death in ways that affirmed his life.
And they came to see he stood for something so important
he was willing to give his life for it (Patterson 2004:127).
That something was his passion or vision of life called the empire of God.
And they came to reaffirm their own commitment
to the values and vision stamped into his life
by his words and deeds.
They believed that “in his words were God’s words” (Patterson 2004:127).
And that his vision of a new empire,
cultivated by him among them long before he died,
no executioner or cross could kill.
Likewise, when we believe in this vision of a possible new empire,
we too can reaffirm our commitment
to the values and vision, and a ‘resurrection’ invitation,
to live life deeply and generously.
To be embraced by life, not scared of it.
In all its particularity. Because life can not remain visionary!
It must be concretely practised.
And for our gospel storyteller this morning, Luke,
“to fulfil the hope of the resurrection is to tell the story of Jesus. That means telling what he did, how he was rejected and then vindicated; and it is at the same time to live it by the power of the same Spirit, by doing good and bringing liberation for all” (WLoader web site, 2003).
The ‘truth’ of the resurrection stories are not about their historical facuality.
Their ‘truth’ is rooted in the Source of Life we name as God,
and which lives on for us and through us and among us, today.
Today is also a good time to think about a Stewardship Renewal program.
When everyone is asked to continue to make an investment
in this congregation – even in tough times!
An investment of energy.
An investment of financial support.
An investment of personal spirit.
To really be a full member and participate, rather than
be a spectator remaining on the sidelines.
Church places such as this place are rare in our religious community.
I hear it said all the time.
Church places such as this provide a valuable counterpoint
to current and prevailing points of view.
It is important to support them.
So in the spirit of what Jesus was passionate about,
and in the spirit of the wider Easter stories by several storytellers,
let us again be captivated by the vision of a new empire.
But a vision in all its particularity.
And as an invitation into a way of life
which was reflected in Jesus’ own life - in his words and deeds.
“God is supremely within reach.
He is at hand, as Jesus said His Kingdom always was.
“Perhaps this is why
God prefers a good atheist
to a wicked believer” (Benedikt 2007:13).
Benedikt, M. 2007. God is the Good we Do. Theology of Theopraxy. New York. Bottino Books.
Borg, M. J. & J. D. Crossan. 2006. The Last Week. A day-by-day account of Jesus’s final week in Jerusalem. New York. HarperSanFrancisco.
Funk, R. W. & R. W. Hoover. 1993. The Five Gospels. The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. New York. MacMillan Press.
Patterson, S. J. 2004. Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. Minniapolis. Fortress Press.