Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Five: Sacrament... all is holy?

I can't remember the last time I participated in a Friday Five.  I miss them.  Friday's my day off and I tend to be off the computer more than other days which means less time on the blog.  Gee that makes it sound I'm on the blog other days!  Anyway...

Here are the questions posted by Sally at RevGals:

This Friday Five stems from some questions that have been running around my head and heart recently and are squeezing their way out through my blog here and again here.

So I'd like to ask you some simple questions about the sacraments:

1. What does the Lord's supper/ Eucharist mean to you?
2. How important is preparation for this, and what form does it take?
3. What does baptism mean to you?
4. How important is preparation for baptism and what form does it take?
5. A quote/ poem/ song that brings you before God in a sacramental way, and helps you to engage at a deeper level...

I'm taking my shot at them!

1.  How I'm experiencing the Lord's Supper totally changes with the liturgical season, my spiritual state of mind, the worship setting, whether I'm presiding or not...  The list is endless.  The metaphor I'm drawn to most is that of the sacrament as the foretaste of the heavenly banquet.   I want everyone to be welcome.  I want none to be left out.  I want tastes that bring joy (not a foamy feeling wafer) in amounts that are not just noticeable, but abundant.  It's OK, if my piece of bread is big enough that I have to take two bites!  It's not a somber, quiet, stone-faced observance.  It's a celebration.  We're smiling; we might even make a little joke if your bread falls apart in the common cup.  Excitement is OK, as is bright, lively, life-giving music.

2.  In all honesty preparation is pretty minimal for me and the worshiping community I lead.  My personal preparation is practically nothing when I'm presiding.  I mean, I lead prayers and I guess I'm praying them, but not at all in the same was as when I'm receiving the sacrament.  When I'm leading the prayers I'm worrying about how I'm saying the words, how long it's taking, what comes next, what will happen if suddenly for the first time ever in 10 years the words of institution just slip right out of my mind.   It's not really prayerful.  I guess I could do something separate before worship, but it's never occurred to me before.  I have no idea what that would look like, and I know I wouldn't do it.  And besides the kind of "prep" I do when I'm not presiding is directly related to how I'm experiencing the worship around me.  It's not long and drawn out prep, but it's about focusing in, being attentive to the people with whom I am worshiping, being attentive to God's movement in the service.

3.  (Infant) Baptism screams promise to me - - God's promise to love and redeem us, parents' promises to raise raise their child knowing he or she is a child of God, a congregation's promise on behalf of the church universal to be a part of the family of faith together, to support and teach and care for each other's lives.

4.  Baptism prep is important to me.  The favorite prep I ever did was in my last call when we had 4 or 5 families all pregnant at the same time.  We did the prep together.  It was a neat opportunity to talk through our excitement and our fear, our hopes and our dreams, our challenges and our strengths in raising our children in faith.  It forged a wonderful community among the parents, many of whom actually grew up together, too, and were becoming parents for the first time together.  I led the preparation, but my husband and I were also participants as I was pregnant with our first daughter, too.  Most of the time, though, I do the preparation one and one and love it, too.  It's usually a time for me to really get to know a family and for them to get to know me.  Nine times out of ten I meet them in their home, where they are comfortable, and that usually leads to more honest, open conversations.  I really like to drive home the idea that baptism is the seal of a number of promises, like I said above, that it is the placing of their child in hands other than their own - - God's hands, and the hands of the community of faith.  It's sort of scary because you never know where God will call your child, but it's entirely comforting because we and our child receive the promise that we aren't in it alone.  I spend a bunch of time trying to give them ideas of how they can help their child remember their baptism in the many years to come.

5.  "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"  For a reason I can't explain and don't want to analyze (some of the lyrics are NOT my usual favorite song material) anyway, this song is like sacrament to me.  In singing it I am simultaneously offering myself and being filled with the Spirit of God.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Joy and Disbelief

Luke 24:36-48

During my second year of seminary I was selected to participate in the Middle East Travel Seminar, a three week study tour of biblical and archaeological sites in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, the occupied territories of Palestine and Greece. The application and interview process was rigorous as sixty seminary students from five schools were chosen for this almost fully funded trip of a lifetime. One thing that was reiterated over and over again throughout the process, in the way that only happens when someone has previously complained about their own experience, this was NOT going to be a spiritual pilgrimage.

All around the land we call the “Holy Land,” for thousands of years, people have been making pilgrimages. There are churches and chapels and monuments scattered everywhere, some of them 15- and 16-hundred years old, marking THE mountain Moses climbed in order to receive the tablets of the ten commandments from God, THE mountain on the east side of the Jordan where Moses died, the underground cave-like stable where Jesus was born, even THE very rock that served as a table for the fish breakfast that Jesus shared with his disciples in another resurrection account from the gospels. There are plenty of places to which someone could make a pilgrimage, but it didn’t take long to figure out why our trip organizers warned us that is not what we would be doing.

My leader, Dr. Jerry Mattingly, was kind of a character. As a local, state-required tour guide would be making her speech about the holy site we were seeing, Jerry would hold up fingers in the back row. Five, ten, fifteen. We thought at first he was grading her tour guide skills, but eventually we discovered he was correcting her assertions.

“This is the site where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.” Or according to Jerry, somewhere within 10 miles.

“This is the site where Jesus’ body was buried” Or according to Jerry, somewhere within 500 yards.

“This is the site where Jesus was baptized.” Or according to Jerry, 15 miles up or down the river. Give or take.

This is why they warned us. Instead of developing in us a sense of awe at the innate holiness of each site we saw, Jerry put questions into our minds about the accuracy of the claims of the churches which were built on top of the holy ground on which Mary delivered Jesus. He let doubts creep into our minds about the HUGE STORMS that supposedly threatened the lives of the fishermen on the mere lake the Scriptures call the Sea of Galilee. Obviously, this could not have been a spiritual pilgrimage, because doubts are not very spiritual right?

The story we heard this morning took place on Easter evening or maybe the day after. In Luke’s gospel the resurrection is discovered by the women, then confirmed by Peter when their account is thought to be an “idle tale.” But two disciples, Cleopas and his companion didn't stick around for Peter’s confirmation. After the women discovered Jesus’ missing body and heard the witness of angels at the tomb, these two hit the road out of town. They aren't present when Peter shares his apparently NOT-so-idle tale, but instead they get an up-close-and-personal encounter with Jesus as they are walking to Emmaus, a town seven miles from Jerusalem. After eating dinner with Jesus they turn around and head back to Jerusalem, even in the middle of the night, to tell the rest of the disciples what has happened.

When they arrived, they told their story. Presumably they also heard about Peter’s trip to the empty tomb and then right in the middle of all this story-telling and confusion, Jesus finally appears! Not stolen, not lost, not buried, but resurrected. Whatever THAT means. Right in the middle of them.

They've all been talking about resurrection for a while, but obviously this is their first experience with it. The Pharisees and Sadducees, the dominant religious “parties” of the day, fought about it all the time – would there be a resurrection or not? Would it be bodily or just spiritually? Is it going to be when the Messiah comes or at the end of time? Who will be included? People were used to talking about when, how, and who will be resurrected, but really, when it came down to it, nobody REALLY knew what it would look like, what it would be like when someone actually WAS resurrected. So here was Jesus, right in the middle of them, and as if he could hear their questions running a mile a minute through their heads - - “Is he real? Is he a ghost? Can we touch him? Can we see through him? Does he sleep? Can he fly?” - -

He interrupts them, offering them his hands and feet as proof that he is real. He invites them to touch him and feel his skin and bones so they can know that he isn’t a ghost. And then while they are still caught between both rejoicing and wondering, he asks them what seems like a really ridiculous question, “Does anyone have anything to eat?”

It answers some questions (Yes, he has a body and it needs nourishment. No, he isn’t a ghost. Yes we can touch him. No, I sure HOPE we can’t see through him to see what eating looks like on the inside.). And joy, what joy it brings! But at the exact same time this simple act of eating also leads to so many more questions, doubts, even disbelief. (The dead don’t walk around. Bodies don’t just stand up after dying. What is the end if being killed and sealed in tomb isn’t the end? What in the world does any of this have to do with what God is doing?) So yes, his presence brings joy in their midst, but just like Luke said, it brings confusion, doubts, and even disbelief.

But this can’t be right, can it? Because everyone knows that doubts are not very spiritual, right?

Doubts have a bad name in the version of Christianity that seems dominant in our culture. Doubts are dismissed by some of our traditions as unfaithful, disrespectful, disingenuous. People who ask questions about how things happened in Scripture, people who are willing to say Scripture tells us less about “how” the world was made and more about “why” the world was made, people who wonder about the need to believe every detail written down between the covers of the Bible are literally and factually true are put down by many of the Christians who are holding the microphones on television and the radio, who are typing what is in print and on the internet. Thinking for ourselves is encouraged in pockets of faith, but the loudest voices, the ones way too many of our non-Christian neighbors can hear are the ones who say this is a take or leave it faith. You’re all in or you’re not in at all. Doubts are not very spiritual.

But guess what - - That’s not the viewpoint Jesus holds in this story. I love, love, LOVE the way this resurrection appearance takes place. I love, love, LOVE the way joy and disbelief are held right next to each other. I love, love, LOVE the way the disciples who were closest to Jesus still can’t quite figure out what’s going on. And I love, love, LOVE that Jesus doesn’t abandon them because of it.

Jesus doesn’t turn right around and walk out the door when the disciples can’t wrap their minds and hearts around what has taken place. He doesn’t give up on them and go find the Roman soldier who was able to declare with full faith and conviction in Luke’s gospel “He was innocent” and in Mark’s gospel, “Truly this man was God’s son!” He doesn’t stop them in their tracks and demand that they choose sides, that they sign on the dotted line, that they affirm a set of specific beliefs and understandings about every little thing that happened. Jesus doesn’t do it!

Jesus goes to great lengths – even COMICAL lengths – to show them his body is real because it’s so unbelievable, but even when they still don’t believe he doesn’t stop believing in them. Jesus doesn’t give up on his disciples. He doesn’t chastise them. He doesn’t get angry with them. He sits down, he eats with them, and he teaches them, in the middle of their joy and their disbelief. In the middle of their excitement and their wondering. In the middle of their celebration and their confusion.

We forget sometimes, that THIS is what the church is about. We forget sometimes that the questions are as welcome as answers. We forget that there isn't any one tradition or denomination or theological leaning that has it all right all the time. We see church marketing plans that ask us "Have you found Jesus?" because they claim they have a hold of him. Well, I'd love to start a different kind of campaign, one that puts signs out in front of churches saying "Got questions? We do, too." I'd love to start a different kind of campaign in which we don't have to pretend we know it all, that we understand it all, that we believe every last thing, but a campaign that is bold enough to say we gather with joy and disbelief, with reverence and wonder, with excitement and questions to see Jesus, eat with him, hear the Scriptures and how they tell of God's working in the world, and to be his witnesses in the world. That's a campaign I can get behind.

They told us before we went on the Middle East Travel Seminar that we weren't going on a spiritual pilgrimage, or more accurately, that they weren't leading a spiritual pilgrimage. They must have assumed like so many others that we might think questioning the tradition wasn't very spiritual. For me it was the exact opposite. For me the questions led me to think about what I was learning, what I was hearing, what I had heard for years and years in the church. For me the questions forced me to decide whether it mattered if I knew exactly where Jesus' feet had touched the ground, exactly where Moses encountered God, exactly where words of blessing and beatitude were spoken. For me the questions, the doubts invited me to enter into a relationship with God that wasn't based on geography and historical fact, but was based on the witness of people of faith who have gone before me, the witness of people of faith who struggled just as much as I do with what it means to follow this resurrected Jesus.

Here’s the thing - - Jesus isn’t scared of our questions. Jesus isn’t scared of our doubts, our disbelief, our confusion, and our wondering. He doesn’t get mad at them, he doesn’t look down on us for them, he doesn’t tell us they have to be wiped away before we are loved. And he definitely doesn’t tell us we have to have them all worked out before we can work in his name. The same disciples who stood there in disbelief are the same disciples who are equipped and sent as witnesses. The same disciples who are tentative about jumping into the pool of faith with both feet are the same disciples who are called to the ends of the earth to tell the story.

And thankfully they didn't wait until they totally get it all, until all their questions are answered and they know and believe and trust in exactly what's going on. They jumped in with their questions and doubts and disbelief, too, and apparently that's OK with Jesus. He came to where they were and commissioned them to serve with all their joy AND their disbelief. And he comes and commissions us to witness in the same way.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Anatomy of a Joke

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Blue Collar Comedy Tour comedian Bill Engvall tells stories about going to church as a family when he was a child. He and his siblings were less than attentive to the preacher, he admits, sometimes, just sometimes, causing a bit of a ruckus in the pews. When things would start to get out of hand, he remembers how his dad used to stretch his arms out over the back of the pew, turning to smile knowingly at the kids, and looking like he was just hugging and loving on the whole family. But Bill says he knew that wasn't what the stretch was for because just as his dad would work with stealth to lay a little "plunk" on the side of his head, he would also lean in to whisper, "God don't think stuff's funny!"

That's the unfortunate reputation that God has, isn't it? At the very least it's the reputation God's followers often have. I can remember in seminary the LENGTHS my classmates and I would go to in order to avoid telling strangers what school we attended and what we studies. Upon meeting someone at a coffee shop, or (gasp) a local beverage establishment, the grocery store, or EVEN a CHURCH the conversation would go something like this - - -

"So, do you work?"   "
Well, not fulltime right now." 

"Oh. Well, what do you do?"  "I...uh... work with youth." 

"So, you're a teacher?"  "No." 

"You're a tutor?"  "No."

"You're a nanny?"  "No." 

"Well, what do you do?"  "I work for an organization that tries to instill values in young people."

"OK.... So what do you do when you're not working."  "I read."

"For school."  "Yep."

"What school do you go to?"  "One over in Decatur."

"Is that one of the universities?"  "Nope."

"Well, what do you study?"  "Religion." 

"What do you want to do when you graduate?"  "Find a job."

"Doing what?"  "Well, teaching, and helping people, and ...." 

Talking to us was like PULLING TEETH, because we figured out pretty quickly that the conversation would be even shorter than that annoying exchange if we told a stranger what we studied and what we felt called to do after graduation. Sitting next to a future pastor at a beverage drinking establishment (or even CHURCH) was apparently a buzzkill, because as we all know, "God don't think stuff's funny" and so follows, neither do God's people. Or at least that's the unfortunate reputation.

I talked to a friend of mine this week, Dorie Griggs, who last year did her part to try to change this reputation. Dorie was a seminary classmate of mine, and she still lives in the Atlanta area where she is a member of a Presbyterian congregation, not serving as an ordained pastor. A year ago in March Dorie graduated from the Jeff Justice Comedy Class at The Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta. She's the most qualified person I could think of, having studied both theology and comedy, to help me confirm my hunch. Books upon books, as we can see and imagine, have been written about how to write a good joke, so there must be something that can be taught, something that is common to many, if not all, jokes. I asked Dorie about the structure of a good joke. She said it all boils down to the idea that "1+1 doesn't equal 2. Leading people down a road with a story and reversing expectations is the core of joke writing."

Reversing expectations. That's what it's all about. That's where the joy is, the laughter. Telling the story of the duel between the priest and the rabbi, thinking it's all about biblical interpretation, only to have the train of thought reversed, one of them thinking something completely different, something utterly human and earthly not lofty and divine. Sarah believing she is well beyond her child-bearing years only to find out she carries laughter in her womb. Hearing the old favorite worship songs and hymns with just one key piece pointedly reversed. It's funny, and it points out something maybe painfully true. "How Great I Am" Ouch. We resemble that remark sometimes don't we? But hearing it that way, with the humor of the reversal, it makes its point while bringing us laughter and joy at the same time. Laughter at our own foolishness.

...Which brings us right to the gospel of Jesus. The good news of Jesus our Christ. The joy of the resurrection. The laughter at the greatest reversal of all times. It seems completely ridiculous this story we have heard and told. It makes absolutely no sense at all. We've been led down one road in this story of a Savior, one who will change the world, one who will show the religious establishment just where they are going road. We've been led down this road that shows him going up against every possible enemy and we start to see that it's not going to end well, that he's upsetting as many powerful people as he's healing ones who are powerless. 1+1 even equals 2 as it all comes to it's logical conclusion, and he's put to death for stirring up trouble, killed for preaching that there is another way.

The story of God on a's absolute foolishness. While it's exactly where the gospels are leading, it flies in the face of what every good person of faith knows about his or her god. It's not what any of us want to think will happen to the one in whom we are putting all our trust, our God, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sustainer, our God, powerful, compassionate, healer, teacher, peacemaker, forgiving, all-loving, all-welcoming, all-accepting. He's put to death on a cross; it's ridiculous Paul tells the Corinthians knowing how hard it is for them to hold onto this embarrassing faith in front of others.

And then the reversal. The joy-bringing, laughter-birthing reversal. The tomb is empty. He is not there. All that's left behind is a pile of rags like the cloths left behind in a delivery room, and Jesus has been birthed out of the tomb and into new life again. He has risen, and in the greatest reversal of all time, the greatest joke, the joke pulled over on death itself is told by our God who apparently DOES think stuff is funny, who apparently DOES think life is worth living, who apparently DOES think that our messed up human condition is worth saving, worth redeeming, worth rejoining enough to come back and join it one more time, shattering all expectations, living beyond all hope, laughing through all the tears.

He's not here. He is risen. It's the greatest punchline, the reversal, the "1+1 does NOT equal 2."  It's the the resurrection. He predicted it, but we still never expected it. It's the source of our joy, the reason we can laugh again, the greatest joke ever told and somehow we have found a way to dull it down, wrap it up in so much thinking and theologizing and rule-making and judging, that everyone who sees us thinks we believe in the MOST. BORING. GOD. EVER.

Well, hopefully not after today. Sure the whole world isn't watching what's happening in this sanctuary right now, and I'm not so bold as to say in this hour we have fixed ages upon ages of joyless faith, but hopefully after today we all have a little more courage to laugh at ourselves, a little more interest in sharing joy with one another, a little more impulse to enjoy and rejoice in the new life we have because God played the biggest joke on us all. He isn't here. He is risen! Rejoice and be glad!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Everything Is Different

Isaiah 25:6-9
Mark 16:1-8

Coming home in the evening a week or so ago, for just a second, just a split second, I could smell them. An overnight rain had pulled a few more new leaves out of their buds, and while I hadn’t seen any of the flowers yet, I knew, I just KNEW that in that split second, I smelled the lilacs in our backyard. I turned my head and tried to catch them again, but they was gone. I couldn’t find the scent, but it had been there. I swear. And when it was there, I knew. Spring was really here. In a quick sniff of the still night air, everything was different.

I was filled with joy. Filled with it! Sure the calendar and the equinox had signaled the start of spring a few days earlier. The amazingly good weather we have been having brought out the spring bucket of clothes from storage. Even the cat’s increased shedding, because of the increase in daylight I’ve been told, let me know that the season was changing. But none of those signs really meant anything, none of them really signaled to me that spring was really coming the way smelling the lilacs did. In that one moment with the hint of the scent, everything was different, and I was elated.

However, that exact same realization - - that something has drastically and dramatically changed - - doesn’t always bring such a jubilant response. For some people and in some situations it can be downright terrifying.

As soon as they could get there after properly observing the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome rushed to the tomb with spices. He had died on Friday afternoon, just a few hours before the Sabbath began in the evening and strict, STRICT Jewish laws about the burial of the dead before Sabbath and coming into contact with a dead body had prevented them from anointing his body earlier. So as soon as they could, as early in the morning as they could stand to get up, they went quickly to the tomb, wondering aloud to one another how they were even going to get the stone rolled away.

Before they could answer their own questions, though, when they arrived at the tomb, they looked up and saw that it had already been rolled away. I think the fear probably started to settle in at that moment. Who had beat them to the tomb? At the very least it was someone much stronger than they. Was it friend or foe? Was it disciple or dissenter? What it a thief? A soldier? A temple official? A curious gawker? Still committed to their task at hand they entered the tomb and saw a young man, sitting inside. “He has been raised; he is not here. He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”

In an instant, they knew. Everything is different. Nothing in the world will ever be the same, and while it is easy to dismiss their response of fear and look for a different, more complete, more joyful ending, I think their fear is a perfectly acceptable reaction to the news that someone who was dead, lifeless, sealed in a solid rock tomb, now is NOT. It means, among other things that, all the rules have changed. The dead did not stay dead. And that is downright terrifying!

And then, as suddenly as this strange news came, our account this morning ended. The women fled from the tomb. Terror and amazement had seized them. They couldn’t even tell the disciples closest to Jesus, closest to themselves. They couldn’t tell anyone, for they were afraid. End scene. End gospel of Mark!

Except if you were reading along or if you want to flip to the page your Bible quickly even now, you will see it may or may not be the end of the gospel of Mark. There are a few more verses there that follow verse 8, a shorter ending and a longer ending, each with a slightly different, more detailed account of what really happened after the resurrection of Jesus. However, most scholars and people of faith don’t think that these words are original to Mark’s gospel. They don’t appear in the most accurate early versions of Mark’s gospel that have been found, and so most people don’t count them as authentic words of Mark’s gospel.

And so we have it - - Mark’s gospel ends with the women in fear and silence, and for centuries upon centuries, millennia even, that has been SO HARD for us to accept, so hard for us to live with. It didn’t take too long for the earliest scribes and editors to try their hand at gospel writing as they copied Mark’s original account. As some received copies and rewrote them by hand they added words to the end to try to wrap it up into a neater bow, to get the women out of their fear and the good news shared with others. They passed those on to others who kept copying the same words, and soon there were at least three versions of the gospel floating around the ancient church, all to try to prove that the faithful didn’t end in fear.

The attempt to do so is, to me at least, a little ironic and unnecessary. Isn’t there proof enough that the story didn’t end with silence? I mean, isn’t all of THIS, all of us, all of the churches around the world this morning full of rejoicing and singing and alleluias, proof enough that the women didn’t sit on their fearful story forever? Isn’t our own faith, our own impulse to gather on the eighth day, the day of the new creation, of new beginnings, of transformation, of resurrection, isn’t our own need to be here in this place with all these people proof enough that their reaction eventually changed? We know it did because EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT!

We know they got the courage to speak, to proclaim the good news – He is risen – because we are here proclaiming it today! Some day, at some point, Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome figured out that they couldn’t stay quiet, that they needn’t be fearful, that everything is indeed different and the world needs to know it! Some day at some point they broke their silence and became the first proclaimers of the best news ever - - “By the grace and loving power of God for all of creation, Jesus is alive and everything is different!”

The thing about some of these moments of realization when we just suddenly KNOW that everything is different, is that the full understanding of what that means isn’t always immediately obvious. Not to everyone everywhere, all at the same time. In our backyard that night a week or so ago, the smell of the lilac was fleeting. Almost as quickly as I noticed it, it was carried away on the night breeze. I caught it again for a moment just as brief on Thursday night, but it’s been gone ever since. Even when I pushed my face deep into the bushes trying to find it again, I couldn’t. I know it is there. I know I have witnessed it, but it’s just hard to find it again.

It can be that way with our experience of the resurrection. It can be hard to see, hard to believe sometimes, hard to remember it is something we know, something we have felt, something we have trusted when stories of death seem more prominent then stories of new life. Violence tearing apart the people and nation of Syria. Persistent threats and stories of modern day slavery in Sudan. Unbelievable accounts of dangerous bounties in professional sports, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT. Shootings in schools. Senseless murders based on the color of someone’s skin, even in this day and age. Cancer that strikes, young and old, with or without cause, in higher and higher numbers it seems every year. It just doesn’t always sound like a resurrection world, where everything is different.

But the resurrection is here. We find it in the out-pouring of love and compassion for an anonymous young life at the funeral yesterday in Winona of an unknown baby who was found in the river last year. We find it the way communities and churches and neighbors have rallied around the victims of tornadoes in Texas and Indiana this year. We find it in the relentless passion of peacemaking teams who continually go into dangerous nations and situations to bring the good news of a different way, to free those who are held in physical captivity, to release those who are bound to cycles of violence.

The resurrection is here when each one of us takes up the task of loving more than hating, forgiving more than holding a grudge, giving more than asking, accepting more than judging. The resurrection is here when we proclaim with our words and live with our lives the good news that love wins. The gospel of Mark seems to end in the middle of the story. It seems incomplete, and that’s because it is. Way back in the first verse of the first chapter of Mark’s gospel we are told that this account is “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The next 16 chapters are just the beginning. The middle of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is still being written today by our faith in the resurrection displayed through our lives, our choices, our love, because now everything is different.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!