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Home Sermons April 1, 2018 ~ Look Again! ~ The Rev. Jeunee Godsey

April 1, 2018 ~ Look Again! ~ The Rev. Jeunee Godsey

Easter 2018 – April Fools

April 1, 2018

Happy Easter! …. and Happy April Fools! You probably imagined that I’ve just got to talk about the fact that Easter and April Fool’s Day line up on the same day this year. I imagine almost every pastor in the western world is somehow tying this calendar anomaly into their Easter Message.

Jesus died on the Cross and was laid dead in the tomb, but April Fools! He’s alive! Christ is Risen! No Fooling!

As if the resurrection wasn’t already hard enough to believe, we’ve got this built in calendar joke going on this year. As you know, the date of Easter moves each year. It’s based on the Lunar calendar and the date of Passover. Passover is celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Since the first Easter happened on Sunday, the first day of the week after the Jewish Passover, the Gregorian calendar set it so that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox.

We had our full moon on Friday, which was also, for you astronomical geeks, a blue moon, since it was the second full moon in the month. So those things that are supposed to happen only once in a blue moon…. That would have been Friday.

The origin of April Fool’s Day is unclear. One theory is that it came into being when the Julian calendar, which had placed the new year around the spring / vernal equinox, was replaced with the Gregorian calendar, which placed the new year on January 1. People who didn’t know about the change or refused to accept it and continued to celebrate the New Year in the spring were called April fools. Another theory is that April fools was tied in with the Romans’ end-of-winter celebration, Hilaria. In any case, it’s become a day for pranks and jokes in much of the western world, and even in India.

The last time Easter fell on April Fools was back in 1956. The next time will be in 2029. Then once again in 2040, but then not again until the next century.

When I was a kid, and my brother and I would play April fools jokes on each other, we knew we needed to keep our eyes open. We were constantly looking again, looking up to see if the tops of doors didn’t have a small bucket of confetti, or looking around, to see if the doorknob we were getting ready to use was covered with any suspicious substance. Otherwise, if we just went blindly about our business, we were caught by surprise.

Pay attention! Look again! Open your eyes! That’s probably good advice for us today, as we contemplate the Easter story in Mark’s Gospel.

You know, a big part of Jesus’ ministry was “giving sight to the blind.” He healed blind people physically, but he also confronted people’s spiritual blindness as well.

In fact, that was one way Jesus said that the Kingdom of God could be known. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:15)

Early that morning, when the Sabbath was over, the women came to the tomb, blinded by grief. They didn’t come expecting to be witnesses to the resurrection. They came to carry out the grim deed of anointing a dead body with spices and oils, in order to complete the Jewish burial ritual.

What they do see when they get there so awes them, that Mark’s version of the story tells us that the women “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

What a strange way to end the story of the resurrection!

Obviously, the women must have told someone, because here we are today!

But isn’t it strange that Mark ends his Gospel that way? The other Gospel writers go on to tell about Jesus’ resurrection appearances to Mary Madeleine and the disciples. But most scholars agree that Mark’s Gospel, the earliest one written, stops at verse 8, where we read to today, despite other endings being added onto later manuscripts of Mark, that try to tie up the story, and make the ending less jarring.

So why does Mark stop here? Part of the reason is that Mark was that when Mark was writing the story down, folk around all knew the rest of the stories. But I think primarily it’s to point out the utter shock of this story… The ways we walk blindly around in life, only to be astounded and confused by the unexpected.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, the disciples fail again and again to see who Jesus really is, and what it really means to be his followers. They just don’t get it. They misunderstand the parables and the miracles. They argue about who’s the greatest. They desert Jesus when he is arrested.

You know, I actually find that comforting. If the disciples –  who actually lived and ate and drank with Jesus –  were often blind and confused, and yet still went on to carry the Good News of the Resurrection to the rest of the world, then maybe there’s hope for me and you.

So as the women come to the tomb, what do they see?

As the women came to the tomb, wondering who would roll away the stone, they Looked Up, and saw that the stone had already been rolled back.

There’s something wonderful about those words, “They Looked Up,” and it’s a subtlety that Mark’s original Greek speaking readers and hearers would have understood. The word Mark uses here can mean to look up, but it can also mean, “To regain one’s sight”. Elsewhere in the Gospels, it is used to describe what happens when Jesus heals the blind.

In addition, the word also means “To Look Again.”

The women come to the tomb, their vision is focused on the cold stone of the grave. The women “look again” at what they thought was a sealed coffin, and instead, their blindness to God’s power melts, as they see an empty tomb and an angel declaring the resurrection.

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. ….”

This is the essential Good News of Easter. Jesus has Risen and because he is fully God and fully human, has overcome death for all of us. Nothing can separate us from God’s eternal love – no sin, no hardship, no matter how far away we have been from God – when we accept the gift of New Life Jesus offers.

What else do women see? They see the empty place where Jesus had laid. But they do not see Jesus. Instead, the young man in white tells them where they will see Jesus.

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

“He is going ahead of you, and there you will see him.”

This is even more Good News. The power of the resurrection isn’t confined to what happens to us after we die. Jesus is Alive, here and now. We can experience him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus goes ahead of us in every aspect of our lives. If we Look Up, Look Again,  Open our eyes and we let go of our blindness, we will see him.

Too often you and I live out our days with near sighted vision. We focus on our problems, or get blinded by our routine.

God challenges us to “Look again” and to “regain our sight” and to remember Jesus’ promise. He is going ahead of us, like he promised. There we will see him. And unlike April Fool’s pranks, God’s surprising appearances can delight and inspire us.

Jesus is going ahead of us, like he promised. What if we were to spend our days remembering this?

He is Risen. Jesus is going ahead of me to the office. There I will see him. Just like he told me.  And then, all through the day, instead of focusing just on your challenges, you look for where Jesus is present, and try to see what Jesus is already doing there.

How is Jesus speaking to you through a co-worker? Where is Jesus showing you opportunities to serve?

Jesus is Risen. He is going ahead of me to the hospital room. There I will see him. Just like he told me. And then, instead of worrying about the procedure my loved one or I am going to have, I simply open my eyes, and see how Jesus is already there. Where is Jesus offering comfort? How is Jesus bringing healing?

Christ is Risen. He is going ahead of me when I have that difficult conversation. There I will see him.

And then, instead of manipulating my words, so that I get the upper hand, I look for where Jesus is. How does the Christ light shine through those I am in conflict with? Where is Jesus offering forgiveness and reconciliation and new life?

He is Risen. He is going ahead of me to my home. There I will see him, just as he promised.

And then, instead of myopic vision on the never ending To Do list, or comparing the greenness of my grass with my neighbors’, I can open my eyes and see how God is actively blessing me.  I can see Jesus knitting together meaningful relationships of love and equipping my family to serve God in the world.

Jesus is Risen. He is going ahead of me each day! There I will see him, Just as he promised. It’s easy for us to be blinded to God’s presence… whether through everyday busyness or worldly skepticism that makes us think we are foolish to expect the miraculous unexpected. But if we keep our eyes open, the Risen Lord will surprise and delight us.

Jesus is Risen. He is going ahead of you. There you will see him, just as he promised.

Look again.