"The Best April Fool’s joke EVER!"

Date Sunday April 01, 2018
Service
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Author Pastor Jean M. Hansen
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The Resurrection of our Lord

Text: Mark 16:1-8

 

     I’ve been looking forward to using a coupon that has been sitting in one of my car’s cup holders for weeks. I was saving it for Easter. No, it was not for eggs, not even chocolate ones or jelly beans. It was for Krispy Kreme donuts; buy a dozen and get a dozen free. Unfortunately, I read in Thursday’s paper that the only Krispy Kreme store in the area is closed for 30 days for renovation. Phooey! I did buy other donuts, and they were here for breakfast, along with a lot of other goodies. I hope you got your share!

     I must confess to you, though, that my disappointment was, in part, because I was considering using the Krispy Kreme box in a way that I saw pictured on Facebook. There it was with its read and green logo, just inviting someone to lift the lid and snatch a donut. Instead of glazed goodness, though, the box was filled with carrots, celery, broccoli and cherry tomatoes, artfully arranged around what was, no doubt, low fat veggie dip. The message written on the inside of the cover was - you guessed it - April Fools!

     I probably would not have done it, though, because today’s Gospel lesson was enough of an April Fool’s joke. I say that not so much because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we expect that, although it surely was a surprise to the first disciples. Instead, this April Fool’s joke has to do with Gospel of Mark from which we just read the Easter account. It is the only resurrection story in the Bible where Jesus never actually makes an appearance – April Fools! And, the women disciples utterly fail. We read, “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.” April Fools! On the surface it appears to be a resurrection scene without Jesus that ends in failure.

     This is why most Bibles have a longer ending to Mark; these endings are usually printed in italics or brackets and are thought to have been later additions which were made because those copying the texts could not stand the story ending with silence. But, all the earliest manuscripts end as we read it today, which begs the question: What if Mark wanted to end with silence?

     Surely, he knew, as Paul Harvey used to say on the radio, the rest of the story. Was this his April Fool’s joke? Probably not; the women obviously did eventually share their experience, or we wouldn’t know the story. So why end it this way?

     Maybe it was to cause us to ask, why, and to contemplate what we would have done had we been in their place. Earlier this week I commented to Pastor Rick that I like it when Mark is the assigned Easter Gospel because it’s so realistic. Many of us, having gone to care for our friend’s body three days after his death, would have questioned our sanity if an angelic being was at the tomb instead of a corpse. Do not be alarmed, the heavenly visitor advised. You are kidding, right? But, then again, who could hear what anyone said with such a loud and fast heartbeat ringing in your ears? And, by the way, being seized with terror and amazement limits one’s speaking abilities.

     Still, Mark could have noted these realities, but added at least one, “He is risen!” Why didn’t he? Dr. David Lose surmises that the way the Gospel of Mark begins gives us a clue concerning the way the Gospel of Mark ends. The first chapter of Mark does not include an explanation of the conception of Jesus, or his birth, as is the case in Matthew and Mark. There are no shepherds, angels or Magi. And, beautiful poetry, like that which we find in John’s Gospel, is not included. Instead, we read: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and then John the Baptist enters the picture. The implication is, according to Dr. Lose, that all Mark is writing is the beginning of Jesus’ story, and the ending of his account is not the ending. In other words, the empty tomb is not a conclusion, but is an invitation for us – you and me – to enter the story.  (1)

     We can speak up when others are too overwhelmed to do so. And, because Jesus is alive, and the Holy Spirit has been given, we are empowered to continue the ministry of Jesus, sharing the good news of God’s grace in word and deed. Did you hear what I said? WE are empowered.

     As I have been preparing for the focus on outreach this month, I’ve been re-reading Kelly A. Fryer’s book, Reclaiming the “E” Word: Waking Up to Our Evangelical Identity. A story she tells in the first chapter helps make the point. It was November 2001 and she was flying to a conference just outside of Washington D.C. Now, we all remember what happened on September 11, 2001, but we may not recall how those events impacted airline travel, and the fear that persisted for months.

     Even though she arrived three hours early, Kelly was the last one to the gate. Huffing and puffing she made her way to her seat, which was, of course, the last one on the plane, backed up against the bathroom. As she struggled down the aisle, the flight attendant greeted her by name, “You must be Kelly!”, he said, to her surprise. He offered pleasantries as he helped her with her bags and guitar case. She had just settled into her seat, and was closing her eyes to rest, when the “helpful” flight attendant reappeared. “Kelly,” he said in a conspiratorial tone, “See that guy sitting two seats in front of you on the other side of the aisle; if he does anything suspicious, let me know.”

    “Wait, WHAT?!?” she thought. “You want me to do something about a potential terrorist? Why am I the unofficial special agent?” She never took her eyes off him during the flight, and was ready to brandish her laptop as a weapon.  As it turned out, she got an eyeful upon deplaning as D.C. police officers and FBI agents grabbed the man on the jetway and hauled him away in handcuffs.

     So, was there a real threat? Who knows? But what Kelly thought was this: “Are you kidding me! You are totally kidding me, right? I mean, am I the best plan they’ve got?”

     Well, the Easter story is somewhat like that, especially the version from Mark. These terrified and amazed women who are too afraid to speak are the best plan God has? As it turned out, that’s the case. As Pastor Fryer points out, when it comes to God’s loving mission to bless, save, reconcile, heal and set free the whole world and every single person in it … we’re it. You and I … and those who came before us and will follow us … really are God’s plan. (2)

      And, 2000 years later, the Gospel continues to be proclaimed. Why? Because it’s God’s plan, and if we are open to it (and even sometimes when we are not) God will use us to love and bless the world. After all, if Jesus has the power to conquer sin and death, then surely using us to proclaim that Good News is not completely ridiculous.

     I like what Pastor Scott Black Johnson said in one of his Easter sermons. He noted that sometime that day his phone would ring, as it did every Easter. A voice on the other end would say, “Jesus is on the loose,” and then he would hear the click of the connection ending. Each year his roommate from seminary shares this unique Easter greeting with him. (3)

     Jesus is on the loose. Indeed, he is. And, in a sense, so are we. We are on the loose, with our Risen Lord, loving and blessing God’s world. And, lest we think we can’t make a difference, remember this – the resurrection is the best April Fools joke EVER! AMEN

 

(1)    “Easter: Only the Beginning” by the Rev. Dr. David Lose, March 30, 2015, www.partnersinpreaching.org

(2)     Reclaiming the “E” Word by Kelly A. Fryer, Augsburg Fortress 2008, pgs. 9-11

(3)    “Deadly Things” by the Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, PCUSA, April 12, 2009, www.day1.org