Scripture – Mark 16:1-8 – Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018
Remember when things used to take a long time? Many of you may not realize this, but there was a time when we used to have to wait for the TV to warm up. Or how about life in the kitchen before microwave ovens? Boiling water, baking potatoes, heating up leftovers – we used to have to plan for that. And it used to take a full nine months, well, give or take, before you knew whether the expected baby was a boy or a girl.
I had forgotten about college acceptance notices. It used to be – and really not that long ago, about twenty years – when an envelope would arrive in the mail. Now that’s a paper envelope with postage stamps on it that would show up in your mailbox, the physical mailbox, the one right outside your house? The envelope would arrive right around this time of year with a letter inside containing the news of either acceptance or rejection from one’s desired college or university. Usually a thin envelope with one stamp on it meant rejection; a big fat heavy envelope meant acceptance because it contained all the information and forms one needed to accept the offer and begin preparations for a college career.
My understanding is that now the entire process – at least for most institutions of higher learning – is electronic: application, documents submission, and acceptance or rejection. Students watch their email for the final news. Which I suppose is like walking out to check the mailbox every day, but the news itself is discovered by just a click of a button.
The other recent phenomenon connected to the instant arrival of news is our frequent video documentation of that instant. YouTube is rampant with recorded gender reveal moments. The camera is set up ahead of time and, as the future parents pop the balloon or cut into the cake or uncover the box or whatever the method, all the people in the room at the same time discover the blue confetti or the pink frosting or something and simultaneously shout with joy. Boom! It’s a boy! It’s a girl! What’s fun for us outsiders observing these events on video is, first, the dead silent quivering anticipation beforehand followed by the instantaneous, explosive, uniform reaction.
I saw one on TV this week. Apparently this video had gone viral to the extent that the morning news shared it with the rest of us. The camera was set up opposite the young woman sitting at her computer facing the screen with her entire extended family behind and surrounding her so the viewer could see all of their faces looking at that computer screen. Her father (or perhaps her grandfather or an uncle) began by praying as the whole family held hands and laid hands on her. “Whatever happens, Lord, we know you always have a better plan. But we ask for good news…” And then he stepped back. OK let’s do this. She clicked her keyboard and the instant uproar was worth several replays. This young African-American Louisiana high school student surrounded by all of her family all learned together at the same electric moment that she had been accepted to Wellesley College. The joy was instantaneously evident to all, including those of us replaying that video multiple times.
Isn’t it interesting that the best news ever delivered in the history of humankind took a while to take hold and sink in? You would think Jesus would have burst forth from the tomb in one distinct moment of glory in front of the whole city of Jerusalem in the middle of the day. Choirs of angels in the sky like the night he was born or blazing trumpets heralding his resurrection from the dead.
No, it happened before dawn in the quiet of a graveyard and, in the Gospel of Mark version of its discovery, we have three unassuming women in deep mourning going about the business of taking care of the body now that the Sabbath was over. They bought spices to anoint him and the only thing they were anticipating was the questionable removal of the very large, heavy stone in front of the tomb which none of them was physically able to roll away.
We can imagine the quiet stillness of that morning. Scripture says it was very early and the sun had risen. I always imagine the sound of morning birds. As they approach the tomb, they see the stone has already been rolled back. Hmmm… What alarms them is a strange young man dressed in a white robe sitting inside. He’s the surprise. The words he says are even more of a surprise and it took awhile for those words to sink in, I’m sure. Because they ran. They fled. They fled in amazement and terror. So afraid, in fact, that they said nothing to anyone.
No jumping up and down in the graveyard. No hugging each other and shouting whoopee. No simultaneous roar of recognition of the anticipated good news. In fact, we know from the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances afterwards that it takes a while for this news to sink in, to become real, for the joy of it to be expressed and shared. It takes a while for Jesus to be recognized, to be believed, to be embraced ….and for his disciples to surrender to what this slow-dawning truth means – for them and for the world.
We know that even with the instant news parents receive of the sex of their child, even with the instant news students receive of their college destination, it takes a while afterwards for that news to sink in. For the reflection, the questions, the wonderings, the self-pinching. Wow…we’re having a girl. Wow…I’m going away to college. There’s still a fair amount of processing after that instantaneous news before it becomes a lived reality.
The news of Christ’s Resurrection has still not sunk in for most of us. As children, Easter was about the candy and the eggs, even though maybe we went to church in the morning and we heard the good news words from someone in a robe up front. It takes years for most of us to really hear this news and then it may take decades more of soul-searching and searching everywhere else for it to sink in…but a lived reality? How joyous we would be all the time if we truly lived in the afterglow of Christ’s Resurrection. How different the world would be if we all truly embraced this news and had faith in his coming back.
My friends, on this Easter Sunday 2018, I pray that we all take the time to intentionally allow this incredibly good news to sink in; for some of us, maybe for the first time. Let the truth slowly dawn on you as it did for the women approaching the tomb that day. And take that precious truth and reflect upon it, ponder it, imagine living in its reality. Allow the truth of Christ’s Resurrection to become part of you and when it finally hits you, go ahead and jump and shout for joy!
Remember when things used to take a long time? Sometimes it’s worth the wait. He is risen indeed. Alleluia and Amen.