Easter, Gospel of Mark

In which we try to put a bow on it (Mark 16:9ff)

“Endings Added Later”

That’s what scholars call Mark 16:9-19.

The very unsatisfying ending, in which the women run away in fear and tell no one, could not be left alone.

The one verse version turns them right around, saying

They promptly reported all of the young man’s instructions to those who were with Peter. Afterward, through the work of his disciples, Jesus sent out, from the east to the west, the sacred and undying message of eternal salvation. Amen.

Convincing, but not very detailed.

The longer version skips over that version of verse 9 and recapitulates stories from the other gospels:

  • Mary Magdalene alone sees him, as in John, and tells the disciples, but they do not believe her, as in Luke.
  • There is an abbreviated Road to Emmaus story.
  • Jesus appears to the disciples and tells them some things we would expect and some others that have inspired – well, practices, including snake-handling.
  • Jesus ascends.

My guess is that the average listener would hear enough of what sounds familiar not to be taken aback if hearing the adding endings read aloud, if not reading along in a Bible with that headline, “Endings Added Later.”

Those women must have told someone. Right? Otherwise, how did the disciples know to go and find him in Galilee?

I said in my last post that I think it’s valuable to sit in the fear and uncertainty and shock of the resurrection. Accepting it too readily, speaking about it glibly, does not do it justice. But neither does grabbing these tidbits from other sources to “complete” Mark. He told the story in his own particular way for his own specific reasons.

You may have played the parlor game where this question is asked, “If you could have dinner with any person from history, who would it be?” Jesus is a popular answer, and so is Shakespeare. I know I’ve answered with Jane Austen. But wouldn’t it be fascinating to have a meal with the person who wrote down these stories in the oldest form we have them, who told them with elaborate economy?

It’s Year B in the Revised Common Lectionary, so there is more Mark to come. I’ll hear it preached, and I’m working on a sermon to include one of my favorite stories, to preach for Day1 in a few weeks. Without working too hard to put my bow on it, I will say this. Mark leaves us asking who Jesus is and needing to look back to find the answer. The story continues, even now.


Happy Easter! I’ve been reading and blogging about Mark for Lent and using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. You can find links to earlier posts here. 

Easter, Gospel of Mark

They began the night before (Mark 16:1-8)

The last chapter of Mark actually begins the night before:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. (Mark 16:1, CEB)

Sometime in the early evening, then, as soon as the shops were open again, Mary and Mary and Salome ventured out of wherever they had been staying on this trip to Jerusalem, and they bought what they needed to honor their dead rabbi. Somewhere in the middle of a day of grief and fear, they made a plan to go out together, or maybe they each decided and then they all met at the door. “You?” “You, too?” “Yes.”

They began their preparations the night before, getting ready to perform the final acts of care for their beloved Jesus, just as they had been providing care for him while he traveled and taught. They had established roles in the community, and they must have really mattered to his inner circle or, since they were women, we would know nothing at all about them.

We have the advantage, every time we hear this story, of knowing how it ends, with an empty tomb, and some number of men or angels declaring that Jesus has been raised from the dead, some scene indicating divine action. Two out of four gospels give us an appearance by the risen Lord to the women, but this is not one. Here and in Matthew, they are instructed to go, and tell Peter and the others the good news of the empty tomb and a future reunion in Galilee.

They began the night before, ready to do things they knew how to do, things they already understood, things that even in the midst of terrible grief they could rely on themselves to carry out, the rituals attendant on a death. Now that they had different orders, how did they respond?

Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)

When you began getting ready last night, if you’re like me, you were thinking about the rituals now attendant on Easter Sunday: laying out clothes for church, putting together baskets for little ones, making note of who might appreciate a phone call or a text, cleaning up the kitchen to make way for holiday cooking, or mulling over whether to accept the general invitation to join the choir in singing the “Hallelujah” chorus at the end of the service.

They began the night before, ready to go through the motions, because that was what they knew how to do.

Maybe, like the women, you woke this Easter morning grieving for yourself, or for the world, but knowing you could manage these rituals, even so.

As much as we might like to relieve the pressure of this disappointing ending, maybe we ought not resist it. Maybe we could just sit with it for a minute, having sympathy for these women torn by witnessing the worst news and now stunned to be shown that the story is not over. How were they supposed to explain a missing body and a promise that Jesus would meet his friends back in Galilee?

I don’t think it should surprise us that the women couldn’t follow their new instructions right away. How well do we handle it when God wants more from us, when God wants things for which we did not know to prepare? How ready are we for God to be waiting for us on familiar ground, with unexpected work for us to do?

I’m 56 years old, and my world view has been changed drastically in the past ten years. I don’t count on the things that I used to deem reliable, nor do I hold to the same standards I was taught. The things I prepared to do and be no longer seem applicable. I have to believe that is good news even if it scares me a little.

They began the night before, but the women woke to a world that had changed forever.

May it be so for us this Easter day.

Give us courage, Holy One, to meet you in the world and do the work that lies ahead. Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Happy Easter! I’ve reading and blogging about Mark for Lent and using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I also sometimes refer to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible.

You can find links to earlier posts here. 

Come back tomorrow for the alternate ending to Mark.

 

Easter, Luke

Later in the day

We’ve had a very low-key Easter Monday at my house, with our 12-year-old, Mr. Dimples, in the middle of what is a terribly-scheduled Spring Break for a clergy family. The weather was beautiful, full-gloried springtime. We’ve been out with the dog numerous times, admiring the crabapple trees and the tulips in the neighborhood, and I sat on a bench for a while at the park, watching kathrynzj pitch to Mr. D.

Now it’s evening, and the baseball noise floating from my living room emanates from the PlayStation 4, which is startlingly realistic. The crack of the bat sounds almost exactly right. When it comes around every year, in a real game, it’s as much a sign of new life as the daffodils.

On Easter Sunday, later in the day, we watched our favorite team, the Nationals, play the Phillies. When our hero, Bryce Harper (I mean, we named our cat after him), came up in the bottom of the 9th, the Nats trailed 4-3, with two men on base and 2 outs.

He worked the pitcher to a 3-2 count. This is basically the point of baseball, to make you swing so hard between despair and hope that you declare you will give it up forever…

Then, “kkraakk!” sang his bat! (Click here if that’s your thing.)

He stood and admired the ball as it sailed away. It’s bad form, but who could blame him?

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:28-31, CEB)

It may seem sacreligious to compare Cleopas and his companion, let’s say Mrs. Cleopas, to baseball fans, but we are so far from their moment that it’s hard to capture their emotions in a palpable way. We read up on how far it really was to Emmaus, and ponder whether it’s a metaphorical destination. Buechner has described it (paraphrasing here) as a place representing our lowest moments, but even that feels detached to me. How can we get out of our heads and feel that swing between hope and despair?

Jesus worked Mr. and Mrs. C like an excellent batter works a pitcher, stretching it as far as he possibly could.

Then, “kkraakk!” sang his bat!

And in the fleeting moment before he disappeared, I feel sure he admired his handiwork.

Dear Jesus, dear Jesus, I love the way you work. Keep working on me. Amen.


I read and blogged about Luke as my Lenten discipline in 2017, and this is the last post in the series. The full list of posts can be found here.

Easter, Luke, Prayers for Pastors

Fierce and Fabulous for Jesus (an Easter prayer for pastors)

When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. (Luke 24:9, CEB)

Fragrant were the spices they carried
to the tomb that morning,
pungent and piercing,
like the words of women today
who call on us to speak the truth
not just with our speech
but with our actions.

Fabulous were the angels they saw,
two men in dazzling array,
good news bringers
like the powerful sisters
who remind us the gospel
is not white sugar-coated
but for everyone.

Fierce were the women themselves
in their trip to the garden,
and in their encounter with the men,
like clergywomen of our time
who call lairos on patriarchy:
the powers cannot keep him on the cross;
Christ is free in the world.

Fierce must we be, my sisters,
for we serve that risen Lord
This is my prayer for you:
Be fierce and fabulous for Jesus!
Go out and preach Christ resurrected!
Alleluia! Amen.


I offer this prayer with gratitude for Wil, Traci, Naomi, Kentina, Leila, Denise, Jan, Anne, Laura, Katie, Angie, Marci, Amy, Carol, Hannah, Kwame, Ruth, Julia, Joanna, Sally-Lodge, Mary, and Karyn, and so many others in the RevGals community who speak the truth fearlessly like the women on that first morning. May the world have ears to hear.

Easter, Prayers for Pastors

Vigil (a Holy Saturday prayer for pastors)

It’s quiet at the manse.
The flower ladies have come
and gone across the street,
and the banners went up
after evening worship,
a hint of what will come
tomorrow.

Meanwhile,
we sit vigil,
books piled beside
laptops, ideas outlined
in old orders of service,
jelly bean bag nearly
empty.

JonquilsIn the garden,
jonquils half-shadowed
wait expectantly,
trusting the sun
to come again,
to rise in the East
and circle the house.

We wait, too,
half-shadowed,
wanting to do our best
for you on this most
important, most
precious
day-to-come.

Help us to trust,
like the flowers,
that you will rise,
that we will see you again,
that no tomb will
hold your body
for long.

Easter, Prayers for Pastors

Early, Later, Finally (an Easter prayer for pastors)

And Very EarlyAfter the Sabbath,
and very early
on the first day of the week,
they came to the tomb
and saw that the stone
had been removed.

Very early,
while it is still dark,
we will rise, too,
arrange our papers,
kiss our dear ones,
and head for the park,
the river or the hilltop,
to sing
in the cool of morning
and welcome the Son.

Early,
after the dawn has broken,
we will unlock the doors,
breathe in the lilies
or avoid them if we must,
welcome the brass players,
and wonder if the words
we prepared will work
to proclaim the mystery
we cannot fully explain.

Later,
we will pray in the hallway,
or holding hands with the choir,
give thanks for the crowds,
though it’s not about numbers,
take stock of our vestments,
make sure we have the props
to tell the story to the children,
check for the last page of the sermon.

(All of them, really.)

Finally,
we will stand before the people
and declare what we believe
even if we cannot understand
how it is possible:
the one who had died is alive,
the stone has been rolled away,
the tomb is empty
and the Lord
is on the move.

(Who can believe it? We try.)

Still,
in the world we see horror,
people cruel to one another,
and to themselves, treating
Your children like strangers,
like enemies, like nothing,
and we want to say to You,
we need You on the move
among us, because we cannot
seem to do this thing right.

We need your help.

Somehow,
in the shouted Alleluias,
in the echo of organs
and the blast of trumpets
and the beauty of story
and the love song of liturgy,
move us out of the tomb
of hate and fear.

Roll away the stone
of safe distance
and perceived difference
and cognitive dissonance.

Work through us
and work on us,
we pray,
on this Easter day
and every day.
Amen.

Easter, Prayers for Pastors

Into the same garden ~ an Easter prayer for pastors

Easter 2004 at Stevens Avenue Congregational Church UCC
Easter 2004 at Stevens Avenue Congregational Church UCC

How do we walk into the garden?

Some peer tremulously around the corner,
not sure what to expect.
Will the crowds come?
Has spring break taken all the children to grandma’s house?
Will the little church be full?

Some tread wearily,
weighed down by the right now grief
of death and illness in the faith community,
of bad news delivered in the liminal space
of a Holy Saturday.

Some go grudgingly,
wondering if all has been completed,
tired of administrivia
or complaints unwarranted
or wondering if maybe they are,
after all.

Some walk confidently,
trusting the musicians,
the elders and deacons,
the flower committee
and the a/v department,
and the security of many years in one place.

All wonder how to speak the Good News fresh,
to tell the story so familiar,
to find the twist in this word or that one,
to add the illustration that makes it clear
what all this means.

But here’s the wonder.
We don’t understand it. Not a single one of us.
No matter the size of our church,
or the age of the people in the pews,
or the geographic location,
or the social context,
or our years in ministry,
on Easter Sunday we all
walk into the same garden.

We find the stone rolled away,
and with awe we proclaim
what we want to believe
but can hardly imagine:

He is risen!
Alleluia! Amen.