McFarland

Easter Sunday April , 2021

Readings

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Gospel: Mark 16:1-8

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection, you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymns of the Day

If you don’t have hymnals at home,
lookup the hymns on YouTube or other websites.

Jesus Christ Is Risen Today (ELW 365)
The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done (ELW 366)
Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds (ELW 367)
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia! (ELW 369)
He Is Risen (Paul Baloche)

Reflection on Mark 16:1-8

by Pastor Tim Dean

Running on Empty

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!

Today we hear Mark’s startling account of the first Easter, and what comes to my mind is the phrase: “running on empty.”

Yes, the Jackson Browne song, and I know I’m dating myself. “Running on empty/running blind/running into the sun/but I’m running behind.” (Jackson Browne lyrics, 1977)

If you don’t know it, search for it on the internet. It will quickly become stuck in your head!

The song seems to fit the mood of the scene in Mark’s gospel.

Empty is probably what the women are feeling. Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome, are going to see the body of their beloved. Their emotions raw. Their hopes dashed. Their energy spent. Their grief is heavy like the stone they saw rolled over the place where Jesus had been laid.

The women are running on empty, and don’t know how they can keep going.

What is startling in Mark’s story, terrifying even, is that the tomb is empty as well.

Expecting to find a dead body, the women instead encounter a mysterious angelic person who says: “Jesus is not here. Look where he was laid. It’s empty. He has been raised.”

And the way Mark tells it, the women run away from the empty tomb in terror, amazement and fear. That’s how Mark’s story ends. Strange way to end—an empty tomb, Jesus gone, and women running away and not telling anyone.

Maybe that’s why later gospel writers add other details and stories of Jesus’ appearances. Mark’s version is too stark. Too raw. Too empty.

But that is exactly Mark’s point: we can’t hear the promise of resurrection unless we go to an empty tomb.

It reminds me of a poem by Mary Oliver called “The Uses of Sorrow.” She writes:

Someone I loved once gave me

a box of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.

(Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow,” from Thirst, Beacon Press, 2007)

Whether we call it a “box of darkness” or an empty space, it is the void we feel in our hearts and lives.

It’s the emptiness we have been carrying this past year of Covid. The losses, the exhaustion, the fatigue. The heavyweight of grieving—whether we are aware of it or not. The hopelessness we feel with repeating patterns of gun violence, or the reality of racial injustice. It’s the emptiness we feel when we see loved ones who are depressed or anxious.

We are running on empty.

Maybe this is the Easter we name what we are carrying in our boxes of darkness. Maybe this is the Easter we walk with the women in Mark’s story as they go into the tomb.

Could it be that this emptiness we experience is a gift?

I’m not saying that this second pandemic Easter is a good thing. It’s not.

But perhaps this Easter, we acknowledge the emptiness, rather than deny it. Perhaps we learn again Mark’s profound truth: we’ve got to go through some empty places on the way to resurrection.

Because the truth is that the startling, terrifying, life-altering news of resurrection will meet us in those empty places.

It is in the place of hopelessness, that hope stirs. It is in the place of fear, that love speaks reassurance. It is in the uncertainty of the future, where Jesus promises to meet us.

“Running on empty…”

Mark’s story ends abruptly with the women running out of the tomb.

Dear friends, this abruptness means the story is not finished. The story continues with us. Out of our empty spaces, our spiritual voids, comes the dawning of a new day and a new beginning.

The tomb is empty. Christ is alive. And death no longer has dominion over us. Alleluia!

This Easter we have something we could never have imagined nor provided on our own: hope. Unsettling, unimaginable hope. A new beginning. Christ opens the door to a new future for you and me.

“Jesus Christ is risen today.” (ELW #365) Today is what we sing. Today Jesus breaks out of death’s chains and soothes our wearied hearts.

The resurrection is God’s startling hope in our emptiness.

John Polkinghorne was a physicist at Cambridge University who later in life became an Anglican priest. He wrote quite a bit about science and religion, affirming both as different means of arriving at truth. I learned this week that Polkinghorne died a few weeks ago at the age of 90 in Cambridge, England.

I pulled out one of his books called “Quarks, Chaos and Christianity,” in which he discusses a passage in Mark where Jesus affirms the resurrection. (Mark 12)

Polkinghorne writes, “The point is that if Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, mattered to God once—and they certainly did—they matter to God forever. The same is true of you and me.

“God does not cast us off as discarded broken pots, thrown on to the rubbish heap of the universe when we die. Our belief in a destiny beyond death rests in the loving faithfulness of the eternal God—a God who will not allow anything good to be lost.” (Polkinghorne, p. 92, 96)

Resurrection hope means this: you and I matter deeply to God.

All of our lives—the empty feelings, the burdened hearts, the yearning for renewal. It matters to God because God loves us. Because God loves us forever, and nothing God loves will be lost.

Dear friends, the risen Christ comes among us today. Filling our empty places. Soothing our empty hearts. Energizing us to fill this empty world with hope, justice and compassion, love and kindness.

In a real way, we are like the women running on empty—running on the openness of the empty tomb.

And maybe that makes our lives not quite as empty today. Maybe we can breathe a little easier, maybe we can see a bit more daylight, maybe we can glimpse some hope.

We run back to our everyday lives, ready to face whatever comes our way. Ready to step into the hope of a new day. Filled with the promise of resurrection.Running on—running into the sun… for the Son has risen.

Christ has risen indeed. Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Loving God, thank you for raising Jesus from the dead, and meeting us in our empty places with startling hope. Fill us with the good news of your love for us, all people and this planet you cherish. Help us run back into our everyday ready to share your hope and love. Surround all those in need this day, especially the sick, the hungry, the grieving and those oppressed by injustice and neglect. Thank you for the gift of resurrection and new life! We pray this through the One who was crucified and now lives forever, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.