Year B Easter Vigil, 3 April 2021
Video Service from St James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“A Crack in the Pavement”
Collect: O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 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." 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.
If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?
I always found that question to be a bit silly. What difference does it make. Trees falling make a sound, that is how the physics works. When things fall in the atmosphere, as opposed to the vacuum of space they make a sound. Things also make a sound in science fiction movies, but those explosions make the movies more dramatic.
But that tree falling, whether it makes a sound or not matters nothing to you unless something matters, unless you have some type of investment in it, some skin in the game.
One of the great joys this Lent has been wrestling our way through the Gospel of Mark with Harrison and our guest conversationalists. We finished with the 8 verses we read on this most holy night. We finish with an empty tomb.
And what difference does an empty tomb make? Who cares? Only people who care, who have some type of investment in it, some skin in the game. And that is the point of Mark. He is trying by patiently unveiling the story of Jesus to have you come to a point of caring, a point of investment, a point of having a call on whether this man actually was who he presents himself to be, and that his word is true.
He warned us in repeatedly in Mark [10:33-34, et al.]:
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
Will he? That was asked then, or maybe he was speaking metaphorically or hypothetically? Right?
But when we have a dead body on Friday, and an empty tomb, on Sunday, maybe there is something to it. Maybe that is where we are, like the women who found the empty tomb wondering what to do with it, maybe we have come to a point of caring, a point of investment, a point of having a call on whether this man actually was who he presents himself to be, and that his word is true. Maybe we have come to believe.
Tonight we have been presented a story, a story that starts with the beginning of time, and ends with this cruxpoint in history. What will we do with it?
Is it like the tree in the forest? A fun thing to think about and ponder. A little mental stimulation. Or do we really believe? Belief is not holding a thought. Belief is basing your actions on a thought. You can believe the tree is silent in its falling, or you can believe it makes a sound. That is nothing. A spark bouncing between two neurons in your brain. A whimsy. A nothing.
Belief in what happened in that empty tomb could be the same thing. A whimsy. A nothing. Unless you care, unless you have a point of investment, some skin in the outcome. Charles Spurgeon reminded us: This is faith, receiving the truth of Christ; first knowing it to be true, and then acting upon that belief.
Friends, I love the Gospel according to Mark for this approach. While often seen as the most simplistic, “Immediately they did this!” and “Immediately they did that!” At the same time, the ending, verse 8 in the most ancient text that we have, leaves it up to the reader, you and me, to make the call. In the course of his story, do we see this man coming at the end of this story, and all the stories we have read tonight?
Do I dare believe that this story is true? Do I dare believe that all people are my siblings, sisters, brothers? Do I dare think that God loved me enough to step into time itself and show me how much I am loved? Do I dare think that Jesus died for me, an extravagant gift like the alabaster jar of perfume poured out in absolute love… of me?
In Mark’s Gospel we see the story end this way.
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.
We know that it did not end there, or we would not be here tonight. Their terror and confusion slowly eased, and then belief took hold. Like a weed in a crack in the pavement. Once it starts the weed will win.
The crack appears, an empty tomb. Fear? Flee? Each of our responses is as personal as our fingerprints, and as eternal as our very souls. My friends, what will you do now? What is your response? It is the Easter Vigil, a night of speculation, but with the dawn may you find the comfort, the joy, the bliss of Belief, and the resolute action of Faith. Amen.