This was our first Easter in a liturgical church, and even though St. Mark’s is small, they pulled out all the stops: fragrant lilies and tulips at the altar, incense wafting through the chapel, dramatic choral anthems that lifted our hearts, hymns that reminded us of Christ’s amazing gift to us in his life, death and resurrection. It was beautiful and stirring, and I was grateful to be a part of it, thankful to be reminded again that “He is risen.”
As we were rejoicing today, we were also reminded that Mark’s gospel ends very honestly with Jesus’ loved one running away in fear at this news. We’ve heard it so many times, it’s easy to forget how terrifying this must have been. Nothing these past three days has gone as they expected, and they’d seen their dreams of a new kingdom die along with Jesus. Nothing prepared them for the death of their Messiah. They are in mourning, and a few of them have come to grieve and anoint the body, only to find it missing and an angel telling them not to fear. Right.
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8
It comforts me that God knows we are fearful creatures, and tells us over and over, “Do not fear.” “I am with you.” These two sentences have carried me into and through situations where I too wanted to flee in fear. Knowing Christ is with me has given me courage to step into those fears and choose life instead of something less, trusting that something good will come, even if I am quaking with terror at the thought. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available for me as well. When I’ve taken a risk and stepped out in faith, he’s replaced my fears with joy and gratitude. When I’ve stuck even a toe outside my comfort zone, bringing food to the homeless, visiting addicts in rehab, or stepping into a conflict that seems bigger than I am, I’ve seen that God indeed offers new life. He delights in giving us freedom from all that holds us back and keeps us from becoming. But it doesn’t stop there, because it isn’t just about us. The good news is for everyone, and we are the vessels. As he molds us in his image, our compassion for the world will shine, making light of the darkness. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Today’s prayer practice: Gratitude
Spend a few quiet moments with God today, reflecting on some of what you’re grateful for. Today is an opportunity to look at all we have in Christ, to remember his promise to always be with us. Take a walk alone or sit in your favorite peaceful spot and get quiet, asking God to bring some of his gifts to mind. Thank him for these, then meditate on these verses, listening for how God might want to shape you into a vessel of his love: “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”