Watanabe Sadao No Series The Women At The Tomb 00034725 030729 F06Easter Message on Mark 16:1-8 given on March 31, 2024 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

We never know what the future holds, but sometimes there are moments of grief or change when the unknown future causes is particularly scary.

In the fall of my freshman year of college, my parents announced that my dad was being transferred with work to Brussels, Belgium. They would be moving right after Christmas. Even though I had physically left home, I had not emotionally moved out, yet. So, when my dad said, “we’re moving to Belgium” I included myself in the “we.” My parents did not.

I was startled at first and then scared, but in good Scandinavian fashion, I swallowed my feelings and pretended everything was fine. But inside, I wondered, What the heck is going on? I was supposed to be leaving home, but instead home is leaving me. Where am I supposed to go when I want to get away on the weekend? I don’t like my roommate, much less most of the party animals in my dorm. I am not even sure about my major—I only came to this school because my older sister was here—but she has a boyfriend now. How am I supposed to figure out my future by myself?

Even though no one had died, I was experiencing grief—my life and future as I had imagined it was suddenly completely unknown, murky, and scary. I had never felt this alone, and it was hard to speak up.

Perhaps you, too, have had this experience of grief over unexpected changes in your life, and felt this fear of the future that grips us at times of significant change. You could be going through one of these changes right now.

• The person or people we have relied on are no longer physically around to offer the support and help we counted on. Someone close to us moves away—becomes ill, or their circumstances change.
• Sometimes the unknown future comes when someone we love passes away, and we are thrust into a reality we did not want or choose.
• An unknown future unsettles us when are laid off, go through career changes, or a relationship ends through a break-up or divorce.
All these events cause their own grief, and the future feels murky, uncertain, and scary—it’s hard to speak up.

Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Salome experience all these fraught emotions as they come to the tomb on that first Easter morning. They are wracked with grief, they are filled with fear, they can’t imagine how to step into a murky, unknown future.

The person they had come to rely on is gone—Jesus had changed their lives beyond measure— Jesus healed Mary Magdalene of demon-possession—and changed everything! How could Mary Magdalene now live without Jesus, this great friend and companion who had transformed her life?

The other Mary and Salome, mothers to disciples, were also distressed. Their whole families’ lives had changed because of Jesus, and they had become his followers. They had ministered to Jesus and his entourage—providing food and lodging, but they had received so much more than they gave.

They felt seen for the first time, like they really mattered. They saw hope in their sons’ eyes. How were they supposed to go back to “business as usual?” They could not see a future without Jesus in it.
The only thing the women can think to do, are the tasks of burial—so they come at sunrise with spices in hand. The problem is, they have no plan for how to move that huge stone in front of the tomb.

But that’s grief, turmoil, and fear, isn’t it?—we can’t see the future, much less think straight in the present. The women have no game. No plan. No strategy. Spices and nothing else. They realize their folly as they walk.

But even though the women had no plan, God’s got game, and God’s got a plan, a bigger plan than they could ever imagine. When they arrive at the tomb, the stone has already been rolled away!

An angel of the Lord sits there in dazzling white telling them the good news that Jesus no longer is dead but is, in fact, alive—he has risen from the dead! He has conquered our most fearsome enemy in the future, death itself, and come back to life!
Then the angel says the most important thing:
Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee and there you will see him!
Jesus is going ahead of them.
The future that the Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome fear—is already filled with presence of the risen Jesus.

The future that we fear, that we cannot we see, the future that seems uncertain and murky— is already filled with presence of the risen Jesus.

Jesus is going ahead of you. Jesus is already ahead of you in your future, and has made it crystal clear.

• Let’s start with the end of your future—Jesus has gone ahead of you into death—so when you get there—Jesus is already there, and there you will see him, and he will bring you to eternal life!
• But before you get there—when you get to your future, let’s say the is the next decade, or the next 5 decades if you're very young, Jesus is there even now-- and there you will see him!
• And when you get to the next 5 years, Jesus is already there, and there you will see him!
• And when you get to the next year, Jesus is already there! And Jesus is already in your next month, and your next week.
• The risen Lord is going ahead of you into your tomorrow, and into your tonight, and into your this afternoon, and into your next minute.
• The risen Lord is already present wherever you are now, and wherever you will be in the future, always and forever. Amen.

This is the most important thing, and indeed the only thing we need to know about our future.
And it’s crystal clear.
The tomb is empty.
Jesus, our risen Lord is loose in the world, and in your life, preparing the way for your tomorrow, which means he is with you today, now, this minute, this breath.

The angel at the empty tomb offers us 3 directions to help us embrace the risen Lord who is already in our future and in our today. I invite you to practice these this week, and then come back next week for our Post-Easter Sermon series about Jesus in Real Life—which is on the yellow card in your bulletin.

Here are 3 things the angel instructs us to do as followers of the Risen Jesus:
1. Look for Life- The women came to the tomb looking for death. The angel says, “Look, there is the place they laid him.” Death is gone—this is a place of life! Look, Look for life! Look for Jesus! Look for hope! Look for love—these are always present no matter what—even and especially at the tomb. When we are struggling through change—Look for Life. Go outside and look at a plant pushing through a crack in the sidewalk, listen for a bird, or google babies giggling. Notice love and good, in strangers, in what children say, in neighbors.

I have a mantra I repeat when I am struggling, which is “Jesus never fails me!” And it’s always true. It would be better to state it positively, “Jesus always shows up!” We see what we look for—When we look for Life, we see Jesus’ presence all around us. Matthew 7:7 says, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

2. Engage in Community- The angel sent the women back into the community of the disciples—"go to the disciples and Peter." A life of following Jesus is a group project. We do this together as sisters and brothers because Jesus shows up for us in others. None of us can navigate grief or major life changes alone. That freshman year in college, I had a lot of support—from an aunt & uncle, from my home church youth leader, my sister, and others. Most importantly, I became involved in campus ministry, where I made my closest friends, experienced community, and where my sister and I would worship together. It was that campus pastor who told me to consider becoming a Lutheran pastor.

You see, Jesus was already in my future, and he is already in yours too—working through a whole community of people he is using as angels to guide your path. Engage in Christian community--we have Life Groups here, and we will create more—faith is shared journey. Romans 12:5 reminds us, So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

3. Go & Tell- The angel instructs the women to go and tell the other disciples the good news that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, and going ahead of them—that they will see him! But they had a hard time speaking up. In their fear and amazement they say nothing and the story ends with silence!

Clearly the women eventually spoke up or we would not be celebrating Easter today! So why end the story in silence? Because WE are the ones who finish the story. The angel invites us to find our voice, to speak up, and go and tell others how we have already seen Jesus’ presence in our life, how WE know Jesus is already here, now and in our future, how WE have experienced new life, hope, community, and help when we needed it most.

We finish the story when we go and tell others that when we thought the future was murky and scary, someone showed up for us, and in them we saw Jesus, we saw Life, we experienced love. In Matthew 6:24- Jesus says, do not worry about tomorrow because he is there! So we don’t!

We can finish the story when we go and tell that we do not fear the future anymore because we trust that Jesus is already there! And that makes our life, and our future, crystal clear. Our future is always shining with the light of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, disciples, are you ready to finish the story, and go and tell?
Let’s say Amen!

Image: Sadao Watanabe Women at the Tomb

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