Reflection: April 1 – Easter Sunrise

Published on Apr 2nd, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0
 
Phillip Harrison tells a parable that is repeated by Peter Rollins, a popular Irish theologian who is quite in demand these days for public speaking and leading workshops; he defines himself as an iconoclast who is eroding the comfortable ground upon which many Christians stand.  The parable goes like this:
The other day I had a dream. I dreamed I arrived at the gates of heaven, heavy-shut, pure oak, well crafted, glinting sharply in the sunlight. St. Peter stood to greet me; he smiled at me.
“You’re here,” he said.
“I am,” I said.
“Great to see you—been expecting you,” he smiled. “Come on in.”
Peter pushed gently against the huge door; it swung silently. I took a couple of tentative steps forward until, at the threshold, I realized I wasn’t alone. My friends had joined me, but they hovered behind, silently looking on. None spoke. I realized only I could speak. I looked at them; some were Christians, some Hindus, some Buddhists, some were beggars, some were mentally ill, some atheists. Some God knows what. I stopped, paused. A hesitant St. Peter looked at me, patiently, expectantly.
“What about my friends?” I asked him. “Can they come?”
“Well, Phil,” Peter replied, “I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are.”
I looked at him. He seemed genuinely pained by his answer. I stood, considering. What should I do? I thought about my reference points and thought about Jesus, the outsider, the heretic, the rebel, and I knew exactly where I belonged.
“I’ll just stay here then too,” I said, taking my one foot out of heaven. And I’ll tell you, I’d swear I saw something like a grin break across St. Peter’s face, and a voice from inside whispered, “At last.”
I was reminded of this parable as I pondered Mark’s Easter story, which ends with the women running away afraid and silent.  The parable is iconoclastic, much like Mark’s gospel.  The parable is unexpected and some may even say irreverent and lack good news, not at all conventionally Christian, a lot like Mark’s gospel.
 
What makes Mark’s ending radical is that it ends so abruptly.  There are no resurrection appearance stories like John, Matthew and Luke.  There is the empty tomb, but no shout of victory, only awe-full silence.  There is no leap for joy, only running away with fear.
 
Ched Myers, a Mark scholar who is currently part of a social justice collective in California which speaks to American exceptionalism in the world and advocates for greater humility and compassion, teaches that Mark portrays Jesus as One who preached and embodied a radical non-violent gospel of love that over-turned complacent convention and dominating power.
 
In a reflection on Mark’s Easter story, Ched Myers said this, “the Good News to us is that Jesus is still going on ahead of the church, undeterred and undomesticated by our Christologies of entombment and enthronement. If we would join Him, He is still to be found on the Way.”
 
Verses were added to Mark’s Gospel at a later date to reconcile the Easter story with the other gospels.  Myers claims that Mark’s purpose was to ensure that people not interpret the resurrection either from a perspective of enthronement with Jesus on the clouds of glory or stuck in entombment with Jesus still in a tomb of dogmatism or state-sanctioned belief.  Rather, it is Myers’ contention that the resurrection as portrayed by Mark opens us to experience a Kairos moment of grace—a moment beyond time—a wrinkle in time, to use Madeleine L’Engle’s phrase that is currently the buzz.  This Kairos moment is the third and last call to discipleship from Jesus according to Mark; Mark portrays the disciples as not quite getting it as a tool for our understanding.  According to Mark, the disciples prefer not to rock the boat of what they believe, are more interested in lasting memorials than movements of justice, healing and change, argue about positions of power rather than embracing servanthood, and, as Myers puts it, “live in awe of the architecture of domination.”
The power of Mark’s Easter story is that it faces our human condition head-on.  We are not rescued from the possibility of facing a huge stone at the tomb’s entrance.  We go to the tomb—we live our lives of discipleship—with our fears and our uncertainties, with our anger and our doubts, with our frailties and our challenges.  And what do we find?  The stone has been moved!  Mark used a particular piece of Greek grammar in saying that the stone had been rolled away.  It is technically called the perfect tense and the passive voice; it is the grammar of divine action according to Mark.  The stone has been moved! Myers put it this way: “by a force from beyond the bounds of story and history, with the power to regenerate both.  It is a gift from outside the constraints of natural or civic law and order, from the One who is unobligated to the State and its cosmologies, radically free yet bound in Passion to us.”
What that means—this Kairos moment of grace—is that the tired story of prophets being killed, of power and wealth, always winning, of military might triumphing, and of peace and justice losing is turned on its head.  For us, Jesus is risen!  Jesus is risen from the grave. Jesus is risen not to be in heaven. The young man in the tomb doesn’t suggest the women look inwards to find the risen Jesus. The only place we see the Risen Jesus is on the journey going before us. Mark’s story ends as it begins with the idea that God sends God’s messenger before us all, One who will construct the Way.
The risen Jesus sits with us at the vigil of a dying loved one.  The risen Jesus is chained with protestors who are protecting God’s creation from pollution and destruction.  The risen Jesus is with us as we face the loss of a job, a child, a partner, a way of life.  The risen Jesus is with us as we stare into the face of hate or fear.  The risen Jesus is with us, preparing the Way of justice, preparing the Way of love, preparing the Way of new life for us to walk.
Jesus is neither enthroned in heaven nor enshrined in a tomb.  Enthronement is about conquering, but Mark’s vision for us is one of new life and the promise of life held out to us who dare to live the Jesus Way.    Enshrined in a tomb leads to dogmatism and narrow definitions of exclusion; Jesus leads us away from domesticated theologies that define who is in and who is out, and that are bound by time.  Mark’s Easter story is of Jesus who leads us into life, an abundant, Kairos moment life of grace and love.  He is with us on the Way, leading us… right here, right now!
 
Alleluia!  Christ is risen.
                   Christ is Risen indeed, Alleluia!
 
Amen.

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