Tugged ahead to Galilee - Reflections for Easter 2021

Text for Sunday April 4, 2021
Easter Day

Mark 16:1-8 

The Church also has a common daily lectionary that they use for daily prayers and devotions. My husband and I read together one of the assigned texts each morning. Today it was the Easter Story from Mark…. Which was the assigned text for Easter Day in this year of Mark. I didn’t get a devotion published before Easter, so I am considering this appearance of the text on the Wednesday after Easter to be a grace-filled invitation to do so today.

The Gospel text from Mark comes at the resurrection story in a little different way. Yes, Jesus was placed in a tomb after dying with the final prep of his body on hold for the Sabbath. Yes, a small group of his women followers head out the next morning to anoint his body appropriately. And yes, they find an empty tomb and a messenger in white waiting for them who says He has been raised; he is not here.

What is missing in Mark’s story is the “running back to tell the disciples”. Mark’s messenger does send them to do so: Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee. Mark’s Gospel ends with this sentence: 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 who hear that amazing news each year tend to not be surprised by it. But I can imagine how disoriented those women had to be. Their tomb-is-empty brain fog had to be at least as bad or worse than the world-is-locked-down-and-people-are-dying-everywhere brain fog we’ve experienced this past year. Both experiences were unique, unlike anything experienced before. Terror and amazement make sense. Obviously, they shook it off and told someone because, really, how would we be able to hear the story yearly if they hadn’t?

One of the books that the congregation read together this Lent was a book by Rob Bell What We Talk about when We Talk About God. He used a list of common words to discuss ways that God “is” in our world. One of those words is “ahead”.

He uses examples from both Testaments to show how God/Jesus continued to pull the people from those stories forward to a better future (ahead of them). He tugs them toward a new ethic about how to live together. Since humanity seems to like the status quo so wherever has God tugged them seems like “enough”, And so, God then tugs the next generation just a little further. Generation after generation, century after century.

All that tugging includes us, you know. We also tend to settle into a righteously certain spot to which we have been tugged but, as Bell writes:

Only to discover that whatever God is up to, it’s bigger and better and wider and stronger and more inspiring and expansive and liberating that we first imagined. A careful reading of the Bible reveals a book about people having their minds blown and hearts exploded with a vision for humanity so thrilling and joyous it can’t be grasped all at once.*

Sounds like the experience of finding a tomb empty along a message of resurrection, doesn’t it? And, notice that the message in Mark is that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee and will see you there.

Sounds like a tug to me! Jesus is ahead and calling for trust in the promise.

God is always pulling us forward, inviting us to new perspectives, new life. While this year has been one of disorientation and fear, Mark tells us that Jesus is not entombed; death has been defeated. Jesus has risen (just as he said he would) and is going ahead of us, drawing us toward new life in him. We too are witnesses who can move through this current situation and called to new life. If we need to pause because of fear, we can be sure that Jesus’ love will tug us through that fear to Galilee.

* Bell, Rob, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, 2013, HarperCollins, New York, NY p.172-173

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245