Sermon Series

Mark 1:14-15, 16:1-8

Synopsis: The resurrection is not just about Jesus; it’s also about us. We MUST meet him back in Galilee and start the journey of becoming a new creation. Going back to Galilee is how we experience the resurrected Jesus and the power of resurrection today.

In the last weeks of my grandfather’s life, he could no longer eat and he could barely drink. His physical constitution weakened with every day, and eventually he grew so weak, I could no longer speak to him on the phone. It was clear to everyone who knew him and loved him… he would soon pass away. This was never lost on him. In fact, years before he died–when we talked on the phone–he would speak openly about his death and that like Paul, he would continue to look up and press on. He always encouraged me to do the same. “That’s it,” he would say. “Keep looking up and pressing on.”

“Looking” and “pressing” are active verbs. They are–wait for it–present participles, which means the action is ongoing. Looking up and pressing on are things we should practice everyday. My grandfather was telling me something I didn’t fully understand at the time. But over time, I’ve come to understand it.

A life of faith is not about assenting to dogma or checking off a list of what we say we believe in. A life of faith is not even fundamentally based on whether we can read scripture or not (that would make literacy a prerequisite to relationship—sounds to close to a literacy test and poll tax to me, and that ain’t grace). A life of faith is not found in our titles or in believing that we understand what God understands. At bottom, a life of faith is a life lived. A life of faith is living in such a manner that looks up to God (transcendence) and presses on with God (immanence). A life of faith is a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and back to Galilee again. And as we look up and press on, as we travel back to Galilee, we meet Jesus, we meet resurrection and life.

A life of faith is living in such a manner that looks up to God and presses on with God.

Brothers and sisters, the resurrection of Jesus is not a simple affirmation of faith. His resurrection involved and involves a journey. For Mark, encountering resurrection means following Jesus back to Galilee. To meet the resurrected Christ means taking the same journey he took from Galilee to Jerusalem. Symbolically and truly, we must take this journey. The power of resurrection is not based on static faith or repeating words or reciting dogma or even reading scripture. The power of resurrection is founded upon living in God’s love and grace and following that love and grace to whatever end in whatever season. Following God’s love, following God’s Son, following God’s Spirit to whatever end is what it means to go back to Galilee. And where God leads, life, creativity, and resurrection abound.

Resurrection is the promise of eternal life and never-failing Justice; Resurrection gives us new, imperishable bodies; resurrection signals a new heaven and earth, and eternal life. And to come to know the power of resurrection, we must journey with the risen Lord, the resurrected Christ, who is none other than Jesus of Nazareth—the one who took his pilgrimage from Galilee to Jerusalem. We live in Christ by following Christ and meeting Jesus back in Galilee.

Yet, upon seeing the empty tomb and a nameless man in white, the women were unable to tell anyone because of fear. The women’s fear and silence is a plot device of Mark, who often makes the disciples misunderstand Jesus as a way of getting us to think about our own status as disciples. The women were terrified and they said nothing—we know eventually they said something or the story wouldn’t have circulated. Mark knew that too. But he cared more about making a theological point that recounting history. And so his ending rankled many Christians. This ending was so unsatisfying to the early church that they began to rewrite and add a new ending to Mark to try to make it more satisfying—that’s what verses 8:b—20 try to do…

But I believe that if we don’t take Mark’s ending as is, then we miss what Mark is doing. Mark doesn’t believe that Hollywood endings point to God, instead, discipleship means traveling the road from Galilee to Jerusalem and back to Galilee. This is the journey of life to death to resurrection. This is the journey from summer to autumn to winter to spring. This is the cyclical journey of Jesus and the journey of those who claim to be his disciples. Resurrection can only be found when we take this journey.

O Courage my soul and let us journey on.

This journey is living and trusting in the Lord. This journey is living and hoping in the Lord. This journey consists of loving the God of love and each other. We cannot make this journey without loving love and hoping in love and trusting in love.

Meet Jesus in Galilee. There you you find him and follow him. There he will appear to you. There you will be amazed and struck with wonder. Yes Lawd, this empty tomb is shocking, but the tomb is still a place of death and if we equate resurrection with an empty tomb and not meeting Jesus in Galilee, then we’ve mistaken early spring for summer.

This is resurrection. The winter came and Jesus was crucified. But winter couldn’t have the last word because spring was around the corner and new life began to bloom. The empty tomb is like the dawn of Spring when the ice melts, the roses bud, and the days seem to be getting warmer. But the year doesn’t stop with early spring. No, time must continue on. Going back to Galilee is like the late Spring and Summer where we tend to our crops and look over the fields, where we prune the vines and get ready for Autumn’s harvest. And then winter comes again–we may be plunged into the cold waters of baptism or the icy roads of struggle and abandonment; or the final Arctic blast of death, but new life is around the corner next spring. This is the journey that we take over and over. We should not be not mere spectators in this journey. We must tend to the fields; we must prune the branches; we must speak and live the gospel.. We must notice the seasons and realize that winter does not have the last word.

It is only when we notice and participate in the seasons now, that we can get a foretaste of resurrection.

In language similar to mine and to Jesus’ own parables, Paul called Jesus the first fruits of the end-time harvest. Jesus talked about the kingdom of God in terms of scattering seed. Seeds turn into plants and plants are subject to the seasons. Are we scattering seed? Are we fertilizing the ground? Are we tending to the fields? Go to Galilee and find out. This is where Jesus’ ministry began. We must do our part to proclaim as Jesus proclaimed… Now after John had been put into prison: Jesus appeared in Galilee and began to preach “The time is right, and the space is here! The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and Trust in this Good news! Repent and Hope in this Good news! Repent and Love this Good news!”

Mark is asking us something in chapter 16. Will we commit ourselves to the journey? Will we look up and press on?  Once John’s public ministry was over, Jesus took up the banner in Galilee. Now that Jesus’ earthly ministry is over, will we pick up the banner? Will we go back to Galilee?

© 2016 M. J. Sales

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