The evening I met my now husband for the first time, he dropped a pick up line only an Episcopal priest could appreciate. Somehow we were discussing the Myers Briggs Indicator. This is a personality test that reports how the test taker interacts with the world. If you haven’t taken the actual one, you’ve probably seen mini tests on Facebook based off the Myers Briggs. The Episcopal Church requires its candidates for ordination to take this test as part of their psychological evaluation. And as a result, it is often a topic of conversation among clergy. So this young man, my now husband, drops the line that the Myers Briggs is the astrology of the Episcopal Church. And he’s not wrong, I didn’t much discuss being a Taurus in seminary but the fact that I am extroverted was quite commonly known.
The tests fourth category reports on whether someone lives a lifestyle that is “well-structured” (this is a J for judgment) or a life style that “goes with the flow” (a P for Perception). The P “go with the flow” type tend to be dreamers who come up with new ideas and visions. The J “structured type” like to complete a task before moving on to another. I am a J all the way. I love lists. I love organization. Everything in my home has a place where it belongs. I would prefer not to start something if I cannot finish it. My poor husband has on more than one occasion given up trying to convince me that I can finish painting the room tomorrow and he’s just left me and gone up to bed. In the day of CDs, I listened to the tracks in order. Track 13 might have been my favorite, but I can’t just skip over the others. I’ll have to wait until I get there.
For those of us “structured types” and perhaps even for those better at “going with the flow” today’s Gospel poses a challenge. It leaves us hanging. Did you notice? Or perhaps you automatically filled in the end of the story? Today’s gospel tells of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome going to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning to anoint his body. There they find the stone rolled away and encounter a young man who informs them that Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified is not there. He instructs them to go and tell Jesus’ disciples that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee. There they will see him. The passage ends, “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.”
And that’s it. The women flee in terror and amazement and say nothing to anyone. That is where Mark’s story ends. And I know I am not the only one who has issues with the unfinished because over the centuries this story was added to. Scholars agree that this ending, our ending today, is the original ending of Mark’s Gospel. The story ended with terror, amazement and silence and folks could not handle it. If you crack open a Bible, you will find two additional endings in which the women do tell what they’ve heard and in which the resurrected Jesus shows up. We have other gospels that end differently, that comfort us with stories of the resurrected Jesus. But what does it mean that this one ends in terror, amazement and speechlessness? With Mary, Mary and Salome fleeing the tomb?
It seems that these women did not anticipate God’s inbreaking, God’s action of raising Jesus from the dead. It seems no one did, otherwise all the disciples would surely would have been there waiting with bated breath, with champagne to uncork, with noise makers, confetti and balloons… but they were not there, they were hiding, grieving, mourning their loss. In the midst of their darkness, fear and grief, God breaks in and terrifies them.
In the midst of our darkness—the darkness, fear and grief of our lives and world—God continues to break in. God continues to shatter our expectations bringing new life, growth, resurrection, and hope where we least thought it possible. In the midst of the darkest and most dire moments and situations, God continues to startle, surprise and terrify us.
We’re much more accustomed to thinking of experiences of resurrection as being experiences of beauty, of light, of joy… but God is present, breaking in, breathing new life in moments of darkness, terror and death, moments just like the darkness of that first Easter where his followers were still mourning the messiah’s death. How often do we flee, run away, or continue on our way without saying anything to anyone, without giving a second thought? How often do we even fail to notice resurrection? Seeing only darkness and missing the inbreaking of hope and life?
Resurrection is the delicate purple blooms of wisteria with their heavenly scent that somehow burst forth from the tough wooden vines that looked so lifeless all winter.
AND it is naming the truths of climate change and how each of us contribute to it.
Resurrection is the teeny tiny nails of a newborn child.
AND it is working to end gun violence so that that child can go to school in safety without fear.
It is the green rolling hills of spring after dryness and drought.
And it is the “me too” movement.
Resurrection is popping a sun-warmed tomato directly from the vine straight into your mouth.
And it is declaring that black lives matter and continuing the work for true equality and justice.
It is the green tendril breaking through the charred, scorched ground and the goodness, love and support of strangers in the midst of a terrible tragedy.
It is healing of the brokenness.
Resurrection is terror and amazement at God’s action in this world.
It is life where there was only death.
Hope where there was once only despair.
Peace in place of violence.
Equality and justice and love where there was once oppression, prejudice and hatred.
“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.” Mark’s story ends here. But somehow, we today, thousands of years later, know this story and continue to live out the next chapters. Only God’s faithfulness completes the story. This is the good news of Easter. Whether we shout it from the rooftops or run away in the silence of terror, God breaks into this world. In our fear, in our speechlessness, in our powerlessness, in our joy, God breaks in and brings resurrection— life, hope, growth, healing, peace.