Rev Elaine Julian ‘Easter: to be Continued’ Sunday April 16th


The story of the life and death of Jesus contains all the other stories that we have ever told each other over the ages, the many, many stories of the triumph of life over death, good over evil. Stories of betrayal and loss, and stories of love and generosity. At Easter, God calls us to gather all the stories into this one truth: the power of love that created us and the universe will never, ever be defeated in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Creation was born in and for God’s love.  

The story is everything, and the story never ends. And so, even though Easter Sunday was last week, we tell the story today and in the weeks to come as the church continues to celebrate the season of Easter. Easter: to be continued!

Good News: Mark 16:1-8  Common English Bible

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. 

Holy Wisdom, Holy Word. Thanks be to God!

Reflection: “Told Among Women in Galilee” by Elaine Julian

The earliest texts of the Gospel of Mark end with verse 8 of chapter 16:  “They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”  It’s an unsettling ending.  Why didn’t the women tell the disciples?  Where was Jesus?  What happens next?  Let’s hear from one of the women who continues to tell this amazing story to all who come to hear it.

Welcome, welcome!  Pardon me if I don’t get up, the old bones are getting too tired and stiff to do much of anything these days.  You’ve come such a long way, though, and you must be so tired.  Sit down, my daughters will bring you water to wash your feet and wine to refresh your spirits.  We’ll eat in a little while, when the rest of our little group comes to share our weekly meal.

I’m glad you brought the children.  Jesus used to say that the kingdom of God belongs to the little children and anyone who loves and trusts like they do.

So I guess you’ve heard the rumours that Jesus was alive here in Galilee?  I wish I could tell you that for sure, but I’ll just tell you what I and the rest of the women actually saw.  Then you can make up your own minds.

We’ve had a lot of seekers visit us since people found out where we were hiding.  Thirty years!  It’s hard to believe that much time has passed since he died.  It’s getting harder and harder to remember everything, and I’m the only one still living that was there that awful week in Jerusalem.  But we’re teaching the stories to our daughters, and they’re learning fast.  When I get tired, sometimes they take over the telling to give me a break.  Soon, I’ll be gone and it will all be up to them.  I wonder how long these old stories will last.

But you’re not here to listen to my worries!  You’re here to hear the story.  Let’s see now, where to begin?  

Well, it might seem backwards but I’m going to begin at the ending.  Have you ever noticed how every ending also contains a new beginning?  That’s how it’s always seemed to me, and that’s why I hope that this story will survive long after I die.  All I can do is plant the seeds, after that it’s up to God to water them and make them grow.

So, that last week….what a terrible week it was!  The men might not tell you this, but there were a lot of us women who followed Jesus from Galilee into Jerusalem.  We were so afraid!  We knew how much danger he was in, how much the religious leaders and the Romans hated him.  They were afraid he was going to lead another Jewish rebellion.  We wanted Jesus to stay here in Galilee, where we could hide him and keep him safe.  Nobody bothers us much up here, we’re too far away from all the important politics down south.

Anyway, we had all been taking care of Jesus and his disciples, giving them places to stay and feeding them.  And we could have gone on doing that, but Jesus was determined to go so we went with him.  It turned out we were right, he was dead within a week.  It all seemed so out of control, and all we could do was be there with him, watching and waiting and worrying.  At the end, we were the only ones still there.

You’d have to ask the disciples what they were thinking, if any of them are still alive.  We all have our own stories, and I’m not saying that mine is the only true one.

I don’t really blame the disciples.  They were just as terrified and confused as we were.  

All I can tell you is that we were there when Jesus was killed, and they weren’t.  I’ve never felt so helpless in my entire life, all we hoped then was that he would know we were there and he wasn’t entirely alone.

After he was dead, and we had finished crying our eyes out, we started to wonder what to do about his body.  Thank goodness for Joseph of Arimathea, who got permission to bury him in his brand new tomb before the Sabbath started.  No one else could afford to do that.  We watched while they wrapped him and laid him in the tomb, and rolled a great huge rock over the opening.  It felt like the end of the world. 

 We went away to rest on the Sabbath, and I guess that’s when we started telling the stories to each other.  You know, like you do when someone has died.  When the first shock is over, you start to remember the happy and sad times that you shared with them.   Sometimes you even laugh when you remember something funny, and that’s Ok I think.  So that’s how it was the day after Jesus died.

And that’s when we started to think there was still something we could do.  We could do what women have always done – wash his body and prepare it properly for burial.  So the next morning we went to the market at first light and bought the spices we needed and headed for the tomb.  I remember Mary Magdalene saying, “But how are we going to move that big rock?”  We didn’t know, but we went anyway.  

We were so shocked when we crept up to the tomb, and the stone was already moved!  Had somebody robbed the tomb?  It’s not unheard of in these desperate times, but who would expect to find anything valuable in the tomb of an executed criminal?  We almost ran away right then and there.  But we peeked in, and there was a young man we’d never seen before.  He told us Jesus had been raised!  He said to go right away and tell the disciples, and that Jesus was going ahead of us to Galilee and we would see him here.

Well, this is the part I hate telling.  We were still terrified, it was all too overwhelming.  We turned and ran away, just too afraid and confused to do anything else, and we didn’t tell anyone.  

You’re wondering why we didn’t do what we were told?  That’s what women are supposed to do, isn’t it?  All I can ask you to do is to try to put yourselves in our shoes.  The people who killed Jesus were searching Jerusalem for Jesus’ followers to silence them.  We weren’t the only ones hiding, and we knew that telling such an unbelievable story would probably draw the wrong kind of attention.  Some of us had families at home that would suffer if we didn’t return.  And tell the disciples?  Why would they believe us?  We were just women, not even important enough to be official guests at Jesus’ last supper, only there to prepare and serve the food.

So we kept quiet and made our way home.  And we kept telling the stories about Jesus to each other, so we wouldn’t forget.  Soon we started to hear fragments of other stories, people who had seen Jesus alive again, and seen him taken up to heaven.  But we never saw his face again, and we only told what we had seen ourselves.

Except sometimes, it seems like I catch a glimpse of his back, laying his hand on the shoulder of a leper or comforting a crying child.  And sometimes when we gather for our secret Sabbath meals and tell our stories to all who come, I feel like he’s here with us.  I can almost hear his voice singing the ancient blessings or telling one of those parables that seem to have a new and deeper meaning every time we hear them.

I’m really tired, I’ll have to stop for a little while.  Our friends are starting to arrive for the feast.  Please stay and share with us, you’ll hear more stories then.

And, if you ever hear of a follower of Jesus who can read and write, maybe you could send him to us?  We want our stories to last beyond our lifetimes, and we need someone to write them down so they don’t get forgotten or changed too much.  For now, please just take our stories home and keep sharing them.  I have a feeling that this story is so much bigger than any of us.  It seems to be a story that turns everything upside down so nothing is the same after you hear it.  It’s hard to keep that sort of story to yourself.

And now, let’s break bread and drink wine together and remember how Jesus lived and died and somehow seems to have escaped the finality of death.  Shalom, my new friends, you are so welcome at this table.  

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