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Showing up on Easter

Rev. Harry Currie

Mar 31, 2024

Mark 16:1-8, John 20:11-18

I am going to start with a quote by the late Rachel Held Evans from her book: Searching for Sunday: loving, leaving and finding the church


       It will bother you off and on, like a rock in your shoe, 

Or it will startle you, like the first crash of thunder in a summer storm, 

Or it will lodge itself beneath your skin like a splinter, 

Or it will show up again—the uninvited guest whose heavy footsteps you’d recognize anywhere, appearing at your front door with a suitcase in hand at the worst. possible. time. 

Or it will pull you farther out to sea like rip tide, 

Or hold your head under as you drown— 

Triggered by an image, a question, something the minister said, something that doesn’t add up, the unlikelihood of it all, the too-good-to-be-trueness of it, the way the lady in the thick perfume behind you sings “Jesus Christ is risen today” with more confidence in the single line of a song than you’ve managed to muster in the past two years. 

And you’ll be sitting there in the dress you pulled out from the back of your closet, swallowing down the bread and wine, not believing a word of it. 

Not. A. Word. 

So you’ll fumble through those back pocket prayers—“help me in my unbelief!”—while everyone around you moves on to verse two, verse three, verse four without you. 

You will feel their eyes on you, and you will recognize the concern behind their cheery greetings: “We haven’t seen you here in a while! So good to have you back.” 

And you will know they are thinking exactly what you used to think about Easter Sunday Christians: 




But you won’t know how to explain that there is nothing nominal or lukewarm or indifferent about standing in this hurricane of questions every day and staring each one down until you’ve mustered all the bravery and fortitude and trust it takes to whisper just one of them out loud on the car ride home: 

“What if we made the resurrection up, because we’re afraid of death?” 

And you won’t know how to explain why, in that moment when the whisper rose out of your mouth like Jesus from the grave, you felt more alive and awake and resurrected than you have in ages because at least it was out, at least it was said, at least it wasn’t buried in your chest anymore, clawing for freedom. 

And, if you’re lucky, someone in the car will recognize the bravery of the act. If you’re lucky, there will be a moment of holy silence before someone wonders out loud if such a question might put a damper on Easter brunch. 

But if you’re not—if the question gets answered too quickly or if the silence goes on too long—please know you are not alone. 

There are other people signing words to hymns they’re not sure they believe today, other people digging out dresses from the backs of their closets today, other people ruining Easter brunch today, other people just showing up today. 


The late Rachel Held Evans was and is a gem. Growing up in a very conservative church in Birmingham, Alabama that worshipped Jesus, but the Alabama Crimson Tide football team was a close second, she learned to love the church, then unlove the church and then love it again.


And what I liked about Rachel is her honesty and her willingness to talk about the things she struggled with.

And like most Christians, and most people and most ministers, she struggled with the resurrection.

Is it true? Did we make it up to soothe our souls about life after death? Can we prove it? It is unbelievable.


She is not the first person to think that.


In fact, the very oldest version of the Gospel we have is the Gospel of Mark and in the oldest manuscript we have of Mark’s gospel the gospel ends in verse eight

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.


Three women come to the tomb. Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome.

       They have come to anoint the body. They are wondering how they will move the stone.

       But when they get there, the stone is moved, there is no body and instead there is a man in a white robe who tells them that Jesus is raised, and that they should go and tell the disciples.


And instead of whooping it up with joy the women are shocked and terrified.

And instead of telling the disciples they say nothing.


Actually, if you read the Greek literally then use a colloquialism, a double negative.

Literally it reads: they said nothing to nobody.


Why? They didn’t believe it. They couldn’t believe it. It was impossible.

       That is how the original Gospel of Mark ends. Later on, there were a couple of additions to the Gospel of Mark to clean it up and make the ending more presentable.

But believe me, I was as crazy to those first disciples as it was to scientists today.


And through the years I have read just about everything and heard preached just about everything about the resurrection…

From on one hand, people saying that any good Christian does not doubt the resurrection and that it is literally and historically true…

…to the other end of the spectrum that the resurrection is a metaphor of transformation, renewal and rebirth. And everything in between.

I have dealt with atheists who say that God and religion are opiates for the people and it is all poppycock.  And I have deal with those who say I am going to hell, because I don’t believe what they believe.

       I know seven different atonement theories for why Jesus died and rose again and what the meaning of that is…


       But believe me, you don’t want to hear all seven of them this morning.


       And if you are here thinking I can clear up all the mystery and tell you definitively how to think about the resurrection, and exactly what it means for all Christians, you are going to be a little disappointed.


       Like any good counsellor, I will turn the question back on its head and ask you: “Well what does it mean to you?”


       And maybe one of the things we can celebrate this morning is that we have a diversity of experiences of the risen Christ and what the resurrection means can actually be different for each of us, and that is not a bad thing.


       The resurrection happened in the middle of the night in total darkness. No human was witness to it. No human fully understands it. And even today, no human story can fully encapsulate it or explain it.


       Somehow, we believe that God brought death out of life.

       And if you like Rachel Held Evans have had times of doubting it, like pretty much every person and every minister has…. Well maybe that’s not all bad.


       It gives you some really good stuff to pray about. Instead of praying for the Oilers to win (local ice hockey team for my American friends), or praying for a salary raise, or praying for good weather on your holidays…

       Take time to talk to God about how the resurrection is hard to understand and believe. And sit in silence. Wrestle with it and maybe listen to God.


       For it is good to be honest with yourself and with God.


       People believe different things about the resurrection, but I want to move us today away from what we intellectually believe about the resurrection and move on to the first person to see Jesus after the resurrection.


       Mary. Mary Magdalene. This is in John’s gospel.


Sometimes it would be nice if someone just put all four gospels together and ironed out all the differences so that when we compared the gospels we wouldn’t notice that they don’t always agree.

       But just like people have different theologies and different understandings of the resurrection, so people experience Jesus differently and we have different understandings of the gospel. We have 5 different major understandings of the Jesus and the gospel in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul.

       They don’t always agree, because they each experienced Jesus and God and the Spirit in their own way and tell the Good News according to their experience.


In Mark’s gospel Mary Magdalene runs away and says nuthin to nobody.


       In John’s gospel Mary Magdalene is the first to see Jesus after the resurrection.


       Mary is grief stricken. Mary is heartbroken. In the darkness of the early morn, Mary is stumbling through her own darkness, her own despair, her own sense of loss, her own lack of understanding.

       And even when Jesus appears she doesn’t recognize him.


Jesus didn’t look like he was supposed to look like.


       But sometimes that has been my experience of Jesus. Sometimes it is in the dark times of my life, as I lingered and questioned and doubted and cried, that Jesus showed up.

       And sometimes I didn’t recognize when Jesus showed up, because he didn’t show up like the Jesus, I used to see in the painting on the wall of Sunday School. You might recognize the famous Head of Jesus painted by and American artist Warner Sallman in 1940. Jesus is a white guy with long hair and a beard who looks like a movie star.


       When Jesus showed up to me, sometimes it was as one of my friends, one time is was as a counsellor, sometimes it was my wife, and often it was my children.

       Sometimes I didn’t see Jesus at all. Sometimes I just felt him. Sometimes it seemed that Jesus wrote the sermon with me and inspired me. Sometimes when I would go walking, he walked with me and he talked with me and told me that I was his own.

       Sometimes it would be at the movies. I remember seeing the movie ET the extra-terrestrial many years ago. I watched the movie and I saw that ET could heal, and feel what we feel, and rise up in the air and talk to his heavenly father, and come back to life, and I saw that intentionally or unintentionally that ET was based on Jesus Christ, and I experienced the good news and Jesus in a very different and surprising way.


       Sometimes it was silence when Jesus was most real. And sometimes it was in scripture.

Sometimes I break down and cry in the middle of worship because I am overwhelmed with the presence of Christ.

 Jesus definitely sings with me and the choir during the Hallelujah chorus, but what part he sings is a bit of a mystery, because he seems to be with all of us.


       I don’t know how you experience the resurrected Jesus.

Whether through prayer, through worship, through family, through friends, through music, scripture, creation or any number of other ways, but what I would like to say to you this Easter is that I think it matters less what your doctrine of the resurrection is, than what your experience of Jesus is.


       I believe in the Risen Jesus because like Mary, I have seen Jesus. I have experienced Jesus.


       Do I have doubts some days? Yes.

Does it all add up? No.

Is it beyond my human understanding? Yes.


       But I believe we can each encounter the Risen Christ is our own ways.


       And if you still have doubts about the resurrected Christ, my suggestion is to be Christ to others.


Forgive people the way Christ forgives.

Love people the way Christ loves.

Be a healing presence and a safe place for those who are wounded.

       Include those who have been excluded.

Advocate for justice and equality for the dispossessed, and the disinherited, and the poor and the refugee and the homeless and the disabled and racial minorities and the disenfranchised.

                     Practice non-violence.

Be a peace-maker.

       Be a listener and have compassion for all living things.


Because if there is anything I can say about seeing Jesus, about meeting the Christ.

       Is that it is most profound when someone is Christ to me, and often they don’t even know that Christ was moving in them.


So maybe you decided to just show up today, this Easter, doubts and all. But sometimes like Mary, if you just show up… you meet Jesus. Amen.

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