North Texas Conference Cabinet Holy Week Devotional For Easter Sunday
“Now What?!?” by Bishop Michael McKee
Focus: “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.” (8)
If one of us were asked to tell the story of the resurrection of Jesus, we would gladly do it. But, which story would you choose to tell? Each of the Gospels tells the account of the resurrection of Jesus differently.
During my 30 years as a pastor, I’ve read and preached from each of the resurrection stories on Easter. This year, I am drawn to the Gospel of Mark’s account, Mark 16:1-8. Because the end of the story was so uncertain, many scholars assert that the final verses (Mark 16:9-20) were added later. I always read what many consider the end of that Gospel, and it is so fitting at this time of uncertainty.
Now what? Each day or week, there is new information about COVID-19. How fast is the virus spreading? How does one wash one’s hands to be certain there is no trace of the virus on them? How long does the virus live on hard surfaces? Will a mask made at home offer enough protection? Will we return to public worship on Easter Sunday? If not, when will we return? How much longer will we stay at home? Is there enough protective equipment for nurses, physicians and other medical personnel?
The human mind often seeks certainty in moments of crisis or despair. And certainty is in short supply these days. I have come to peace with that.
The original ending of the resurrection story in the Gospel of Mark provides no certainty. “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 16:8). That is it.
On the way to the tomb, they were most concerned with how they would move the stone. Understandably, people may be as fearful today as were the women who went to the tomb and found not Jesus but a young man dressed in a white robe.
Resurrection Day is here, and we remember again what God has done by raising Jesus from the dead. But this is also the time to remember that the women were told by the young man to go tell Peter and other disciples to meet the resurrected Christ in Galilee. Yet, there are obstacles like there was a stone at the tomb. Now what?
If the Gospel ends there at that point, there is nothing. Yet, someone did go to Galilee and another into the world to tell the story of this man who lived, who died and was resurrected from the dead. Now what?
Because of God’s love, others continue to go, to tell and to serve the people of the world.
I listened to an interview on NPR with a hospital chaplain working in a New York City hospital. Previously, he served as a soldier in Iraq. The chaplain is working longer days and is assigned to a place with eight to 10 patients in ICU. Their families are unable to visit their loved ones, and the chaplain provides care to those families through calls, texts and videos.
Those families deeply appreciate that connection because there is a man whom they do not really know who places himself at risk so that they may know how their loved ones are doing. With obvious empathy, the chaplain goes to comfort families and medical professionals.
The resurrection stories are beautifully told and full of truth. Yet, Mark’s story leaves one with questions. Often our questions are similar to ones asked by the women about who will roll away the stone. Others timidly live the story of Jesus. Mark shares the resurrection story in such a way that God continues to ask, “Now what?” What truly is the difference for each of us because we believe in the resurrection of Jesus? Now what?
The Lord is Risen.
The Lord is Risen, indeed!
Bear witness to the love of Christ in this world so that the strangers you meet may find in you a generous friend. Amen.
Michael McKee is the Bishop of the North Texas Conference
Published: Sunday, April 12, 2020