The journey that takes us from Bethlehem to Nazaereth and to Jerusalem has reached its completion. The triumphant entry of Palm Sunday gave way to the tragedy of Good Friday, but God has the final word -- raising Jesus from the dead. In this alternative set of readings that David Ackerman has chosen for Easter (in Beyond the Lectionary), we are confronted by the centrality of the Resurrection. He invites us to witness Elijah's intervention that brings back to life a young boy (did he just do some CPR or is this a miracle story?). In Acts 13 Paul offers a brief summary of the Gospel message that culminates in the Resurrection -- this can help us get to the center of the Christian confession. But perhaps most interesting to the preacher -- and rather risky -- is the invitation to take up the "Longer Ending of Mark", with its accent on the miraculous signs that will follow the proclamation of the Gospel. Although we can easily put this passage off to the side because it might not be original, is there not a message waiting to be released? Or, are we wanting to play it safe with a more modern rendition that makes the resurrection palatable to the modern mindset? In my own post-modern leap, I've decided to take up Mark 16 -- see you on the other side.
“Go and Proclaim the Good News”
Call to Worship: Isaiah 52:1-2 NRSV
One: Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean shall enter you no more.
Many: Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter Zion!
Gathering Prayer: God, we gather, as the first Christians gathered early on the first day of the week, to bear witness to something that changed everything in this world. We come to make the Easter proclamation: “Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!” As we proclaim these words, let us rejoice in the victory that you won when you turned the tables on the powers of sin and death in this world.
Confession: God, the news of the resurrection almost seems too good to be true. It is hard for us to believe, and our doubts keep us from fully trusting you, as we should. Forgive us, God, and help us to see that the resurrection of Jesus gives us life that is real and greater than we ever could have imagined.
Assurance: “Grave, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Death is swallowed up in victory!” Christ is risen today, and through his rising, we know that we, too, rise from the dust of death to newness of life. Alleluia! Thanks be to God.
Scriptures: 2 Kings 4:18-20, 32-37 – “A Boy Raised to Life”
Acts 13:26-31 – “Summary of Jesus’ Ministry”
Mark 16:9-20 – “The Longer Ending of Mark”
Commentaries and sermon helps are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- Compare 2 Kings 4:18-20, 32-37 with 1 Kings17:17-24. How are these stories similar? What points do you think they make about Elijah and Elisha? Why might the story in 2 Kings 4 be important to share today? Who gets raised and under what circumstances?
- What stands out in for you in Paul’s summary in Acts 13 of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection?
- The longer ending in Mark 16 rarely gets addressed because most scholars believe it to be a later addition to the book. But its influence on the church through the centuries is undeniable. What do you think of v 19, which reads, “They will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover”? Do you think this verse is meant to be understood literally? If not, how?
- While Easter is a day of joy and celebration, it also is a day of mystery. What does the resurrection mean to you? Does it make sense in our world today? Does it have to make sense?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: We praise you, God, for showing us the way to the life of your promised resurrection. You have seen us and known us and loved us into life. Thank you, God, for showing us grace beyond our wildest expectations.
Benediction: Jesus tells us to go and make disciples everywhere. So today, as we have this incredible news, let’s go, and share the resurrection message with our lives. Amen.