Some stories are too good to be true. Lucy is not going to hold that football this time so that Charlie Brown can kick it. You really aren’t going to get a million dollars from the prince of Wakanda if you just send him your bank account number. That car really doesn’t have such a great price since that is just the basic model so things like tires, automatic transmission, air conditioning, and windshield wipers will cost you extra. How about the vaccine? We are still supposed to wear a mask and social distance. Was it too good to be true? Which brings us to the gospel of Mark. Was the young man in a white robe telling us a story too good to be true on the first Easter morning? “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised.” That is good news, right. All of the pain, the heartbreak, the suffering that the women had gone through for the past few days has been transformed into joy. Jesus, the one that they had come to know as the presence of God in the world was not dead but has been raised. How can he say “Do not be amazed. He has been raised. ” It is amazing, stunning, awesome. Of course we’re amazed. But then the other shoe drops. “He is not here.” He is not here! We can’t enjoy his presence, celebrate his triumph, rejoice in his victory. I knew it felt too good to be true. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.
However, that is not the end of the story. After the young man says: “He has been raised; he is not here;” he then adds, “He is going before you.” There is reason to hope since he is not gone from us but only going ahead of us. We can take these three statements as three steps to help us have faith in Gospel which seems too good to be true. The first step: he has been raised. The reason we gather in Church, what sustains us as believers is our faith in the Risen Lord. In a few minutes this parish will join with Noella’s parents and godparents in professing our baptismal promises. In doing so we are claiming the good news. We believe in a God who created all things good and who continues to bestow graces and blessings upon us. We believe in a savior who has taken our human nature and shown it to be not “nasty, brutish and short” but made in God’s image and likeness, precious in God’s sight and destined for eternal glory. We believe that the Spirit of God is with us providing us with the strength that we need in order to make wise decisions. Since the Lord has been raised we can rely on these truths as the lodestars in our lives. They are the bedrock that give us hope. The Risen Lord gives human life its direction and purpose—life on high!
That is not to say that we have smooth sailing in front of us. At the empty tomb the women heard that “he is not here.” But we need him here because here is where we have to make it. We need him here because our society is bitterly divided, because the environment is taking a beating, because violence has become the go-to solution for problems. We need him here because my family is hurting, because I am going through loss and grief, because the children need some direction and guidance. We need him here because even the Church has let us down. What the women at the empty tomb needed to learn – what we need to learn — is how to live with the “already” of the Risen Christ while dealing with the fact that since he is “not yet” here with us in glory. Remember Jesus told us we would have to pick up our cross each day with the blessed assurance that the Lord who led Jesus from cross to crown will do the same for us.
And that takes us to the third step of faith: trusting that he has not gone from us but only gone ahead of us. Jesus has taken point and urges us to follow. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that we are seeds that are still growing, still on the way to what we are called to be, pregnant with the possibilities of resurrection. Jesus has gone ahead and asks us to follow him into a fuller and richer life. We follow him by living as he did – by reaching out to those who are hurting, by letting everyone know they are welcomed at the table, by forgiving and being forgiven for the giving and taking of wounds. He has gone before us into glory so we know how the story comes out, that there will be happy ending. As believers we trust that the Good Shepherd is leading us to the green pastures of rest and peace. Maybe our prayer this Easter season in the midst of pandemic can be found in the words of an old James Cleveland song: Lord, help me to hold out until my change comes.