“Good News”

Easter II

“Good News”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As the saying goes: “There’s good news, and there’s bad news.”

Good news and bad news do always seem to appear together. As Easter marks the un-official beginning of the wedding season, think about the experience of going to a wedding.

You buy an expensive present; you dress in your best clothes; you travel a long distance; and you find yourself walking up the steps of a church and being ushered to a seat.

Now as you sit there, waiting for the wedding to begin, you may be filled with wonder. If you’re a family member, you find it hard to believe that your child or your grandchild or your brother or sister is about to begin a radically new phase of life.

If you’re a friend of those being married, you may marvel that you are about to witness such a tremendous commitment.

Even the bride and groom themselves will be amazed that after all their planning and preparation, they are finally about to become “husband and wife”.

But in the hearts of those gathered in the church, won’t there also be some fear? Won’t the guests be afraid that things won’t work out as well as the couple hopes? Won’t the bride and groom each be wondering to themselves if they are ready to form a lifelong union?

If you watched some of the Royal Wedding yesterday, and marveled at the beauty of the bride, and the splendid liturgy of our Mother Church of England, didn’t you also think of some past royal marriages and their sad endings?

At a wedding, amazement and fear go together and those were the very same emotions that were felt by the three women who journeyed to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.

For after Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome arrived at the burial site, and they saw the stone rolled back from the entrance, and they spoke with an angel who said Jesus has been raised from the dead – after all this, what did the women do?

One of the Gospel stories, St. Mark’s Gospel says, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.”

Terror and amazement. Bad news and good news.

Now granted, we wouldn’t expect to read in the Bible that the women went calmly off to a nice Easter brunch! But we might think the Gospel writer would have come up with a more upbeat conclusion to the Easter Story. Something like: “The women went off with their hearts filled with amazement and joy.”

As it happens, this ending has been the subject of scholarly controversy because in some manuscripts, it is the final passage of the whole Gospel of St. Mark. Bible experts have found it hard to believe that Mark didn’t put in a completely positive word about faith in the Risen Christ, as the other Gospel writers did.

But maybe Mark was being realistic. Maybe he knew that this was how life is. In real life, even the best news seems to come with a shadow side.

It’s good news that your daughter has been accepted at a fine college. But it’s bad news that she will soon be leaving home.

People make jokes about the good news/bad news side of life. But it’s no joke if fear always accompanies our joy. It’s no joke if we are so afraid of the bad news that as soon as good fortune arrives, we start to imagine a dark cloud on the way.

What does this have to do with the Resurrection of Jesus? The Christian message is known by the Greek word, “gospel”, which means “good news”. And the Resurrection means that only the best is in store for human beings.

I love Easter — it’s my favorite religious holiday – because it is unadulterated, 100% good news. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Death has lost its sting. The grave no longer has its victory.

Why then were the first witnesses afraid? Why did they feel “terror” as well as amazement?

Was it because they weren’t ready for the Gospel? Was it because they were still caught in the mindset of a fallen world, where the good is always followed by evil?

Did the women view the empty tomb as part of a pattern of ups and downs in their lives which reflected the random events of a cold universe?

If so, then they failed to understand how that pattern was broken on Easter Day. The world still contains evil, of course.

But that seemingly iron law of amazement and terror which seems to cloud every human life was broken on Easter Day. Now the bad news will always come in second. The good news will always win.

Later the women at the tomb did understand the revelation they had been given. For though the Bible text says that the women were instructed to “tell no one what they had seen”, they obviously did “Proclaim the Good News”. Otherwise, Mark’s Gospel wouldn’t have had their story to record!

Today, too, God asks even those of us who are pessimists to hear some good news. The transcendent message of the Risen Christ triumphs over the mixed blessings of ordinary life.

As, in a wedding, the amazement wins out, and the bride and groom march happily out of church, so, too, the up-and-down ways of the world are overwhelmed by the Way of the Risen Christ. We are given an utterly new vision of what life can be.

Christ is risen from the dead. And that’s entirely good news.

Now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion and praise, now and forever, Amen.

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