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All the years that I knew him, my beloved Uncle Bob had a mustache. His was not a luxurious mustache with the edges curled up – his was a practical mustache, worn out of necessity – to cover a scar. Because, as the family story goes, one day he and his older brother – my dad – were out in the backyard of their home in Cashmere, in the high desert of eastern Washington. My dad, about 7 at the time, was playing with a snow shovel, trying to use it to pick up and fling a tumbleweed. He claimed he told his little brother to get out of the way: the snow shovel glanced off the tough tumbleweed and flew directly into Bob’s face, splitting his lip. As Bob wailed and cried, blood pouring from his lip, my dad’s first words were, Don’t tell Mom.

And so ends our resurrection gospel today: The women at the empty tomb run away, and ‘they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.’ Don’t tell anyone.

This has always been a curious turn in Mark’s version of Easter good news. The young man in white sitting at the tomb tells the women to go and tell that things have happened just as Jesus told them they would – tell the good news that their beloved friend, their teacher, the one who has shown them God’s love, is alive. Death has not had the final word – Life and Light are true. Up till now in this gospel, Jesus has repeatedly said, wait, don’t tell anyone who you think I am – wait till my life comes to its full conclusion, because then you’ll see and understand what God is up to. Now, here we are at the very end of the story, and it’s clearly time to tell.

Except that the women flee and don’t tell anybody.

And Mark finishes his gospel with that sentence – they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. The last word in our English translation of this good news of Jesus Christ is ‘afraid.’ (Curiously, the Greek could also read, they were afraid, because…leaving the whole gospel story dangling on an unfinished thought. Because why?) Why are they so afraid?


Well, we can certainly imagine why. These are three women in ancient society, people without power in their time and culture. The male disciples have already deserted the scene, running away while Jesus was still on the cross. The women seem more faithful, showing up again to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. But this strange young man and his news upsets everything. Tell people? Who will believe us? People without power are never listened to. We’ll just be disbelieved, ridiculed, shunned. And so they tell no one.

Or, maybe they fear that what happened to Jesus might happen to them. The Roman Empire was profligate with crucifixions, sometimes crucifying hundreds of people in a day. If the women went to tell this tale, who knows what would happen to them. Jesus talked about taking up your cross and following, but faced with the actual threat of an actual cross, well, of course they were afraid.

But maybe what they were terrified of most was that resurrection might really be true. They just couldn’t dare to believe it.

More than one scholar has suggested that in this gospel, one particular parable is key – the Parable of the Sower, the story Jesus tells about seed falling on different types of soil. Unusually, Jesus actually explains this parable to the disciples, something he doesn’t do very often. The seed, he says, is the word. Will the word, the message, the good news, be choked out by the cares of this world? Will it sprout only to wither under persecution? Or will it take root in you and grow and bear fruit? This resurrection story seems to leave that question in our laps: here’s the good news. Everyone in the story so far has failed. But what about you: are you going to do something with this good news? Will it, in you, bear fruit?

Over 20 years ago an ad executive named Allen Kay came up with a phrase that has become ubiquitous in our world: If you see something, say something. New Yorkers will remember it was first part of the subway’s amped-up security after 9/11, but in 2010 it got adopted by the national Office of Homeland Security, and now is used in several countries around the world. As a security motto, it has its problems – sometimes people see things and make assumptions about other people based on wrong information, or on their own biases, as several civil liberties suits have pointed out. And as a security motto, its meaning is that we should all be on the lookout for bad things – keep an eye out for danger, and tell someone in authority about it if you see it. The world is a dangerous place.

But what might happen if we turned that motto to a positive – a gospel mandate? If you see something, say something. The world is full not just of danger, but of beauty. If you see something good, tell about it. You have good news about love and light and life? Share it. Because we all need to know – everyone needs this good news.

All too often, we too say nothing to anyone. We can imagine why that’s the case. We don’t want to misspeak or offend and so we say nothing – or on the flip side, we trumpet our opinion without caring what others think. We’ve all heard preaching – on Facebook and the subway – that is the opposite of the good news of life and light. And so we just talk past each other, or say nothing at all.

And maybe it’s also that we don’t want to embarrass ourselves. Today is a glorious day in church, full of good news to share. But will you go out and tell your friends and coworkers about it? what, you believe this stuff? How many people know you’re here in church this morning? What if you told them you go to church a lot, not just on Easter? If you told them what faith means in your life? What in the world would they think?

But deeper than that, I think we might be quite like those three women – maybe we don’t say anything because we don’t dare to hope that it’s true.

For some of us this may be pure survival instinct. We can’t claim to believe good news because it might open us to the scary thing in our heart we’re trying to keep in – the childhood trauma, the fear we live with, the anxiety that wracks us every day. Good news of God’s love – well, what if that too proves untrue?

For others of us, it bothers our tidy, rational worldview to contemplate resurrection. Jesus was a nice man. Can’t we just leave it at that?

For still others, it might just demand too much of our lives, so carefully arranged around the values of the world. If God’s abundant love and life are really true – then what might we have to change in our lives, in how we treat people at work, in what we buy and where we shop, in how we vote? This is risky. Better just to leave this here in church – say nothing to anyone.

At our vestry leadership retreat in February we talked a lot about our neighborhood here on the Upper West Side, and what we see around us, and how St Michael’s can do more to serve our community. One person wisely said, we’ve been talking a lot about what’s wrong in our neighborhood and the needs we see. What if instead we talk about what kind of neighborhood we want, and how we can help it get there? Ohhh, we all said. It was like a door opened.

So many polls lately tell us that Americans feel the world is in terrible shape right now. Whether it’s true or not, we read the polls, and we think, yeah, it really is awful. We could go on and on listing the wars and daily tragedies we are witnessing; the unequal systems we live in; the sense that things are headed in the wrong direction for our children and generations to come. We worry that we can’t fix it, and often we just give up trying. But what if we started looking for where we see light in the darkness, and shared that? What if we told others of the love of God – in words, and even more in how we act toward them? What if we risked believing that death is not the final ending, and Life is greater, always making a way out of no way – what if we told that good news? what world could we help speak into being?

The thing is, everyone of us here today has experienced resurrection. It is not just a story from 2000 years ago – it’s not just a doctrine of faith we choose to accept. It’s something that happens in every one of our lives. It happens in the springtime each year, as blossoms burst forth on bare branches. It happens in hospitals, when a deep sense of peace comes over a frightening situation. It happens in this community, when a lonely person is brought in and shown love and care. It happens over and over again in big ways and small, in moments when a door opens, when light shines, when the dawn breaks, and we see that there is more than what we imagined and feared. We see and know that Life that is greater than everything. We feel that love. We know it is true. We name it as resurrection. That’s what we celebrate today.

There’s an old favorite Easter hymn that many of you will know:

I love to tell the story;
‘twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love.

The Savior of all people
Has brought his peace to you;
Now go and tell the story,
For others need it too

Do not be afraid – he is raised, just as he told you. Good news, even here at the grave – right here, where you never expected it. Go, and tell the others – for there you will see him. God’s love, for the whole world. Happy Easter.

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