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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter Day, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 4, 2021

Mark 16:1-8

‘Weaving our way’


I’m led to consider the Easter story, resurrection, in terms of weaving. The warp and weft of our Lenten journey. The strands of Paul’s letters – bold, strong; spun of sorrow, joy, anticipation. Loose New Testament threads regathered. The woven fabric of Mark’s story of Jesus. Today’s text featuring the burial cloths and mysterious white-robed figure.

In light of Anne’s Good Friday homily, I see Veronica, the true image/icon of Jesus in blood, tears, perspiration … the face of Jesus, the face of God imprinted on a cloth offered bravely, generously, with conviction, compassion.

According to the gospels, as per the canonical/true icons of the Orthodox churches, resurrection is an event to which we come too early and too late. It is not a mystery to be grasped, tied up or sewn up. On the contrary, it remakes us.

The cross and empty tomb are key motifs. Christ has already defeated evil. Christ has already risen and freed us from the grip of fear and death. Christ is gone ahead of us.

Resurrection happens, we might say, between the lines or threads (just as the story of Veronica appears in a space [of tradition] between the lines of the gospel or between the gospels themselves). Resurrection means more than the warp and weft of text, vertical and horizontal narrative threads – resurrection means new possibilities, new stories; new patterns of meaning, more than we hoped for.

There are at least two ways in which Mark the evangelist weaves this wisdom.

The weft of the gospel – most simply, left to right – is the story Mark tells: the story of Jesus and the way of faith, hope and love.

The story begins in response to John’s prophetic call to repentance and justice. It moves through accounts of wise teaching (parables), healing, liberation from oppressive forces. Insiders exchange places with outsiders. Outsiders experience the joy of the kindom. Opponents needle, plot to unravel, destroy. Crucify. Faithful mourners bear witness to friendship, observe the sabbath, attend the body of Jesus, offer tears and prayers.

At the tomb of Jesus, we read, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, encounter an angel who says: “Do not be amazed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth … He has risen; he is not here … Go and tell the disciples and Peter, ‘Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him’ …”

We shuttle back, then, to Galilee – back to the beginning. A call to repentance and justice … wisdom, healing, liberation … inclusivity, non-violent resistance, faithful observance, tears and prayers.

We retell the tale, and we feel the scars. We work through trauma (woundedness). We offer a shared witness. “The more we can be with our own pain,” writes one commentator, “the more we can be with others in theirs” (Richard Kearney).

We encounter Jesus, again and again, a recurring Christ who returns every time a stranger gives or receives food … every time a stranger gives or receives forgiveness, encouragement, hospitality.

The warp of the gospel, we might say, the vertical threads, are themes, dispositions, clues and instructions as to how we might best understand and embody Christ.

How might we enter the story? How might we appropriate or reimagine it? According to the “parable of parables” Jesus tells, the word or seed of the gospel is received into good soil – a moral that promotes healthy discipline, self-care and self-awareness, work-life balance; diversity, respect for various gifts and contributions, accompaniment, “all good and proper cultural ways” (Aunty Pearl Wymarra).

Mark 16, verses 1 to 8, the original (open) ending to Mark’s gospel, lauds emptiness and silence, two themes we might also regard in terms of warp threads. As we retell the tale, as we work it through, to what qualities of emptiness and silence are we drawn?

Korean feminist and post-colonial scholar, Seong Hee Kim, writes: “[J]esus’ emptiness, the women’s silence, and the open ending are related procedures moving toward the completion of the goal of emptying, which continues throughout the Markan story even today.

“The subjects who emerge in emptiness are characterized as those who are realizing interconnectedness, ‘dependent co-arising’, mutual reversal, endless changing, and complementary harmony.

“In this emptiness, one can find mutual transformation and salvation. That is, the oppressors empty themselves of the desire of abusive power and control. The oppressed also empty their denied and negated selves projected by the oppressors. Only then can both experience transformation through each other in the process of emptying …

“The women at the tomb are the first newborn subjects resulting from Jesus’ resurrection who actualize the notion of emptiness in their silence …”

But resurrection is promised to all who practise faith, hope and love – to all who shuttle back and forth, from Galilee to Jerusalem; from temptation to confession, from confrontation to contemplation, from liberation to action … attending to healthy discipline and culture, with open hearts and minds, hands empty of the will to power over others, poetic speech born of deep listening, silence.

I wonder what our creativity will make of this black Holy Saturday pulpit cloth. And I wonder what our God will make of this richly textured community of faith, hope and love ... Amen.