United Church of Christ

Speak the Name

My favorite gospel is Mark’s.

It was the first written.

It is the shortest.

It has a real sense of urgency and immediacy about it.

His Easter story is short on details – it ends abruptly with an angel, an empty tomb, no body – and the only witnesses running away in utter fear.

“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The end.

There is nothing in it of post-resurrection appearances. There is no doubting Thomas. There is no Road to Emmaus. There is no fireside chat with Peter asking him to feed his sheep. There is no great commission.

Editors would later change that – after new gospels were written and great discomfort arose within the faith community about how Mark ended his gospel.

It wasn’t their first spasm of fear. The night he died, after the soldiers appeared – they fled. Ran straight away. One of them, we are told, had his garment ripped from him and chose to run away naked. Peter denied him three times. Jesus died alone.

And apparently, he rose that way, too.

Why do I love this story more than the others?

It reveals two things, each of which have real power for me.

One – faith emerges in the presence and context of real fear and tangible doubt. In other words, Jesus doesn’t always entrust the most important work to those we can easily rely on.

Two – we become the story tellers.

Mark doesn’t need to finish the story. It writes itself every time someone professes their belief in the risen Christ.

You need evidence of the empty tomb and the risen Christ? Can you name another Roman executed Roman criminal 200 years after his execution?

Jesus didn’t so much birth a religion as he did a movement. Rome saw what he was up to and did what made sense to them: silenced him and ended his threat. Except the Roman empire has long since fallen and disappeared while Christians the world over worship the holy name of the crucified Jesus.

If fear was the last act of the disciples, the silencing act of the empire – then explain how an executed criminal is worshiped the world round today?

Every single time we bow the knee, assemble the choir, rehearse for the Cantata, gather at the table, baptize the child, preach the sermon, make another disciple – we finish Mark’s gospel.

It is a powerful testimony to how faith works. It doesn’t ask for answers that resolve all doubt. It doesn’t emanate from the feet, hands, and heart of the fully committed. It doesn’t shy away from the scared, the doubter, the wanderer, the sinner, the faulty and the frail.

It asks of us all, in our weakness and vulnerability, to finish the story. We speak the name of Jesus, and when we do he comes alive in spite of what the empire did to silence him.

He is risen.

He is risen, indeed.

Join me, gentle traveler, doubter and wanderer and believer. Join me in speaking the name of the Prince of Peace as we conquer our fears, defy empire, and journey together Into the Mystic.