2 Easter 2018
John 20:19-31

Our Gospel reading has three sections to it. You’ll remember that Thomas was not present in the first part, when Jesus appeared to the disciples. In part two, a week later Jesus appears again and this time Thomas sees for himself. He confesses, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus then says, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The final part of the reading was ordinally a final postscript to the gospel of John, although later editors added more material. In our reading, the writer says: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” There are several significant aspects to those verses, but I’m only going to underline 2 of them.
First, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples....” In saying that, John is explicit that he has made choices of what to include and what to leave out. There was editing involved. All the other writers of the Bible made similar choices, editing their material to speak to their intended audience. Although for us the Bible is a sacred book, it is also a literary work, the product of many writers and editors.
John adds, “...“these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah....” All four gospels in our New Testament were written decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection – 2 or 3 generations after the disciples’ time. In other words, by the time the stories of Jesus were written down, very few living witnesses could tell their personal experiences of Jesus of Nazareth. Subsequent generations, like our own, had only the witness of the written accounts like those in John’s Gospel.
God’s self revelations didn’t stop when the Biblical canon was finally determined by the Church. There is more to God than the Bible can contain. But what is in the Bible gives us a context to understand and proclaim the presence and love of God as we experience them.
As believers, we believe the Bible to be God’s revelation to us in written form. Studying it can undergird and strengthen our faith as we consider the Biblical witness of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. We see how our ancestors saw God was active in their lives and in their time. Through reflection and meditation, we begin to see God’s activity in our lives and in our time, also.
We sense God’s presence in the Eucharist; or perhaps at times we sense the Spirit nudging or prodding or encouraging us; some people have had inexplicable experiences they can only understand in terms of having encountered angels of some sort. These are some of the ways we see God’s hand at work in the world around us.
People who aren’t Christians may not see God’s hand at work in the world, the way we do. But by sharing stories from our own faith walk, we hold out the promise to others that they might have some of the peace and sense of forgiveness in their lives that we have found, ourselves.
We were not witnesses to the living, breathing Jesus of 1st century Palestine. But we can, and we do, bear witness to Christ in our own generation by striving to live Christ-centered lives, loving and serving Christ through our relationships and interactions with other.

Easter 2018
Mark 16:1-8

When I was still living at home, my mother and I watched some movie on television. I don’t recall what movie it was but I do remember that as it came to an end, the main characters still had to make a choice and the viewer was never shown which choice they made.
My mother turned to me and said, “I hate it when they end movies like that.” She wanted a clear resolution.
In the earliest surviving manuscripts of the book of Mark, the Gospel ends just where our reading from Mark ended, without a clear resolution, with these words: “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Those are not the triumphant, joyful, excited words we expect to hear on Easter. Instead they are words of self-protection and uncertainty.
That is why most of our Bibles have some sort of break at Mark 16:8 and then have additional verses which were most likely inserted by later editors to offer reassurance of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. It was a reasonable addition. After all, obviously the women must eventually have recovered from their fear and told what they had seen; otherwise how would even that original ending have been possible to write down?
That said, though, it makes sense that the original author chose to end where he did. It’s an unfinished story, and that’s the whole point.
Or maybe insead of calling it “unfinished” we could call it “open ended.” Every Christian adds to the story. This is one of the primary reasons why we celebrate the saints of the past, as many of us did by reading about the nominees and participating in “Lent Madness.” Reading about these fairly well known people in Church History gives us an opportunity to consider some of the past ways people lived out the Good News of love and reconciliation, hope and resurrection.
For every saint who has achieved some fame, there are countless others like most of us who are not well known beyond our social and business circle, yet each of us does our bit to spread the Good News of Christ and thereby add to the story which Mark had left open ended. The story continues with each of us.