Easter Sunday – The Tale of Three Unfinished Tales

Malcolm Harland, 2018

A Talk for Family Communion, Mark 16.


“The Garden looks so beautiful this morning…”

We join this morning with the woman making their way towards the tomb of Jesus…. Their hearts, we presume, are heavy..

The women are strong.. they have seen a lot of life – and death. They are not afraid of death, they know what they must do.. but not this death.. this one is all wrong.. this is their friend, teacher… the one who was supposed to bring liberation.. to usher in the reign of God.

Not to be killed like a common criminal a political subversive.

The Women make their way to the tomb, but again, something is wrong… the stone has been turned away… and the tomb .. is empty… what has happened?

I’ve been reminded about three stories this week;

The first, Cinderella… about a young girl living like a slave with her step family, treat truly awfully by her stepsisters.

But then a royal Ball is held in the Prince’s palace, and all the single women of the town are invited..

However, Cinderella is forbidden to go and is heartbroken. She meets her fairy Godmother.. all kinds of magic happens… and she goes to the ball.. and dances with the Prince – who falls head over heels in love with her..
But then the evening ends and the magic ends and Cinderella must leave before the magic ends.. so she escapes the palace, just as the magic wears off and her magical ball-gown returns to rags… and that’s the end of the story.

Isn’t it?

The second story about a young woman called Belle who finds herself locked in a ruined castle. The terrifying reality is that the castle is owned and lived in by a huge beast… and is supposedly under a dark magic spell. However the woman Belle gets to know the beast, and slowly they become friends… and that’s the end of the story.

Isn’t it?

The third story is this story today.. the women coming along to bury Jesus, but find an empty tomb. They are left speechless… they run away not knowing what to say or do.

This is an astonishing day, and a wordless day… it’s hard to know what to say about the resurrection.. If we are asked to say what it actually means.. like really… it is hard to express something which goes beyond logic, beyond nature, beyond explanation.

Maybe this is what Mark is deliberately doing here…. Why does his story end so suddenly… there is no detail at all? Scholars have scratched their heads over this for years.

I wonder, could it be that this is where we are supposed to complete the story ourselves – just like I needed people to complete the other stories.

Mark is a most gifted storyteller.. he plays with ideas, and then turns them on their head;..

Throughout Mark’s story, Jesus performs amazing miracles.. the disciples want to tell everyone – but Jesus orders them not to.

But now, the final end-it-all miracle.. and the disciples don’t tell, they don’t know what to say.. they have the opportunity, but they don’t know how to speak of it.

Isn’t this the way with something so astonishing as this day. The resurrection… if taken seriously leaves us wordless. Mark is not saying, (as so many might prefer!), “Look, here’s Jesus, it’s all ok, see he was right about everything after all, and we can easily prove it”

No, instead Mark doesn’t just ‘tell stories’, he invites people into an experience where they are shaken, shocked, amazed and sometimes confused, Mark’s story grabs us, shakes us. He is creating a story, which doesn’t end properly, because – maybe – it’s a story, which never ends. It is left to the disciples, then and now, to complete the story.. to bear witness to the hope of spring overcoming winter, hope overcoming despair, justice overcoming oppression, life overcoming death.

What that means requires a lifetime of thinking about. Maybe it’s in art, or in mothering, in science, or politics, in solidarity with the outsider, in prayer, in loving, caring and giving.. maybe in how we see the world.

And one final thing to notice in this story… the instruction they receive is to go back to Galilee..

Galilee? That’s home isn’t it? That’s where it all started. I wonder what that means – that the disciples go home to meet with Jesus.. Somewhere maybe in the heart of family, friends, home, community.. in the presence of others – is that where we find the message of resurrection becoming real? Somewhere inside of ourselves.. And what words can we give to that?

Holy Week has given us such astonishing moments.. moments which leave us literally speechless.. and in the end .. no not the end.. an interlude. .. we are met with something so unexpected, so far beyond the script.

The children have helped me to end the first two stories… on this Easter day, we are left with the challenge;

Can we tell – and tell, and tell again – the ending of this third endless story – a story of hope – divine and unexpected – that begins inside each of us, and carries the potential to turn the world upside down?



GS Collins 1 April 2018