Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/08/12 Sermon

Mark 16:1-8

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our strength and our Redeemer, Amen


Have you ever read a book or watched a movie or TV show that you wished had a different ending?

I’ve noticed that a lot of new movies that come out on DVD or Blue-Ray actually have alternate endings that you can watch. 


For example, in the latest Rocky boxing movie, instead of having Rocky lose in a split decision, he wins the split decision.

The movie Titanic actually had an optional ending. It always bothered me to see that woman drop that expensive blue jewel into the ocean.

How about other movies or stories that you wish had a different ending?

Maybe you wish ET would have stayed on Earth instead of going home.

Perhaps you wish Ingrid Bergman would have stayed with Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca or Rhett Butler would have given a care and stayed with Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind or Sam and Diane would have ended up together on the TV show Cheers.

Sometimes we can wish stories had a different ending.

In fact I noticed that with the technology in our own hands these days’ people actually can create their own endings to different stories.
Now in our scripture today we see a story that many have wished had a different ending. It’s Mark’s account of the Easter resurrection story without a witness of the resurrected Christ.
And as a result what most likely you have in your Bible, is a version of Mark that has an added alternate ending.
You see, in the earliest manuscripts of Mark, this gospel ends at verse 8, just where we stopped today.
But when you look at your translation, you most likely see a short summary statement that’s been added to the end of it.
You probably also have a bible that then adds another 12 verses: verses 9 thru 20.

But again, the earliest manuscripts of Mark stop at verse 8. That’s the end of it.

And it can truly be an awkward abrupt ending…..
Thomas Long who teaches preaching at Emory University tells the story of an actor who presented the Gospel of Mark in a dramatic reading.

At the end of the performance, the audience was obviously waiting for some kind of finish, a grand finale to bring them to their feet to shout Alleluia! He is Risen! 

But the actor only repeated Mark’s words just as they are. Then in an awkward moment of silence, he turned and walked off the stage.

Long described the awkwardness of the moment and how the conversations in the lobby were dominated by what he called “the experience of non-ending”. (Radical Renovation; James Harnish)
This experience of non-ending is most likely what led scribes to include verses 9-20.
But is this really a “non-ending, incomplete” story?
Was it really necessary to add something to it later? -----Or did Mark perhaps have something else in mind as he recounts the Resurrection story.
Maybe Mark’s so-called untidy, incomplete story has a purpose to it.

But what purpose?

Well, I don’t know about you but when I look at my own life it can seem Non-tidy and incomplete.

James Harnish, pastor and author of the Lenten book “Radical Renovation” makes this same point.  Harnish says his own life can look like a dangling preposition. He said as much as I try to bring closure, to tie things down, to make all the pieces fit, I keep ending up with a lot of loose ends in my life: there are broken relationships that don’t get healed, fears that don’t seem to go away, problems that remain unsolved, doubts that defy simple answers, temptations that return regularly, and visions and dreams that I may not live to see accomplished and drama that never reaches the final curtain.

Mark’s so-called, “incomplete untidy ending” is truly the reality of our lives.
This incomplete story where the women leave the tomb afraid mirrors the incomplete story that we are living each and every day.
We too face lives of fear and chaos and messiness.

Still Mark’s so called non-ending doesn’t leave the women at the tomb nor us to complete the stories of our lives with nothing to hold on to.

While the other gospels complete the story with the witnessed evidence of the resurrection, Mark in these 8 verses focuses on something else----he focuses on hope.
A couple of weeks ago I went to see the blockbuster movie “The Hunger Games”.
And in the story, the government known as the Capital holds an imperial, oppressive dominance over the people.
And to keep them under control each year they take from the 12 districts of the country one child to compete in a televised life and death battle called the Hunger Games.

The winner gets the reward of keeping their life.

And there was one scene in the movie that really stuck out to me.
The president of this futuristic world, President Snow is afraid of a possible insurrection by the 12 districts of people.

And so in a conversation with Seneca Crane, the individual in charge of the games, he warns about a power that could cause a rebellion if not contained.

The President asks Crane: “Why do you think we have a winner of the Hunger Games?”
Crane looks perplexed….
The President says “we have a winner because of hope”.

And then he added “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective; but a lot of hope is dangerous”.

Mark’s resurrection story may not have the witnessed risen body of Christ but what it does have is the power of hope.

He tells us that a young man dressed in white sitting at the entrance of the tomb tells these frightened women: “Don’t be alarmed,”... “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here…But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him….’”
Mark’s account gives us the power of hope.

He tells us that Jesus is indeed risen and is out there in front of us.

Christ is present in our every day lives to give you and me hope and courage as we go and complete the story of our lives.

That hope is more powerful than fear.

We’ve seen the power of that hope as these women left that tomb and despite their fears they gave voice to the Good News that Jesus Christ is risen.

And here we are 2000 years later because that hope is greater than fear.

And that hope is available to all who believe in the risen Christ.

For when we believe in the risen Christ, we believe in our own resurrection and that hope gives us power as we complete the story of our lives.

-That hope gives us power when we grieve the loss of a loved one.

-That hope gives us power over the fear of doctor’s test results.
-That hope gives us power when we’ve lost a job and we’re struggling to get by.
-That hope gives us power when our relationships need healing.  
-That hope gives us power as we witness to the world the Good News that the tomb was empty and that others may receive that hope too……………

Mark’s so-called incomplete story is not incomplete of hope. For he reminds us that Christ is indeed risen and he is out there in front of us to give us power as we complete the story in our daily lives…………….

Finally the last possible purpose of Mark’s so-called incomplete story has to do with something that the great preacher Fred Craddock spoke about.

Craddock in his Easter sermon “He Is Not Here” says that Mark, who obviously believed in the resurrection, chose not to include the appearance of Christ because Mark was interested in highlighting something else----------------

He wanted to accentuate the cross.
Craddock says that for Mark to end the story with a glorious resurrection would have reduced the cross as being a simple stop on the way to the resurrection.
But Mark wanted us to not forget about the cross. Because when we talk about completing the rest of the story of our lives, remembering the sacrifice that Christ made for us gives our lives purpose and meaning.
Paul Harvey the late great radio commentator was famous for a segment that he called “The Rest of the Story”.

And one of his famous true stories that you may recall was about an old man who used to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida.

Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, the elderly man would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp.
The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket.
But here’s the rest of the story as Harvey put it:

Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea.  But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.  Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean... For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation.

Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.
In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise.
There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.
Suddenly something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too.
No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it."
And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish.
The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.
You know that Captain Eddie made it.
And now you also know...that he never forgot.
Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent.
His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness."     (The Old Man and the Gulls" from Paul Harvey)

Mark’s so-called incomplete story doesn’t move us so quickly past the significance of the cross.

And as a result, the way we go forth in completing the story of our lives doesn’t move past the cross either.
Instead we are mindful and filled with gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice for us. With gratitude we live lives that are obedient.

We feed others physically, emotionally and spiritually as a result of what we’ve been given.

We give ourselves to Him, every day in the completion of our story, thankful like Rickenbacker for what we have been given; the gift of eternal life…………………………………………
In closing this morning, we’re being asked “How will we complete the story?”
We have been given in Jesus’ resurrection, a resurrection of our own that gives us hope and power and assurance.
For those of us who follow him, the rest of the story of our lives has meaning and purpose.
On this Easter Sunday, Mark reminds us that the One who gave his life for us, is with us and always before us.
Let us follow him as we complete the story in own journey of resurrection into eternal life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen