What next?

Good morning, Friends! Thank you all so much for being here.

Didn’t we had a wonderful time last Sunday? Thanks again to everyone who came, and also thanks to everyone who helped make all those wonderful things happen.

The breakfast, the fellowship, the wild, crazy scavenger hunt, the Easter eggs for the children! And then the Flowering Cross, the lilies, the special music, the hymns. Wasn’t it great to see everyone here, and to hear all the voices raising the roof?

Easter Sunday is a hard act to follow!

This year during the Easter season, we read the gospel of Mark. Mark is the earliest gospel, so we think that Mark is closest to the original story.

At the very end of last week’s reading, it says that an angel appeared to the women who went to the tomb.

The angel said, “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He’s been raised! He isn’t here! Look, you can see where they laid him. Go tell Peter and the others that Jesus is going on ahead of them. You’ll meet him, just as he told you.”

But instead of everyone rejoicing and being happy about it, it says, “They fled from the tomb. They were amazed and terrified. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. . .”

Easter shouldn’t end with people being afraid and terrified. Easter should be about joy, and laughter, and faith.

You can see how they’d be scared. Nothing like this had ever happened before. As I said last Sunday, an angel was probably the last thing on earth they all ever expected to see. So, what happened next? What happened, after Easter? Let’s read together and find out.

Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Mark 16:15-20

I always love the way this reading begins. “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. . .”

“Go!” Jesus says. “Get on out of here!” Jesus didn’t tell people to come to church. Or, if he did, he didn’t expect people to stay here.

Jesus told people to go out. Not just stay in their safe, familiar neighborhood. Don’t just talk with the people you’re comfortable with. “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. . .”

That kind of blows my mind. There is no place where we can’t go. There’s no mountain too high. There’s no prison too dark. There’s no place of fear, no place that’s too far away or too strange.

Jesus says to go out into the whole world, into the whole creation. What’s that mean?

Well, God made the world, right? God created everything. So, in a way, Jesus is telling us to go out, and to reclaim the world.

Remember, how God created the world as a garden, and told us to care for it and be stewards of it. Many people think they can do anything with the world, that it’s theirs to use and abuse.

But we’re told to reclaim the world – everyone and everything in it – to reclaim the world, in Jesus’ name.

Every work place. Every war zone. Every hospital room. Every place we can imagine.

Any place where people are destroying the world, polluting it, wasting the original beauty that God put into the world when God made it, and saw that it was all very good – any place like that, we need to reclaim the world for God.

There are saints who used to do that. Francis of Assisi, they used to say, would go from place to place, preaching to the birds and animals. There’s a story that outside the town where Francis lived, there was a great wolf, who was attacking all the farms and even attacking people.

Francis went outside and called the wolf and said, “Brother wolf, you’ve done a lot of evil. You’ve scared people and killed many of God’s creatures. Now dogs chase you. People want to kill you. They’re your enemies! But I bring you peace. If you stop killing them, I’ll ask them to forgive you. And as long as you live, and keep the peace, the people of this town will bring you food, every day, so you won’t starve.”

According to the story, the wolf reach out his paw, and rested it in Francis’ hand. The wolf never bothered the people again, and the people fed the wolf every day.

That’s a legend, but you see what I’m talking about. Francis saw his mission as going to the whole wide world, and not just the people in church. And Francis told the people in church, to go out there, into the world, to see all the beauty in the world, and sing to it. “Brother sun, sister moon, brother wind, lady winter,” he called them.

Francis is supposed to be the one who said, “Preach wherever you go. If necessary, use words. . .”

That’s what I’m talking about. “Go into the whole world, and preach the good news to the whole creation. . .”

It’s interesting, that Jesus didn’t tell them specifically what the good news is. Jesus seemed to think they already knew what to say.

It’s the news of Easter, certainly. “Jesus isn’t dead and buried. He’s alive, and out in the world. Go, and you’ll meet him!”

We can’t say that often enough. Jesus is alive! He’s not in the past. He’s in the present. Jesus is here, now. You’ll meet him, yourself.

When Jesus sent his friends out for the first time, he sent them to talk about the kingdom of God. It’s like there’s a world we see, and there’s a world we don’t see. The kingdom of God is that world we don’t see, until our eyes are opened. And then, suddenly, it’s all around us.

It’s every place that people are trying to be kind, and to do good, because they know that God loves them. It’s every place we try to share what we have, in Jesus’ name.

It’s not a kingdom of violence and killing. It’s a kingdom of blessing, and peace. Whoever hears Jesus’ voice, and responds to him, is part of it, wherever they are.

Jesus once said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to those who are captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. . .” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you are weary and bear heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am humble and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. . .” (Matthew 11:29)

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. . .you are my friends, if you do what I command you. . .” (John 15:12,14)

What we say in the moment may be different, because Jesus always told people what they needed to hear most. But what Jesus said was always good news to whoever was listening.

“The kingdom is very close to you,” he said. “It’s within your reach. It’s already in your heart. . .”

Jesus told us to be light-bringers. He told us to be peace makers. He told us to plant seeds, and care for them.

He told us to be shepherds of souls, and fishers of people. He told us to welcome strangers, and scoop up little children, and love them.

He told us to heal the sick, raise the dead, move mountains and cast out anything that was contrary to God.

He told us to open our eyes, and see the invisible harvest, ready to be gathered, and to pray to God for more people to come and help gather the harvest.

He told us to take our boats out of shallow water, out into the deep, and to throw our nets on a new and different side, and that our nets would come back full.

He told us not to have treasure on earth, but treasure in heaven, and he said that anything we give up for his sake, would come back to us, a hundred times over.

Does any of this sound familiar? I hope it does, because this is what Jesus was talking about. We’ve heard it all before.

This is what Jesus meant, when he said to go, and bring the good news to the whole creation.

Share it, wherever we go. Share the light, in the darkest places. There is always some light you can share. There is always a prayer you can say.

Go, and be a blessing. Go, and speak the truth. Go, and bring a word or a gift of grace.

Go and forgive somebody, or ask somebody to forgive you, because God has forgiven you both.

Go to people who are lonely and sit in darkness. Go to people who are rejoicing, and share their joy.

The kingdom and the good news are too big to keep to ourselves. The good news is for everyone and everything in the whole creation.

And that’s what they did. “Jesus was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the message by signs which accompanied it. . .”

That is what happened after Easter.

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