Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a kid I used to read these books called, Choose Your Own Adventure.
This one here is called, “Spy for George Washington”.
It was my favorite one when I was a kid.
In the book you are a spy who has to get a very important message to George Washington across enemy lines without the red coats finding out.
These books are different than other books because instead of just reading through you get to make choices about what your character will do.
You get to decide on what adventure you will go.
And sometimes your choices worked out well and other times not so well.

Mark’s Gospel kind of ends like a Choose Your Own Adventure story, because it ends with the women fleeing from the tomb in amazement and fear without telling anyone what the angel had just told them.
The question that we are left with in Mark’s Gospel is what we will do with this story.
Will we share it with others?
Will we believe it?
Will we make it our own?
(I should mention that there are other endings of Mark’s Gospel. But these are believed to be added on latter.)
Like us the women simply don’t know what to do with this story that the angel at the tomb tells them.
Could it really be true that Jesus is alive!
The story seems impossible to believe.

That is point of the whole Gospel of Mark is to explain the unbelievable, to help people have faith in the one whom we thought was dead but is really alive.
And this story helps us to see beyond the grave, beyond this world, into the kingdom of heaven.
It is a story that can change our lives, make them have direction and purpose.
It is a story that gives us love, hope, and joy.
It is a story that we have told over and over throughout the ages.
It is a story that is passed from grandparents to little grandkids.
It is a story that we remember at the dark times of life.

I remember standing at an outdoor chapel at Camp Calumet Lutheran.
I was standing there pouring my father’s ashes into the form of a cross.
And what I was thinking about was this story.
I was thinking about the life that he lived, and the one that God has now given him, and that this tragic parting was only temporary.
Perhaps you had a similar moment when the resurrection wasn’t just some theological theory preached to you on Easter morning.
But it was real, because the story of Jesus Christ had entered into your own story.

This is exactly how you and I make sense of the world.
We tell stories.
When we are in conversation with someone and we want to prove a point most often what we do is tell a story.
If we want someone to understand something about us, about who we are, or what we believe we tell a story.
This story of Jesus resurrection is a story that can help us to shape our lives, to make sense of the things that happen to us.
It can be the story that explains all the other stories.

I am not saying that what we can do is choose everything that happens to us in life.
Much of life simply happens to us.
I love the line at the end of the movie Boyhood were the lead character has a friend who says, “Life isn’t what you make it. Life is what makes us.”
I agree.
But what we can choose is the story by which we will see that life.
We can choose to see in life death and resurrection.
And if we think about it those two realities surround us all the time.

Our family has been dealing with some tragedies lately.
I will not go into it all.
But they all feel like the end of some things.
It feels like things are dying.
And you know what happened last week.
Our family added another member.
My sister-in law had a baby girl.
I can’t tell you how much that brightened our spirits.
Life goes on, it turns around.

We have all experienced a very cold and snowy winter.
But we all know and expect that warmer days are ahead.
We know that the flowers and trees that have lain dormant are going to bloom again.
Life goes on, it turns around.

This week I was at the state house, at the time I was wearing my collar.
I was walking down the hall and a man stopped me.
He wanted to talk about his parent’s death.
He missed them.
I said, “You know they are well cared for that they are at peace.
That they are surrounded by love.”
There is was the promise of the resurrection spoken into a moment of death on a Wednesday at the State House.
Life goes on, it turns around.

I was at the hospice house this week visiting with someone whose mother was dying.
We prayed.
As I left I whispered into her mother’s ear.
“You are going to be fine. God is with you know and forever.”
She woke up and whispered back, “Thank you”.
The resurrection is our hope at the end of all things.
Life goes on, it turns around.

Since the New Year I have been at four different funerals, and I have officiated at two others.
Every time I am at a funeral I am thankful to hear again that promise of life eternal given by Jesus Christ.
The story of Easter is important each time.
Life goes on, it turns around.

That is why we need this story.
It is why we want this story.
We want it to be part of our adventure.

What is amazing about the ending in Mark is that we know that the story doesn’t end there.
We know that it continued to be told over and over again.
We know this because we are all here today.
This means that even if we don’t tell it, believe it, or share it the story still goes on, because it is really ultimately about God.
That God really wants us to know about this story.
God wants it to be part of our adventure so that whatever path we choose good or bad, we know that God is there with us, bringing life from death, hope from despair, and grace from sin.
This story is important part of who we are as God’s people, as people.

One of the things I notice about this time of year is that there are lots of specials on television about the history of Jesus.
There are specials about archeological evidence, about historical records.
Some of you might watch these and if they help you to understand the story or to believe it that is good.
I love history.
And I too find those specials to be of great help.
But they also fall short for me, because the story is about faith, not about fact and figures.
It is about what we are going to believe about our lives.
It is about what is the story that will help us to make sense out of our adventure our lives.
And of all the stories that I have heard I simply cannot find a better one.
This is the one that brings me comfort and hope.
It is the one I want with me when I stand over the grave of someone I love.
It is the one I want with me when I hold a new born baby.
It is the one I want with me on cold snowy night.
And the one I want with me on a warm sunny morning.

Today as you live your adventures.
As you make decisions about your lives and what they will be, I hope and pray that you will take this story with you, so that you may know the power of knowing God who makes life out of death.


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