Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Unfinished Gospel

Have you ever heard of “Quasimodo Sunday?”  Most of us probably have not. In our tradition the first Sunday after Easter is commonly known as “Low Sunday." The reason is quite simple: while worship attendance soars on Easter, it drops to an all-time low the following Sunday. Truth is, most Senior Pastors, including myself, can’t be found near a pulpit on Low Sunday. Thanks be to God for wonderful associates, like Jane and Alice, who along with the rest of the staff continue to serve our church on that Sunday and keep the story alive.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all tell the story of Easter morning in their own unique and wonderful ways. Many of their details don’t match up with each other, such as who exactly was there that first Easter and how it all played out. This untidiness never seemed to bother the early church. Who cares, they reasoned, if each one is a little different?  The main point is that they all agree that Jesus, who was crucified, dead and buried, was ALIVE. That’s the Easter story. He is Risen, indeed!

There is one interesting little twist in Mark’s Easter story. It has both a shorter and a longer ending.  Some scholars believe the longer ending was added because the shorter ending was just, well, too short. Among those scholars was the late Dr. Bruce Metzger, a renowned Bible professor from Princeton whom you may remember from an earlier Sardis Enrichment Series. He saw the abrupt ending as all we have of Mark’s writing but accepted the longer ending, coming from a different source than Mark, as an ancient and valid part of the Biblical canon. You can check out both endings in your own Bible and see what you think.

All of this has led many scholars to believe that Mark intentionally did not finish telling the Easter story with a nice, neat ending, but left it unfinished. You might wonder why?  Do you think it is because Mark believed that you and I are to finish the Easter story by the way we live our lives?  

Mark wants us to be EASTER PEOPLE, not only on Easter and Low Sunday but every day.   He expects the story of Easter to stay alive through you and me. Now I ask you, what kind of ending is that? Actually, pretty exciting when you stop to think about it! 


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