Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon at Cornelius’ house: God shows no partiality. Anyone from any nation who fears God is accepted by God.


Isaiah 25:6-9 – On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make a feast for all people, swallow up death forever, wipe away the tears from all faces.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – I shall not die but live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:1-11– For I handed on to you what I received, Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day.


Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon at Cornelius’ house: God shows no partiality. Anyone from any nation who fears God is accepted by God.

John 20:1-18 – Resurrection appearance. Mary: “I have seen the Lord.”


Mark 16:1-8 – Empty tomb. Mark’s original ending: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
—1 Peter 1:3

If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.
—Archbishop Oscar Romero, March 4, 1979

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in Springtime.
—Martin Luther

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
—Philippians 3:10-11

For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:21-22

April Fools, Fuzzy Easter

Has the meaning of Easter gotten a bit fuzzy? Easter Wreath bunny buns

Okay, I get it. Who doesn’t like a soft, furry bunny… marinated overnight, then braised with carrots and onions. (Just kidding.) German Lutheran immigrants arrived in the 1700s not just with their hasenpfeffer, Christmas trees, breweries and creameries, but also with their folkloric Osterhase, a bunny that laid colored eggs. According to the New Braunfels Herald Zeitung, a German folk tale used bunnies, an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Wikipedia says that the Easter Bunny, like Santa Claus, would bring children candy and treats on the eve of the major holiday.

Like most holidays in the US, Easter has become commercialized. Anything to make a buck of course. I took this photo at the mall a couple of days ago. It brought back a memory of my son John, now 24, as a toddler, being traumatized by the sight of an enormous, fully-clothed bunny with a freakishly over-sized head walking towards him in the mall.  Don’t worry, my wife quickly pushed John’s stroller away from the terrifying spectacle.

Easter Bunny at Woodlands MallSo now that we know the origins of fuzzy bunnies and eggs, how do we recapture the celebration of new life?

At its heart, Easter is a foolish story in Spring about life triumphing over death. It is appropriate that Easter falls on April Fool’s Day this year. The very first April Fool’s prank was pulled on the very first Easter. When Mary Magdalene (John 20) went to the tomb and, surprise, found it empty. A trick had been played on Satan, sin and death.

The Christian story is not about magic. It is an outlandish claim that there is more to life than meets the eye. It is the foolish, counter-cultural, counter-intuitive story that suggests that death does not have the last word. That you are loved with a love that is more powerful than death, more powerful than hate, more powerful than violence. This love is eternal. It makes the world go around. There will never be a time that you are not loved. Some believe that war and death are the most powerful forces, but we foolishly believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe.

April Fools’ Day is the perfect day to celebrate this foolish faith. Because if you believe this, if you live this, it changes everything. We all becomes fools for Christ. Listen to what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

We are fools for the sake of Christ…

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day…

Think about the foolishness of loving your neighbor, the risk of loving the stranger, the absurdity of loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Think about the foolishness of giving up your earthly wealth so that others might live. Think about the foolishness of surrendering your life to Christ.

Think about the foolishness of trusting God with your life so much that you’re willing to give up your earthly possessions. Think about the foolishness of joining a monastic order. Think about the foolishness of trusting in life beyond this world that we know.

The empty tomb invites us to live into foolishness: shockingly unconventional behavior. Paul says,

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The empty tomb and the resurrection appearances suggest there is more to life than meets the eye, and they invite us to trust God with our lives so much, that we engage in shockingly unconventional behavior. We become fools for Christ.

So in life, trust God. Live in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant sacrifice.

In death, trust that there is much we do not know. Jesus doesn’t answer all our questions. He just says, “Trust me. It’ll be okay. Don’t worry. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you may be also. Trust me. Regardless of what this world may think, death does not have the last word. I do. Alleluia. Amen.

Mark’s Hidden Resurrection

According to Gordon Lathrop, in his book The Four Gospels on Sunday, Mark ends in the same secrecy motif with which it began. “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Or as Lathrop translates, ουδενι ουδεν: “They said absolutely nothing to anybody at all.” As most students of the Bible know, everything after 16:8 was added later.

Throughout the beginning of the gospel, Jesus heals and exorcizes, telling people not to tell anyone. This is often called the secrecy motif. Of course, anyone who has ever read Mark runs into the humor right away: Everyone goes out and tells everyone, the exact opposite of what Jesus asks. The story leaks out little by little divulging what the reader already knows, having been told in the first verse of the first chapter, what Lathrop calls the title of the book, because it has no verb:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

The reader (and of course the demons, whom Jesus tells to be silent) already knows who Jesus is from the very first verse: the messiah, the Son of God. It is the rest of the actors of the play who are just figuring this out, as in a Shakespearean drama. Lathrop also reminds us that this very title is sedition, because, as everyone in the Roman empire knows, it is the emperor who is the Son of God. It even says so on all the coins. The author of Mark’s gospel proposes nothing less than an alternative allegiance.

Diagram of Mark

Lathrop also goes to great pains to show the chiastic structure of Mark’s gospel, a circular pattern that is employed frequently in ancient literature. Here’s why this is important: The meaning of the story is usually hidden at the center of the circle, which in Mark’s case is chapters 8-10, which contain, among other things, the Transfiguration. For modern readers, who are used to a linear construction, we look for the point at the end. There is much curiosity why Mark doesn’t include a resurrection appearance. There is no doubt that many are floating around. After all, by the time Mark has written his gospel, Paul is dead, and the news of the resurrection is foundational for Christian community.

What we discover, is that instead of putting it at the end, he has hidden it at the center. The secret gospel is buried in the text, for those who wish to find it. Scholars have often mused that Mark’s Transfiguration is actually a misappropriated resurrection appearance, but what if the author intended it that way? Located close to the passion prediction of the center section is also a resurrection prediction. But it is more: It is a resurrection foreshadowing, vision, a picture, an icon of the resurrected Jesus in his glory in heaven with Moses and Elijah. The lights then come down, the scene darkens, and we are back on the mountain. Jesus predicts his crucifixion.

Mark has a resurrection appearance. We’ve just been missing it all these years.

It’s just not so important to Mark whether or not the resurrected Jesus can eat fish, can be touched in his hands and side, can walk through walls. For Mark, the important thing is this: There is more. There is something beyond the grave, and this Jesus is there to show us the way. In Mark’s gospel, we see in a mirror dimly, reflections of what is to be, but cannot yet be seen. It is an elegant gospel, that proclaims hope in an unvarnished way, ending with the words, “and they told absolutely nobody at all.”

The gospel is proclaimed boldly in John’s gospel. In Mark the gospel is a secret hidden in Mark’s narrative, revealed in carefully unfolding events even as the disciples bumble around in the dark. The author of Ephesians says, “Now this secret was not disclosed to the people of former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles by the Spirit (3:5). Colossians 1:26 says, “…The mystery that has been kept hidden from ages and generations… now has been revealed to his saints.” This gospel is veiled, just as Moses wore a veil when he came down the mountain.

In any case, the Easter message is the same in all the varied gospels. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveals God’s not-so-obvious future for humanity. Death does not have the final word. “Death is swallowed up in victory,” as Paul says. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. On Easter we proclaim a God who loves us with an everlasting love, that even death cannot destroy.