“Ever Been Rerouted?” from Easter Sunday

Message Manuscript for “Ever Been Rerouted?”  Mark 16:1-8
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

     Have you ever been rolling down the highway on your way somewhere only to be stopped by road work?  There you are making progress, maybe even ahead of schedule, until you see red brake lights up ahead forming a line you soon join as you have no choice but to put a break on your journey as well.  After sitting there a while and then eventually inching along you see that there is an orange-vested worker under a hard hat up ahead, munching on a honey bun with one hand while holding a detour sign with the other.  As you feel the stress of being late for work and how you are going to explain your tardiness to your boss, you pause for a moment with envy for this guy’s job.  “Now that’s a great job,” you say to yourself.  How stress free would that be, you think. All he has to do is stand there with a sign.  

     That’s what the angel in our Easter text has for a job–to just stay at the tomb and give
directions about an unexpected detour.  As Mark reports in his gospel,

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

The three women were on their way to give care to Jesus’ body in the tomb.  Their minds were much on this task, as their hearts were broken to pieces after seeing him crucified.  Having such a task, though difficult, was good for them in their grief, giving them something they could do as they no doubt continued to feel the helplessness of not being able to do anything for Jesus after he was arrested.  And so they made their way to their destination, only to be stopped there by a guy with a detour sign.  Imagine being the angel who gets that assignment.  You are busy being an angel in the beauty of heaven when God calls you up and hands you your next job.  Yes, yes, God tells yous, that’s all I need you to do.  “What?  No, you don’t have to stand up the whole time.  You can sit, but you must not scare the people like you angels seem to do.  Just be sure to tell them where they are to go to get to Jesus.”  So the angel takes his place and then speaks the obvious:  “He is not here.”  To get to him, he told them, they would need to take a different route, one that would lead to Galilee.  

     The angel’s message wasn’t just for the three women and the other disciples who would arrive at the tomb.  It is for us to hear as well.  His cush job mattered more than he probably thought.  God knew that we would need to hear his message as well.  It is a message for people who are on a journey to see Jesus.  It is for us when we no longer think Jesus is alive, as our hearts are broken with disappointment that Jesus is no longer here for us; that he has gone from us and can no longer help us.  It is for us to hear when we forget about the resurrection, focusing only on death and loss.  It is for us to hear when we see decay and death all around us, having the hope we had for a better world crushed by the senseless violence and hatred of a harsh world.  It is for us to hear when have turned every which way in life and are still just as lost as we were when we started out.  It is for us to hear as we remember our need for a Hosanna, one who had come into our lives to free us from the oppression of others as well as from the heavy chains of our own sins.  In all of that, we are to hear from this worker that Jesus is not there; that he is not dead, but alive. We are to hear the way to find him.

   This message is timely and its good for us to be re-routed.  It is also good for others, for all of the other people stuck in the traffic of our human existence.  That’s why God has called you and me to do this work we are doing at Church for the Highlands.  We are messengers who have been called up by God to stand out there at all of the points of detour in our neighborhood and community, giving people the simple message, “He has risen!  He is not here.”  What a great job that is!  Though its not always easy, it is for sure the best job of all to have.  We are entrusted with the responsibility of pointing people in the right direction; to where they will find the Jesus who is truly alive. The ribbon on your nametag indicates which intersection God has placed you in to direct traffic.  Some of you are giving the message to Veterans. Some are directing traffic with children in the Lighthouse.  Many are positioned at the Highland Blessing Dinner or in one of the other Highland Center Ministries.  Some of you share the message with the people of Visions of Hope.  In all of these locations, God is counting on us to participate with Jesus in rerouting traffic away from the road that leads nowhere to the one that leads to life.

I read a story this past week about someone who was rerouted by Hurricane Katrina: 

     Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina stormed the shores of our state and Mississippi, NBC reported on many of the attempts to rescue people from their flooded homes.  One of them was about Chris Moretz, who decided to ride out hurricane Katrina and doesn’t think much of his choice. He describes his decision as “optimistic, naïve, curious, and dumb.”

The fury of the storm left him trapped in his Waveland, Mississippi, house. Water poured in, going from ankle deep to hip deep in five minutes. “The building actually started shuddering, and I jumped out and swam,” he said. After finding refuge, Moretz left a message so that his family, living in Tucson, Arizona, would know he was still alive. The 36-year-old painted his note on the roof of a splintered and submerged home. The message read, “C. Moretz is alive. Pass it on.” Also included was the phone number of Chris’s brother, Gerard. “I probably had about 100 calls,” Gerard Moretz said. Some were from as far away as Puerto Rico and Canada.[1]

     In a similar way, on this Easter Sunday, we see and hear the message left by someone long ago at an empty tomb:  “He has risen!  He is not here.”  Pass it on.

[1] Story “Rooftop Message Leads To Reunion,” http://www.nbc5.com (9-9-05); submitted by Michael Herman, Lisle, Illinois http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2005/november/16193.html

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