Easter Monday… and beyond

This is taken from N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope (2008)

“…Many churches now hold Easter vigils, as the Orthodox church has always done, but in many cases they are… too tame by half. Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power… we ought to shout Alleluias instead of murmuring them; we should light every candle in the building instead of only some; we should give every man, woman, child, cat, dog, and mouse in the place a candle to hold; we should have a real bonfire; and we should splash water about as we renew our baptismal vows. Every step back from that is a step toward an ethereal or esoteric Easter experience, and the thing about Easter is that it is neither ethereal nor esoteric. It’s about the real Jesus coming out of the real tomb and getting God’s real new creation under way.

But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

…Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?

…we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins…

…if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again—well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative…. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.”

Holy Saturday

The Saturday between Good Friday & Easter Sunday gets lost. We’re not sure what to do with it. In the biblical story, nothing happens. Jesus is dead. He’s in the tomb. The disciples are in hiding. Nothing is happening.

They authorities tried to keep Jesus safely dead then, and they try it still today.

Again and again, when the news media want to talk about God, they ignore Jesus. We hear so-called experts proclaiming that science has disproved God — without realizing that the ‘god’ you could squeeze out of the picture by more and more scientific discoveries is not the God whom we worship. Our world is still full of the modern equivalents of high priests going to the governor to have a guard placed on the tomb — the sceptics appealing for help to the powerful. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

N.T. Wright says:

“Sometimes, though, we Christians need to observe a Holy Saturday moment. On Holy Saturday, there is nothing you can do except wait. The Christian faith suffers, apparently, great defeats. There are scandals and divisions, and the world looks on and loves it, like the crowds at the foot of the cross.”

But God will do what God will do, in God’s own time. The world can plot and plan, but all of that will count for nothing when the victory already won on the cross turns into the new sort of victory on the third day.

In many places in the western world today, the church is almost apologetic, afraid of being sneered at. It looks as though the chief priests and the Pharisees of our culture, the political leaders, have won.

Give them their day to imagine that. It’s happened before and it will happen again. The Romans tried to stamp out the Christian faith multiple times. Turmoil in the 16th & 17th centuries gave rise to scepticism about the Christian faith. ISIS and other persecutors run rampant in our day. We don’t know what will happen next. We don’t know what the sceptics, the so-called “new Atheists of our day”, the persecutors of this generation will do next.

Part of what are called to, is to keep watching and waiting on Holy Saturday, in faith and hope, grieving over the ruin of the world that sent Jesus to his death, trusting in the promises of God that new life will come in his way and his time.

On that first Good Friday – Easter Resurrection weekend there were somethings done that took courage, in the midst of the hard and sad events. It took courage for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pontius Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. Peter and the others run away to hide because they were afraid of being thought accomplices of Jesus. Joseph steppped up. He provided a new tomb and a clean linen cloth. It all had to be done quickly, the sabbath was approaching.

Sometimes, as we work for and with Jesus, it may feel a bit like that. We aren’t sure why we are in this place. Why things aren’t going as we wanted or planned. Why energy seems to have been drained out of it all. That’s a Holy Saturday moment. Do what has to be done, and wait for God to act in his own way and his own time.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, is a day that reminds us of some key things that Jesus not only said, but modeled and commanded. Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, translated as “commandment.” This is taken from Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35

So now I am giving you a new commandment:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Rooted in this command is the idea of presence: a word that speaks of being present, being visible, being active.

When we meet together on this thursday (or indeed any time) we can experience God’s presence as we share humour, as we offer hospitality, as we are gracious with each other, desiring the best for each other.

Being present with others, in safe spaces, being safe people, we create space for God’s Spirit to minister truth, joy, healing, forgiveness, and power and strength for living.

On that night when Jesus shared what we call The Last Supper, God’s Presence was actually with the disciples as they communed, unaware of what was about to take place. Some difficult things were said (John 13:21-30; 36-38; 15:18). The disciples wrestled with what Jesus said. In many ways they were still clueless. But a genuine love was shared at that table. They broke bread. They drank wine. They prayed. God’s Presence was real as Jesus prayed his unifying prayer of John 17. I imagine there was a crescendo of emotion. Realness with vulnerability.

So on Maundy Thursday we eat a meal together, we laugh together, we enjoy each other’s presence, we in some way, re-enact the community of the Last Supper.

Christianity is empty when void of community.

Christianity is not a solo activity. We were created and are re-created in Christ to be in relationship, to be in community. Community adds to us the truth of life, of hope, of support, and of healing. In community we are able to grow as God intended from the beginning.

As we meet on this Maundy Thursday together, we reflect on the surprise of Easter that opens our hearts to the goodness and greatness of God.


I did not grow up in a liturgical church. I have never pastored a liturgical church. I have some friends are very anti-liturgy. And yet, there is something important about the church year that we non-liturgical types miss out on when we ignore it.

Some aspects of the church year, evangelicals (and in my experience, most non-litugical people go by the label of “evangelical”) are quick to adopt.

We like Christmas, and so we easily add in celebrations around that season, and start to include the movement of Advent (although I think we still jump really quickly to Christmas and pass over the waiting part).

For many churches the holidays of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Canada Day, Thanksgiving have become part of her “holy” days.

And then there is Lent and Easter. We have a weird relationship with Lent and Easter. Lent is, for many, that weird 40 days (where you don’t count Sundays and you give up something you like in order to be more spiritual). We like Easter Sunday (because we like Hot Cross Buns and Easter eggs and chocolate!) But we struggle with Good Friday. We know the Cross is important. But we don’t want to linger there. We don’t want to spend time on that type of reflection… so we hurry to the Resurrection Celebration.

And then there is Maundy Thursday – what in the world is a “Monday Thursday.” Maundy is a latin word meaning commandment. It takes us back to the Last Supper and Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Let me encourage you to take note of these things… pause, slow down enough to hear the voice of God in the seasons of the year as we reflect on the whole story of the gospel, on the whole movement of God’s Kingdom.

Towards Easter at OCC

Palm SundayEaster 2016

10:00am God’s Profound Love
from new born to Grade 5

Maundy Thursday

6:00pm Potluck Meal & Communion

Good Friday

10:30am Community Worship Gathering with area churches @ Calvary Pentecostal (375 Westmount Dr N)

Easter Sunday

10:ooam The Death of Death



Easter is coming!

This week we mark, remember and celebrate Jesus’ journey to the cross, his death and his resurrection. In the midst of all the events of the week, let’s never loose site of the central truth…

Take 6minutes, maybe grab a cup of coffee or tea, and soak in this song.

Mark 16

The Gospel of Mark seems to end on an odd note: v8 “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” It’s even odder in the Greek, since it ends with the preposition γάρ which we translate as “for” or “because.”

There are several possible endings to the Gospel of Mark:

  • Two of the oldest and most respected manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus (AD 375) and Codex Vaticanus (AD 350) end at v8.
  • Others have the “longer ending” of vv9-10.
  • Some have what is called the “shorter ending” after v8. “They reported briefly to those around Peter all that they had been commanded. After these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from the east to the west, the holy and imperishable preaching of eternal salvation. Amen.”
  • There are a few later manuscripts which include both the “shorter” and the “longer” ending.
  • And there have been some scholars who have suggested that the ending of Mark’s Gospel was lost, or torn off, and that is why it seems to end abruptly at the end of v8.

The main arguments for saying that Mark ends at v9 are as follows. Some dispute some of these arguments, but on the whole each of them is a strong argument, and taking several together gives an even stronger argument.

  • The long ending does not appear in several of our earliest and best manuscripts, most notably Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
  • Some early manuscripts which do contain the long ending nonetheless contain indications marking it as disputed.
  • The existence of manuscripts containing a different ending entirely (the “shorter ending”) also suggests that the original contained no ending beyond v8.
  • The author of Mark has a distinctive Greek style, and the long ending does not match this style.
  • The author of the long ending appears to be familiar with possibly Matthew and probably Luke.
  • The early copies of Matthew and Luke do not have had the long ending in their copies of Mark.

The King James Version of the Bible, as well as the New King James Version, contains vv9-20 because the King James used medieval manuscripts (which were the oldest manuscripts they had at their disposal) as the basis of its translation. Since 1611, however, older and more accurate manuscripts have been discovered that do not include vv9-20.

In addition, the 4th century church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all Greek manuscripts available to them lacked vv9-20, although they doubtless knew those other endings existed. In the 2nd century, Justin Martyr and Tatian knew about other endings. Irenaeus, in AD 150-200, must have known about this long ending because he quotes v19 from it. So, the early church fathers knew of the added verses, but even by the 4th century, Eusebius said the Greek manuscripts did not include these endings in the originals.

The internal evidence from this passage also casts doubt on Mark as the author. For one thing, the transition between verses 8 and 9 is abrupt and awkward. The Greek word translated “now” that begins v9 should link it to what follows, as the use of the word “now” does in the other synoptic Gospels. However, what follows doesn’t continue the story of the women referred to in v8, describing instead Jesus’ appearing to Mary Magdalene. There’s no transition there, but rather an abrupt change, lacking the continuity typical of Mark’s narrative. The author should be continuing the story of the women based on the word “now,” not jumping to the appearance to Mary Magdalene. Further, for Mark to introduce Mary Magdalene here as though for the very first time (v9) is odd because she had already been introduced in Mark’s narrative (Mark 15:40, 47, 16:1), suggesting that this section was not written by Mark.

The vocabulary is also not consistent with Mark’s Gospel. These last verses don’t read like Mark’s. There are several words here that are never used anywhere by Mark, and the structure is different from the familiar structure of his writing. The title “Lord Jesus,” used in v19, is never used anywhere else by Mark. Also, the reference to signs in vv17-18 doesn’t appear in any of the four Gospels. In no account, post-resurrection of Jesus, is there any discussion of signs like picking up serpents, speaking with tongues, drinking poison, or laying hands on the sick. So, both internally and externally, this seems to be foreign to Mark.

While the added ending does not contradict previously revealed events, both the external and internal evidence seem to indicate that Mark did not write it.

In reality, ending his Gospel in v8 with the description of the amazement of the women at the tomb is entirely consistent with the rest of the narrative. Amazement at the Lord Jesus seems to be a theme with Mark. “They were amazed at his teaching” (Mark 1:22); “They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves” (Mark 1:27); “He healed the paralytic, and they were all amazed and were glorifying God saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this’” (Mark 2:12). Astonishment at the work of Jesus is revealed throughout Mark’s Gospel (Mark 4:41; 5:15, 22, 42; 6:51; 9:6, 15, 32; 10:24, 32; 11:18; 12:17; 16:5).

My purpose in writing this is not to try to undermine the authority of God’s Word. But to recognize that the ending of Mark’s Gospel is under dispute. To fail to spotlight this issue when dealing with the historic reliability and inspiration of the New Testament manuscripts is to be less than honest, and thus affect our credibility in sharing the good news (gospel) of Jesus.

Gospel of Mark tweet summary

Tweet summary for The Gospel of Mark

MK 1 Gospel & prophecy; Jesus’ ministry begins: baptism, tempted, calling disciples, cast out evil spirit, heals, preaches #Mk1 #gospeltweet
MK 2 Jesus heals as a sign he 4gives sin; calls a tax collector; new wineskins 4 new wine; Sabbath made 4 people not reverse #Mk2 #gospeltweet
MK 3 Jesus heals on the Sabbath; crowds follow him; chooses the 12; Jesus greater than the demonic; family is more than blood #Mk3 #gospeltweet
MK 4 Parables of the Kingdom – something new: farmer & seed; lamp; growing seed; mustard seed. Jesus calms the storm #Mk4 #gospeltweet
MK 5 Jesus casts demons out – tell everyone; then heals in response to faith – tell no one: mysteries #Mk5 #gospeltweet
MK 6 Jesus could only heal a few at Nazareth; sends out the 12 with his authority; John the Baptist killed; 5000+fed #Mk6 #gospeltweet
MK 7 Ritual and tradition vs change from the inside out; gospel includes outisders; more healings. #Mk7 #gospeltweet
MK 8 Feeding 4000+; Pharisees demand a sign; Disciples don’t understand; Peter declares that J is Messiah; J predicts his death #Mk8#gospeltweet
MK 9 Transfiguration – don’t tell anyone; healing; who is great in the kingdom; kingdom is bigger than we often think #Mk9 #gospeltweet
MK 10 Jesus teaches on divorce, welcoming children, possessions, redefining kingdom, being servants, his coming death, healing #Mk10 #gospeltweet
MK 11 Jesus’ triumphant entry, curses fig tree, clears the temple for misuse, authority challenged #Mk11 #gospeltweet
MK 12 Tenant farmers beat up the owner’s servants & son, paying taxes, resurrection & marriage, most important command, little is a lot #Mk12 #gospeltweet
MK 13 Signs of the end of the age #Mk13 #gospeltweet
MK 14 Jesus anointed with oil at Bethany, Judas plans to betray, last supper, garden prayer, arrest, before Council, Peter denies Jesus #Mk14 #gospeltweet
MK 15 Trial before Pilate, Jesus mocked, crucifixion, death, burial #Mk15 #gospeltweet
MK 16 Resurrection #Mk16 #gospeltweet