Mark, we have a problem.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Welcome to this night of nights. A night of stories and song around this new fire. Stories and songs that remind us who we are, and whose we are. Stories and songs and baptismal water that remind us we are on a journey toward resurrection.

We share these stories, songs, and sacraments of renewal on this night each year – and at every Eucharist – to remind ourselves that this story is not a quick fix or a onetime thing. No, this is a lifelong journey of progress – a process that invites us to immerse ourselves week after week and year after year in its incremental and sacramental pattern of growth, renewal, and transformation.

At each gathering we share similar stories, songs, and sacraments. Yet, despite the familiar order, at each gathering there is variation among the stories and songs that invites our attention – that invites us to consider something fresh and new that may aid us on our journey. Perhaps you have come to appreciate this variation as we progress through the stories and songs of our faith on a three-year cycle. It is this progress through the cycle that brings us to one unique and brief resurrection story tonight.

This story according to Mark has a problem. The resurrected Jesus does not appear to his disciples in this account. There is only the young man in the empty tomb who tells the women that Jesus has been raised. This story leaves us hanging and is not resolved apparently because the women “fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”[1]

This story lacks the triumphal report to the other disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead. This story lacks the report that Peter and the disciples should look for him in Galilee. This story lacks these things apparently because terror and amazement seizes the women and they are afraid because they do not personally encounter the resurrected Christ.

Think about this problem for a moment. Where would you be on your journey had you not encountered the resurrected Christ? Perhaps you’re still waiting for that encounter. Perhaps you’re still struggling with terror. Perhaps you’re still more afraid than you are at peace. Perhaps you’re running away or hiding from something in your life because you haven’t encountered Jesus as the resurrected Christ.

Like this story, our personal stories have loose ends. Hopefully we know that these stories are not complete. This story and our stories are works in progress; they are journeys that are moving toward a resurrected conclusion; but they and we need help in this journey.

This is why we celebrate this night of nights year after year. It’s not simply a bridge between a season of lenten penitence and a season of Easter joy. This night is the most important night of the Christian year not because it’s about the quality of our lenten contemplation or reflection. No, this night of nights is about our coming together to share our stories, to remember our baptismal initiation into the body of Christ, and to lay claim to the resurrected Christ so we individually and collectively can take up our journey toward loving one another as Jesus loves us. This journey of love includes reaching out in particular to our neighbors who, like the women at the tomb, may be left hanging in a wilderness of fear and terror because they have not yet heard the life-giving stories or experienced the life-giving sacraments in the company of people who are on this journey toward resurrection.

Remember, this is the night when we are reminded that God brought our ancestors out of bondage and led them through the Red Sea on dry land. May we have the grace to tell our life-giving stories to those in bondage or in the wilderness so they can join us in this journey toward resurrection, because we know Christ is risen!

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

[1] Mark 16:8