Brett Davis, Washington, DC


Warm-up Question

Are you a creature of habit?  Do you like routine/structure?

Extreme Happiness

Alexsander Gamme is a Norweigan adventurer and explorer who has seen some incredible sights.  He’s summited Everest and been to some of the wildest, highest, and most remote places in the world.  He might be a bit of an adrenaline junkie – but maybe even that can become habit?

A video from one of his expeditions went viral a few years ago and has since been picked up on several news stories because it is one of the purest, most unbridled displays of sheer joy.  The video is self-footage from day 86 of his solo South Pole expedition, and it’s the last leg of his journey.  He’s approaching the spot where his last stash of food and supplies is set.  It’s a routine thing, and although he is probably happy approaching it, he is tired, hungry, and calm.  He mutters and talks to himself as he digs the bag out of the snow, and then you see him calmly opening and describing its contents – until – there’s a pause and then just a shout of sheer joy – “YAAAAAAAAA!”

This is the happiest you’ve ever seen someone, certainly about a bag of Cheeze Doodles but probably anything else.  He then throws the bag high up in the air; it lands on the snow with a soft thud, as he continues screaming his happiness.  He continues unpacking other things, gear, and then another shiny package catches his eye – this time a king-size candy bar.  This discovery, and a couple other sweets he finds, leaves him laying on the snow clutching a bag of candy, giggling and yelling in a free and joyful way.

(The video is called “basic needs – extreme happiness,” and you can watch it here if you’re able.)

Gamme has commented later that he intentionally did not make notes or know what was in each pack, so that it would be a surprise.  He talks to himself and sounds so tired as he approaches and begins opening the pack – one news story about this included a rough translation: “He says in the beginning that he is so hungry. He wonders if they have left any goodies apart from the most important stuff. He finds Vaseline and wishes to find food. He doesn’t know if they have left anything to eat. And then he finds the snacks, cheese and candy. And before that, when he crawls back to the camera, he says he didn’t think there will be any, but you should never lose hope.”

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever experienced joy like this?
  • If your packed lunch every day was the same thing, and then one day it was ___(you fill in the blank)___, how would you react?
  • Do you think people fake this kind of joy sometimes?
  • Can you think of some times, personal or not, when a very routine moment has been interrupted by joy?
  • Do you think that real joy has to be a surprise?

Resurrection of our Lord

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

We think of Easter as this special day, and this is, of course, a special story.  But not at first.  As the story begins, Jesus has died and everything has changed for his disciples.  What are they to do now?  We’re not sure what the men are doing at this point in Mark’s gospel, but we know what the women do.

The women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome), are simply following routine.  Burial practices are a cultural practice, more elaborate than a habit like brushing your teeth or turning off lights when you leave a room, but still, this is a habit.

What’s striking is how normal this scene is.  At the very beginning of the passage is the note “when the Sabbath was over.”  This tells us that the women had done what they had done every Saturday – kept the Sabbath.  Even if grieving, they probably went through all the regular motions of their Sabbath day.  Then it’s Sunday morning, and they get up and do together what they would have done for any loved one who has died.  It seems special to us, but this is what would’ve been done for everyone – spices to prepare the body, caring for the tomb.  They ask the question “who will roll away the stone for us” because they’ve done this before.  As hard as it is, it’s also routine – like family members who might go to visit a loved one’s grave today and have to call ahead of time to make sure the cemetery gate will be open.

Jesus’ death didn’t change their routines.  Maybe the women are trying to use their routines to make sense of Jesus’ death.  While we all react differently to grief and shock, this is something that can be helpful – having things to do, routines to follow, words to say, and practices that help bring meaning.

This is a totally normal story – and should sound pretty ho-hum…  until they see the stone has been moved… and a “young man” sits there and tells them – “do not be alarmed.”  But they are, at first.  Something that was so routine has been totally interrupted.  Such an interruption can at first naturally bring fear – a part of our body’s shock reaction – but can blossom into joy.  Perhaps after everything that happened with Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, the routine practices were needed, so that they could be interrupted by the joy of the resurrection.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you find routine helpful in making something meaningful, or does it just get boring? (Possible examples: a bedtime “I love you” from a parent, a special way you and a friend greet each other, etc.)
  • Do you find worship to be routine? Are there things that your church community does in worship every week?  Are they meaningful, stale, or both sometimes?
  • Have you ever had a time when a routine was really helpful, so that you had something to do?
  • Could routine help us notice the moments of sheer joy that happen? Can you think of any examples of this?

Activity Suggestions

How could your group share a taste of the experience that Gamme had with the cheez doodles and candy bar?  Brainstorm a few ways that you could bring joy into something that is so totally routine.  This could be as simple as writing encouragement on sticky notes and putting them somewhere that someone will encounter them while doing a very routine task.  This could be a way to bring resurrection joy to someone else today!

Closing Prayer

God of surprise, shock us.  Open us up to find joy in small things – like Cheez Doodles or a candy bar, or a smile – in the midst of the ordinary routines of life.  We thank you for the gift that life is sometimes boring, with peace and no stress.  Tomorrow, on Mondays and in all the ordinary stuff of life, help us to see you.  Give us patience and strength to follow you faithfully like the women at the tomb, and when joy breaks in, to shout like Gamme and let joy free.  Amen.