Easter Sunday – 2010

But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:11)

The tomb is empty. It is an odd story isn’t it? I marvel every year at this notion of an empty tomb. If there is usually one thing we can count on in life it is that the dead stay dead. Tombs are not empty, and if they are there is a criminal reason behind it. The disciples’ response makes sense to me. Perhaps it does to you. It is an idle tale told by hysterical women.

The scene on Easter is an emotional one. The women come in grief. They feel perplexed by the tomb being empty. They feel terrified when the dazzling men appear. They tell their breathless experience to the disciples who do not believe them. Grief, puzzlement, terror, and disbelief are the emotions of Easter this day. It actually makes for hard preaching.

Peter helps to save the day – at least somewhat. Peter, the impulsive one, {I don’t know – I kind of see him as a bit ADHD – hyper active and attention deficit}, bolts to the tomb. You know Peter, in the midst of the storm he will try and walk on the water. In the midst of disciples’ uncertainty he impulsively declares Jesus to be the Messiah, but then is just a quickly put off by what that means. He declares his willingness to die with Jesus, in the garden lops of a servant’s ear with his sword, and then denies him in fear before the cock crows three times. He bolts to the tomb and is amazed at the tomb being empty. At least he checked out what the women were saying.

So how do I journey through the emotion, the uncertainty, and not knowing what it all means? Well, I cheat. I bounce past the story up to day. The first Easter was a long time ago and we know the rest of the story. We know of the appearances Jesus makes, how the disciples come around, how Thomas doubts but is lead to faith. We know how it turns out; except for one thing: our own lives and the continued unfolding of the world.

If the resurrection is something only confined to a story in history, an un-provable story at that, then we live under Paul’s opening line in the second lesson. “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” The resurrection is today. The resurrection is every day. Death is conquered today. Death, while hurting us now, holds no power when our lives end.

Resurrection is the end of fear. Resurrection is the promise that love wins. Isn’t that a message that we need to hear right now, more than any other message? In a church, in a nation, and in a world, wounded by division, by fear, God’s love will win. How? It is the only thing that survives. Since all philosophies, all teachings, all relationships, all boundaries, all peoples, all nations will die, will end, the empty tomb reminds us that only the love we carry for God and each other, only the love God carries for us, will last eternally. In a world of power, the weakness of love lives on.

The empty tomb is the declaration that God’s love is the power of life itself. The empty tomb means that Jesus’ words of forgiveness from the cross are paramount and are intended to echo around the world. The empty tomb reminds us that “God shows no partiality” and what I said last week, namely, the Kingdom of God is more inclusive and broader than my or any human heart or thought can ever be – is a faithful expression of God’s love. It is the center of everything I try to proclaim from the pulpit and the heartbeat of the Gospel itself. If the tomb is not empty, we are all just fooling ourselves.

This is a powerful day. Not because of what happened a long time ago, but because the power of love that emptied the tomb seeks to live and dwell within us today. The tomb is still empty because God’s love and grace and forgiveness still win the day. And it does mean that one day our tombs will be empty too. In the midst of all things tragic and painful, in the midst of death itself, the unexpected and perplexing power of God’s grace and life is present for us.

This is a deep and abiding contradiction. We know that the only way the tomb can be empty is to have someone steal the body. We KNOW this. It is factual, concrete, and real. An empty tomb with dazzling clothed men isn’t real. It isn’t provable. It isn’t knowable like holding a rock or eating a cookie. God’s love and life cannot be the winning force in the world when there is so much death, division, and hatred. We know this right? People utter this all the time – how can there be a God when… an earthquake kills thousands, a plane crashes, and so forth. What I see and hear and know tangibly contradicts the message of the women. The empty tomb seems to be an idle tale.

The temptation then is to choose sides and to pick a winner. In Jesus’ day you really didn’t want to bet against the Romans. They killed lots of people and filled a lot of tombs. If your team has never won a world series or a super bowl or a national championship, you tend to live in agony until they do. We root for and against teams and people. If God can’t lift me up, then maybe the Packers can. If God can’t fill my heart with joy, then maybe my family can.

The empty tomb is a deep and abiding contradiction. It requires faith. It requires believing against everything the world teaches and displays in the headlines. It means that God’s love reaches beyond all loyalties and boundaries. It means trusting that in spite of all appearances God’s life and love are right here and right now. In this place. In this nation. In this world. The empty tomb resides in the places where we offer forgiveness, where we offer apologies and strive to do better, where we speak to each other in love and directly, and where we listen more than we speak.

Each and every one of you is loved by God. Now and always. Each and every one of you will die one day. Each and every one of you will see God face to face. Each and every one of your tombs will be empty one day. God’s love will succeed. It will last beyond all other things.

How do I KNOW this? I don’t. I believe it. The tale of the women doesn’t seem so idle to me. It is the only hope I hold for healing, for life, for anything good. The tomb is empty and Jesus is risen. Idle tale or not, there isn’t much else to say. Amen

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 at 4:29 pm and is filed under Sermons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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