Easter 2012: The tomb is not quite empty

In physical darkness Mary Magdalene arrives at Jesus’ tomb.  The tomb is open!  The stone has been rolled away.  “They have taken our Lord!” she says.  Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved run to see.

The tomb is not quite empty.  The tomb is empty of Jesus’ body, but not empty of everything.  It is somehow important that we know that the linen burial wrappings are in there, and that the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head “is rolled up in a place by itself.”  Why do we know this?  Perhaps details matter.  Perhaps it is important so that we, too, can see the tomb that is empty of Jesus’ body and still contains his burial garments.  Where is our Lord?  Wherever He is, He has left his burial garments behind.  Perhaps he has no need of them….

When Mary looks into the tomb, it is still not empty.  Angels appear where Jesus lay, one at his head and one at his feet.  Mary sees angels instead of the body of Jesus.  It must be important for us to know that there are angels, and that we can talk to them, that angels want to know what it is that makes us weep.  For whom are you looking?

Perhaps that is our big Easter question:  for whom are we looking?  We have been looking within darkness, to be sure.  Our spiritual darkness hovers around us, filling us with doubt when we want to believe.  Someone wonders why their child is sick; why their depression won’t go away; why alcohol or other drugs or poverty or troubles plague them.  But we still want to believe that Jesus is risen and that God hears our prayer.  Why, then, can we not bury our troubles?  Leave them behind like the burial garments that Jesus shed?

Our worship over the past week has taken place in semi-darkness; light enough to see the words, dark enough to acknowledge our darkest hours.  We sit in the dark and long for the light.

Light is part of what we are looking for.  We are looking for that light of Christ that shone so brightly just a few months ago.  We are looking for daylight – that break in our daily troubles and challenges.  We are looking for a lightness of heart that comes with worry-free days, with friends, and laughter and a little less on those long lists of things to do.  We are looking for light.

We are looking for Jesus.  Maybe we are looking for him in the wrong places.  We look for Jesus in the places and time that we have scheduled for him:  in church and in prayer and when we say “Our Father.”  Maybe we should look for Jesus in some unexpected places, like when we are washing dishes or pruning flowers or doing homework or when we see a baby armadillo in the grass.  Perhaps we are like Mary and do not recognize Jesus when He is right in front of us.

And then, just when we are lost and hurting, Jesus calls our name.  “Mary.”  And we see Jesus in a whole new way, or in a new place, or in another person.  How sweet is the sound of our Lord calling our name!  We can believe in that Jesus, the one who knows us and loves us and dries our tears.  He alone knows what we seek.  He alone can guide us into life beyond death.  That Jesus is with us, right in front of us, every day.

I think that the tomb is not quite empty.  In it are the burial garments of our old life.  Today we step out of that life and into a new one, and in this new life Jesus knows us and calls us by name, and we know Him.  We know Jesus even when we do not recognize Him.  He searches us out, talks to us, loves us, and frees us from the darkest parts of our life.  That is whom we seek.

Jesus is inviting us to a deeper faith.  He has given us commandments:  to love one another as he has loved us; to serve others in a posture of deep humility; to remember him in the breaking of the bread; to go and tell the world about the good news of our risen Lord.  Jesus has transformed the empty tomb into the place where our old life is shed, where angels speak.  Alleluia!

Come with me, won’t you?  Let’s go meet Jesus.  Again.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Amen.

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