“Alleluia! Christ is risen!
(The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!)
We have just proclaimed the truth of our faith. We have embellished it over the centuries, but our core truth is the resurrected Christ.
Paul writes about it this way: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”
It’s a simple story, really. There’s nothing there – in Jesus’ tomb, that is, the one that held his body just a few days ago. Just as the gospel of John’s birth story doesn’t make for a very good pageant, none of the gospels give us much for an Easter show. Maybe they do ….
We who rest our faith on an empty tomb are hearkened back to other emptiness: primordial chaos before God created:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness hovered over the deep.
Formless, empty, dark.
It is John who tells us this beginning:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
Today we have a whole new beginning. It begins in the darkness, where the tomb is empty except for some left behind (formless) burial cloths. In the beginning … of a wonderful new life. All of earth is transformed by the risen Christ. Some find Jesus in empty places; some are quietly puzzled about Jesus’ truth; others see Jesus when he calls them by name.
If you are here for the first time, welcome! The risen Lord greets you and loves you.
If you are here after not being here or in any place of worship for a while, welcome! The risen Lord greets you and loves you.
If you are unsure of what you believe or where you belong, welcome! The risen Lord greets you and loves you.
To all: welcome to new life, to life with the risen Jesus Christ who makes all things new.
Really? There are still bombings, you say.
Yes, there is.
There are still murders and injustices and oppression and poverty,
Yes, yes, there are. The fullness of God’s kingdom isn’t here yet, is it? That doesn’t mean that God’s kingdom will never come. Today know that God’s kingdom is still possible, still happening, still being created. And to say that that fullness of God’s kingdom is not here does not mean that God’s kingdom is completely absent.
Martin Luther once said, “When you read in the gospel or hear it read that Jesus Christ comes here or goest there, that he heals the sick and raises the dead and forgives sins, you are to understand that he is coming here, that he is forgiving you and raising you from the dead, and healing you.”
When Jesus heals, he is healing you, every sickness from those of our bodies to those of our hearts, to those we have carried through our generations.
When Jesus raises the dead, he is raising everything that is dead within you that you can have new and abundant life. New life. Abundant life.
When Jesus is forgiving sins, he is forgiving everything in you that separates you from Jesus. Everything. You are forgiven.
It is no wonder that the tomb is empty, that we do not see Jesus’ stumbling into the light as Lazarus did. Jesus IS the light, and nothing will contain the love that he is. There is nothing that will hold back God’s love, certainly nothing as meager as the limits of human minds and earthly boulders or death.
Here we are, friends – celebrating an empty place that no longer contains our Lord. Our job is to worship, to run to find him, as the disciples did. Even then, it is not we who tell the rest of the story. It is God who writes the story, who often brings Jesus to us in ways that we do not recognize. Even in those unlikely places, Jesus calls us by name. We are his. We, like Mary, are now sent out, rejoicing in meeting the risen Lord.
He is risen! Alleluia! Amen.