Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday: Seeking the Living in a Graveyard

Readings for Easter Sunday:  Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

The women watched as Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus’ body and laid it in the tomb. There wasn’t enough time, it was too fast, almost Sabbath. This just wasn’t right; it wasn’t the way they wanted to honor their Lord.

So they went, to retrieve spices carefully tended and preserved, packed away for such an occasion, To purchase ointment and more rare spices before the vendors closed for Sabbath. 
To bring their best, an offering of love, the final act they would do for their Lord.

They started out early, each carrying her offering, each determined to do what should’ve been done three days ago, no matter what - after all, Jesus has been in the closed up, hot tomb for three days.

They came to the tomb, spices in hand; ointments ready to prepare the body of their dead loved one.

We’ve all stood at that moment, facing the finality of death. Maybe it was in the funeral home, meeting with the funeral director, selecting just the right casket, just the right songs to proclaim to the world how much your loved one meant to you.

Maybe it was that moment in the doctor’s office when the word cancer was first said.

That moment when the bags were loaded in the trunk and a slamming front door sounded the end of a relationship.

The moment when you walked out of work and as the outside air hit your face, you realized that like it or not, you no longer worked there.

The moment so many years ago when angry words left someone’s mouth, and parent and child, or brother and sister, took one last look and walked silently away.

That moment when a drink or a pill became the most important thing in life. That moment when dreams become lost, and hope for the future disappears. That moment when you couldn’t bear 
to look at yourself in the mirror because you didn’t like what you saw.

That moment when you turn off the TV news, put down the paper, shut off the Internet because you just can’t hear one more report of tragedy, war, hunger, pain – one more report about brokenness, greed, hatred.

At some place, at some time, we’ve all walked the same path to the tomb the women walked that morning. 

It never occurred to them that Jesus would not be there. After all, the dead stay dead.

The open tomb, the scattered linen wrappings puzzled them. They stood and stared, not comprehending.

Suddenly a bright light and two angels startled them.  Dropping jars and scattering spices, they fell to the ground, bowing before these divine messengers.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”

The thing is they weren’t looking for the living.  They came to look for the dead among the dead.  The spices and the ointments in their hand prove that they never expected to find Jesus alive. It wasn’t until the angels told these women who had travelled with Jesus for three years to remember that they looked beyond their grief and pain.  Only then did they remember all that Jesus said and done and how he predicted not only his death but this very moment when they would discover that he’d been raised from the dead.

They had forgotten to look for the living.  Maybe they just found it too hard to believe that after that horrible death, there was any possibility of life.

Where those places where we still look for the living among the dead? 

Because we do this - well, actually, we don’t look for the living among the dead.  Like the women that first Easter morning, we look for the dead among the dead.  Like the women, we expect death and brokenness in the very places where God’s told us there will be life. 

Resurrection – it’s not an easy thing to believe.  My dad always said there were two things you could count on – death and taxes.  Resurrection messes with the way things are supposed to be.  It defies the natural order of things.

Resurrection means something supernatural has to have happened – something has broken into the natural order of things.

It means God happened.

It was just as hard for Jesus’ followers to wrap their mind around the idea of resurrection as it is for people today.  The women’s story of the angels and the empty tomb sounded like “an idle tale.” Actually that’s a pretty mild translation of leiros, the word Luke uses to describe the 
reaction to the women’s story.

 Leiros - it’s where we get our word “delirious.” It’s crazy talk, nonsense.  Incredible.  Impossible. Rubbish. Crap.  Seriously – a faithful translation of leiros is B.S.

Resurrection –Leiros!

Leiros or not, Peter had to go check it out for himself. He goes and sees the empty tomb, the scattered linens – he doesn’t get angel messengers, so he stands there on his own trying to figure it out. He’s amazed, puzzled, and very, very confused.

Resurrection is not an easy thing to believe. It takes the disciples some time to figure this out.  There are doubts and fears.  That’s normal – because the empty tomb changes everything.

And it takes times to wrap your mind about a change that shakes your whole world, that turns everything you knew about how life works upside down.

It takes time for them to realize that the empty tomb changes everything.

The empty tomb changes everything. God happens; God comes down and walks among us. God suffers as we suffer, experiences death just like we experience death – and then breaks the power of death. That very first Easter morning, when the women find the tomb empty, they discover the first sign that things are no longer the same.

Jesus resurrection means that death the longer has the last word, that life and love are stronger than death.

Jesus’ resurrection means that God’s kingdom has come, is coming – that God is working to re-create, to bring closer that day when all tears are wiped from the eyes and that there is a new heaven and a new earth and Jesus rules and justice and peace and love.

Jesus resurrection means that when we hear of the death and experience death – bad news, tragedy, sickness, poverty, broken relationships, lost dreams - that we look for the living, we look for life.

Jesus resurrection means that God, in whom we live and move and have our being, says “leiros” to death, and “yes” to life.

He is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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