Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 1A

One Sunday, a teacher gave his young class the task of decorating an egg to explain what Easter meant to them.  They were to return the following week and share their eggs and explain how they represented what Easter meant to them.  The morning arrived and the children excitedly shared their eggs.  Some had flowers to represent growth.  Some had words of scripture that reflected their understanding of Easter.  Each egg captured that child’s understanding of Easter.  Well except for Bobby. Bobby has Down syndrome and is often dismissed as not understanding theological concepts and basics taught in Sunday school. 

With trepidation the teacher asked Bobby to share his egg.  Bobby walked to the front of the classroom and opened his egg.  It was empty.  The teacher asked Bobby to explain.  Bobby said, “It is empty.”  The teacher said that he knew the egg was empty.  Everyone present thought Bobby had not understood or finished his assignment.   Bobby said, “no, the tomb.  The tomb is empty.”  In a class full of young children, Bobby got it.  Bobby knew that it is the empty tomb that is important on Easter morning.  It wasn’t the flowers, the pretty objects in the church.  It was that the tomb is empty this morning.

The empty tomb.  We know the end of the story, but for a moment, let’s be with the Mary at the tomb. An empty tomb was not what she expected.  She came prepared to do a task.  The body of Jesus had been hastily prepared to be placed in the tomb.  She comes this morning to finish the preparations for the burial of his body.  Likely she had much on her mind.  There is much to do when a funeral is going to occur.  Where will all the out of town guests sleep?  How will we feed so many people?  Do we have enough dishes?  How will everything get done in time?  Who is sitting with Mary? 

She does not know what to do.  This was not what she expected.  She asks the angels with tears in her voice and on her face where they have placed her lord.  She thinks that they have taken him away for some reason.  Perhaps political, perhaps not.  She doesn’t really care, she just wants to find him so she can care for his body.  She knows by doing this she is showing her love for Jesus and his family.

She turns and sees Jesus.  But it is not until he calls to her that she recognizes him.  Imagine her relief, her joy.  She has found her Lord.  Now she can finish her task.  Wait, if he is alive, she cannot prepare his body.  He tells her she cannot hold on to him.  She has just found him again and he tells her to go.  Imagine her confusion.  She comes to prepare her dead Lord for burial and instead finds him alive and telling her to go.

And she does.  Mary goes to find the other disciples to let them know about the empty tomb. 

That is what we celebrate today.  An empty tomb.  A tomb empty because of a risen lord.  A lord we don’t always understand.  A Lord that is easier to contain inside a tomb.  A Lord who defies all our expectations and attempts to understand him.

A Lord who terrifies and amazes us.  A lord that is no known quantity to be tamed and ruled.  A lord who challenges us to get out of our boats, leave our comfort zones, to tell others about him, and a Lord who calls us to follow him.

This Lord is not a kingly, strong messiah, but rather a messiah who has been beaten, spat upon, and killed.  A Lord who challenges us to leave our nets behind and join him in fishing, fishing for people.  We are given the ability to heal, to move mountains, and to love.  To love in the way of this unexpected terrifying Lord.  We are challenged to continue in the life and work of Jesus.

Mary reminds us of the mystery of faith.  We celebrate an empty tomb.  A tomb with none gathered there.  Remember, when things got tough we all ran away.  Most of us hid while the events of Jesus’ death unfolded.  Like Peter we denied our Lord.  The Lord of the empty tomb.

Yet God loves us in spite of that weakness and failure. God uses our weaknesses and failures to build his kingdom.   Jesus does not need a new group of better disciples.  Jesus has accomplished the will of god by suffering on the cross.  No matter our imperfect faith or how many times we remain silent when we should share the Good News of God in Christ, we are always able to return to the lord.  We can never get so far away from Jesus that we cannot be touched by god’s healing presence.

We are called to that empty tomb.  The tomb that symbolizes the end of the story.  The story that ends with a new beginning. 

Jesus was crucified, descended to the dead, and now sits enthroned at the right hand of God.  And we, we are called to continue his work here in this place on this most glorious day.
Today we celebrate the empty tomb.  A tomb emptied by God’s love.  A God who became human, knew pain, suffering and separation from God and now sits enthroned at God’s right hand.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

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