1 April 2018 at St Peter the Apostle and St William Churches in Naples, FL
Acts of the Apostles 10,34, 37-43 + Psalm 118 + Colossians 3, 1-4 + John 20, 1-9
In all four of the Gospels as the Resurrection is reported, someone goes into the tomb. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the women go in. John sends in Peter and the Beloved Disciple. They all go in, and they all come out just like Jesus. Our proclamation of the Resurrection today cannot be simply a repetition of these ancient reports about Jesus. We must confirm from our own experience that what is in a tomb will come out, and when that happens, it is a new day, a new beginning, a new man or woman full of life, promise, and hope.
Over and over again, Jesus spoke about the need to go into the tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain, but, if it dies….” you know the rest. “Whoever wants to keep their lives must lose their lives” he says. Yet, it’s not just talk about this, there is plenty of action as well. Lazarus literally goes into a tomb, and he comes out as a living testimony to the power of Jesus Christ. A widow’s dead son is raised up and restored to his mother and the bystanders are struck with awe. The daughter of Jairus is dead and being mourned, but she gets up leaving everyone amazed, says Luke.
For too many of us, life is a tomb with big stones trapping us in darkness; tombs that keep us from living, from joy, from realizing who we really are and how God made us. Whatever keeps us from being born again is that stone holding us back. Until that stone is moved we’re trapped and cut off from life. Stones of resentment and anger keep us in the dark. Stones of doubt and fear keep us in a tomb of isolation and loneliness. Stones of individualism and pride keep us away from others leaving us helpless in a fragmented and broken society. The news we proclaim today is about stones rolled back and empty tombs from which the dead or the dying can escape into the light of a new day. The news is about us as much as it is about Jesus Christ. Yet, who is going to move the stone?
Did you ever notice in the accounts of the Resurrection that no one takes credit, or is blamed for moving that stone? The detail is always reported grammatically in the passive voice. “It was rolled way” says all the reports. I have always imagined that it was moved from the inside. There is a wonderful imaginative painting of the moment of the resurrection from the inside. An angel is lifting up the body of Jesus as though he was waking Jesus up from a nap. Another angel is cleaning up the place folding some sheets, and third is pushing on the stone as a shaft of light shoots into the darkness. That stone has to go.
I would propose that like the tomb of Jesus, the stone will be moved from the inside. We have to move those stones. But as that artist imagines, perhaps we’re not alone in the tomb, perhaps an angel who looks like a friend or a spouse or parent will clean up the mess and lift us up. Perhaps Jesus himself will push aside the stone just enough for some light to come and restore our hope. Then, able to see the light, and strengthened by that hope, we too can step out and start over on a new day.
This in the end, is what we proclaim today. Not just that Jesus has risen from the dead, but that he calls us out of our tombs and into the light of a new day. In which case, as we have said and sung, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.”