Easter Sunday April 16, 2017
Acts 10, 34-43 + Psalm 118 + 1 Corinthians 5, 6-8 + John 20, 1-9
St Joseph Church, Union City, OK
This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad.
This day, our faith, and this church are all about an empty tomb and an empty cross; and the world in which we proclaim this Gospel of emptiness is an empty world full of empty lives. The fact that there is even entertainment on television that peers into the empty lives of people who hoard everything from food to stuffed animals and trash gives all the evidence we need that there is a great empty void longing to be filled. Some of those lives are filled with resentment, anger, and memories of past wrongs and hurts leaving those who hoard these ills longing to be filled all the more.
This is all backward. It is a tomb that should be empty, not human lives. The one who filled that tomb came out to fill an empty world and empty lives. We have to get that right. Until we do, the cross will not be empty either. Until we get it right, God’s children will still be suffering. Until we put an end to greed, innocent people will still cry out in thirst feeling abandoned by God because the mission we have been sent to accomplish is still not fulfilled. It is a cross that should be empty not human lives.
As the Gospel story goes, there are three people early in the morning on that first day. They were feeling empty with broken hearts, broken dreams, sad, disappointed, fearful and helpless. They see an empty tomb. Suddenly, slowly, but surely their lives are no longer empty. Together their lives are filled with hope and a sense of mission. What they were promised would come true. He had not left them.
As the story goes, the burial cloth was left behind, and part of it was neatly rolled up in a place by itself. The disciples observed this detail, and they did not forget it. Then, John remembered it too, and he put that detail in his Gospel. The description of what those two apostles found in the tomb was important at the time because it put to rest the argument that the body of Jesus had been stolen. No one would have taken the body without the wrappings. It would have been disgusting. Had the body been stolen, it would have been taken as it was, wrapped up. No Jewish enemy of Jesus would have touched a corpse. So, that detail was important then, and it is still important today when we proclaim this Gospel. Lazarus comes out of a tomb needing to be set free, and people are told to unbind him and let him go. Now, having been obedient to the Father, having faithfully put the will of the Father before his own, Jesus rises up unbound, a free man, and he leaves behind an empty cross and an empty tomb.
The story of those three people is the story of this church and its people. We all have our past hurts, disappointments, and brokenness. We have all had times of emptiness too, but today we are reminded by an empty tomb that our lives need not be empty, and nothing can hold us back from sharing in the mission those three assumed on that first day of the week: a detail that suggests a new creation!
Like them, we have to get it right slowly but surely. No more crucifixions. No more innocent suffering, no more people feeling alone and abandoned. The crosses of this world must be emptied, and empty lives must be filled by the one who left that tomb empty for one reason to fill us with his love for the Father. Our empty lives are now filled with a mission and purpose. An empty world must be filled with life, with light, and with hope for peace. There is nothing to hold us back from that future, nothing at all that matters. Those still filled up with the stuff of this world or clinging to past hurts and resentments, are more like Lazarus than Christ, and we must unbind them and let them go free for we are all living at the dawn of the new creation, the first day. The tomb empty and everything that could hold us back is left behind. There is but one message we have on this day for this world: This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!