Acts 10, 34, 37-43 + Psalm 118 + 1 Corinthians 5, 6-8 + John 20, 1-9
March 27, 2016 at Saint Peter & St William Churches in Naples, FL
No one goes to a grave and expects to find it empty and if they did, they would not expect to find life in an empty tomb. But, that is what happened. That one John calls, “Mary” and then Peter and John went to an empty tomb and confronted the unexpected. They went there because their relationship with Jesus Christ was being challenged by their experiences in the preceding days. They did not expect to find an empty tomb. They did not expect to find life when they had seen death, but that’s the way it had been since they walked away from their past and their old way of life. One surprise after another kept them together with that man who walked through their life. At first they expected a political revolution, and some of them were slow to give up on that. They never expected to hear about a Kingdom that was not of this world. They never expected to see lame people get up and walk, blind people begin to see, and a young girl and an old friend be awakened from the sleep of death. Never expected to see 5000 people fed on five loaves and two fish. They never expected to see Samaritans, Tax Collectors, and sinners embraced as friends and included among the chosen. They never expected to be left alone either fearful of being hunted down and killed as co-conspirators or blasphemers; but they were.
After all, they were just ordinary people working hard to earn a living and care for loved ones when that man walked by and said: “Follow me.” They had no idea where they were going. They never expected to be led to an empty tomb and then find themselves trying to make senses of what it meant much less what to do about it. As we shall see from their stories in the weeks to come, they began to scatter and tried to go back to “business as usual”, but that didn’t work out. He did not leave them alone, and there was no going back. What they heard and what they had seen in his company changed them forever. Now things they never expected or imagined were suddenly very possible. Enemies began to speak to one another. A frightening God who demanded sacrifices and whose name could not even be spoken was now called: “Father”; and this Father preferred mercy over sacrifice, forgiveness over revenge, and love rather than fear.
From a manger in Bethlehem to an empty tomb outside Jerusalem it was all beginning to come together. God has visited God’s people, and God cannot die and still be God. No tomb can contain or restrain this Divine Word by which God has created all things. The Lord of Life will have nothing to do with death. The source of all goodness will change all evil into glory.
As the people of Israel spent 40 days in a desert being formed by trial and faith into a Holy Nation, we who have passed 40 days in the desert of Lent are formed as well into a Holy, Royal, and Priestly People. In forty more days and we shall hear again the voice of an angel that asks why we are standing around doing nothing but looking up into the sky. Ten days later, those who persevere in faith and hope will be lit by the fire by the Spirit and filled with the breath of that Spirit making all things new. There is nothing more to expect, and there is nothing more to wait for. The promise made in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve has been kept. The covenant made in the desert has been fulfilled and folded into the new covenant we share at this table.
No one goes to a grave and expects to find it empty. No one goes to an empty tomb and expects to find life: but we do, and as long as we do not run or hide in fear from anything or any evil, we shall bear witness to what we have seen and heard. We shall fulfill what has been promised, and we shall be a light shining in darkness reflecting the glory of the one who has come to set us free from death, despair, emptiness, and hopelessness. We are the ones called to life this day, a life of joy, a life of peace, a life that reflects the glory of the one who is life itself. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. Peace be with you.