We are fortunate. During Holy Week, we have various versions of the Easter story neatly spread out for us in the lectionary and we continue to hear them throughout Eastertide. We can visit the story whenever we choose and take it in palatable bits and pieces to chew on at our leisure; but the real event cascaded around the disciples in a very short period of time and they didn’t have the luxury of putting it down to go do something else when the story got too intense.
They left us their story and if we look a bit more deeply into the narrative that is not written down, we might just find a spiritual journey that is not that dissimilar from our own. Stories in Scripture become so familiar to us, we just breeze on by without really thinking because we know how the story will go and how it all turns out. Year after year it turns out the same. It is crucial to remember, however, that the people in all the scriptural stories didn’t know how their story would turn out. They had to walk the same walk of struggle, doubt, and faith that we have to walk. What we learn from how God moved in their lives speaks to how God moves in our lives as well.
What was it that happened to all the disciples and followers of Jesus – men and women – that galvanized them from the ragtag, leaderless crew that they were after the crucifixion to become one of the most powerful forces for love, healing, and forgiveness that the world had ever experienced? They rocketed from a personal jumble of grief, disillusionment, and despair to become transfixed in amazement, astonishment, and disbelief as Jesus appeared first here and then there – at the tomb – and then on the road to Emmaus and then in the upper room where they were hiding. All in the course of one week.
The only window I have to help me understand the story of what happened in the resurrection is to look at what happened in the lives of the women and men who knew Jesus and who were there. And something pretty amazing evidently happened because of what I see in how their lives were transformed. There was no other force powerful enough to cause that kind of change in each of their lives. Jesus still lived among them – not figuratively – not in memory – not as an inspiration. Jesus was living among them still. Death had no dominion. Really.
And it is here – at the gaping darkness of the empty tomb — that the Gospel writers pose the question to us: “Whom do you seek?”
What resurrection story are you witness to? Or are you in the middle of your own Good Friday or in the limbo-land of Holy Saturday. We can’t know the power of God’s light until we have lived in the tyranny of the darkness. So, “Whom do you seek?”
He is not here in death. He is not in the tomb where you might expect to find him. He has risen. He is moving ahead. Why? Because God has not given up on us and God has not given up on you. God has something in mind for this sometimes crazy-quilt world we live in and comes to you personally with the assurance that there is nothing – truly nothing — that God cannot turn around into something good and holy. As hard as that might be to believe sometimes.
Sometimes our personal Good Fridays last a long time – sometimes we rest on the borderline of Holy Saturday a long time – sometimes God’s resurrection takes more than three days to find us, but find us it will. Because there is always a resurrection – always.
We are an Easter People. We live on the resurrection side of the cross and like the disciples who cowered in a nightmare one minute and burst out of their own tomb of fear the next, we have a story to tell. It’s time to tell our stories because the world is hungry to hear them. Like the first people to see the empty tomb, we are witnesses to God’s greatness and his dominion over everything – even death.
Easter is not a day or a season – it is a way of living with the assurance that God is wildly, absolutely crazy in love with us. God discards all the obstacles we place in the way and replaces them with abundance and unconditional love that is showered upon us willingly, joyfully, and freely so that we might turn to God and know the fullness of life that waits outside the tomb.
In the sealed tombs of our own lives and our own making, God comes calling again and again to roll away the stone; to lighten our darkness, heal our wounds, and bind up our broken hearts in the way that only God can. That’s the miracle. That’s the Good News.
Look for him. He is there in what you might think is an unanswered prayer.
Look for him. He is there in the tiniest distant pinprick of light and hope shining in the darkness.
Look for him. He is never far from you.
The ending of the story in the Gospels is not the end of the story. It is the new beginning of the next chapter of God.
Alleluia! He is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Rev. Carole Wageman
Interim Rector, St. Luke’s Chester, VT