The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, the 24th Chapter
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
This past week I was sitting at the dining room table, working on my second or third cup of coffee… checking Facebook and emails like I do most mornings. Kelly was home, sitting behind me on the couch and she said, “Are you making that knocking noise?” I was on my third cup of coffee and my leg sometimes bounces a little when I’m nearly fully caffeinated, so I said, “Maybe. I don’t know.”
The next day I was sitting on the couch beside her. It was the afternoon and the caffeine had all worn off and that knocking sound happened again. It wasn’t my leg after all! But now it was a mystery! I like a mystery. I like figuring things out. I like fixing things. So I listened. It was coming from the basement. I went down. Looked around. Then I saw a little finch fly up to the small basement window and peck at the window. That little finch was really angry with that “other” finch he saw reflected in that window who was cutting into his territory! So, I went outside and covered up the window so he could stop attacking that rotten, interloping finch and focus on nest building and the other things finches focus on in Spring. Mystery solved! Problem fixed! Solution found! Man! That felt good!
Just one week earlier it didn’t go that well. I got a call about a person who was homeless. They were camping. Not for fun, but because that’s all they could do. They had just had to move their camp and they had the help of some really good people, but now they needed to move again, because one of the truths about homelessness is that our society doesn’t mind so much if you’re homeless, but we REALLY don’t want to see it. Somebody had seen it. So they had to move… again. “Where can they go?” was the call I got. It was a mystery. I like a mystery. I like figuring things out. I like fixing things. So I listened and I thought and I called and emailed. But I couldn’t solve it. I couldn’t figure this one out. I couldn’t fix it.
I tell you those stories because the story of Jesus’s death wasn’t one that Joseph or Mary or Joanna or the other Mary could fix. Now, this may be the first time you’ve ever thought about Easter beyond Peeps and Chocolate bunnies OR maybe it’s the 90th time you've heard the story and thought about Easter. Either way… first time or 90th time… doesn’t matter… Jesus’s death is something WE can't solve or fix, no matter how well we know the story. First time or 90th time... we’re all in the same boat, Jesus’s death… all death… it’s beyond our ability to fix and frankly, I don’t like it. I don’t like unsolved mysteries or unfixed problems. I’m not happy that when Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’s dead body off the cross, all he could do was lay it in a tomb and roll a stone in place. That was all he could do. He couldn’t fix it. I don’t like that the women who stayed to the end, even after all the men had run off, returned with spices because getting his body ready for burial was all they could do. They couldn’t stop his death and they couldn’t undo his death. No matter how much effort they put in, they couldn’t fix it. I don’t like a problem that can’t be fixed. I don’t like an unsolved mystery.
But regardless how I feel about it, the truth of being a regular, mortal, human being is that while there is some work you and I can do to help transform the world’s brokenness into wholeness, despair into hope, illness into healing, addiction into sobriety, scarcity into abundance, fear into courage, death into life… the fullness, the completion, the wholeness of ANY of that kind of transformation is simply and annoyingly beyond us!
And I don’t like it! I want to fix it. I want to figure it out! But in the end, a full “fix” of any of that IS beyond us. But here’s the Good News of Easter: Even when we’ve done all we can… when we’ve reached the end, the bottom, that pitch, dark, hopeless place… when we can’t do anything more… when the ONLY thing we have left to do is gather some spices, put whatever or whoever is beyond our fixing into the tomb and roll a stone in place… the Good News of Easter is that God continues to be at work behind the stone! People will fuss and fight and argue about HOW God is doing that work… is it literal or a metaphor, bodily or spiritual? They'll say things like “atonement” and use other churchy words, but the honest folks will admit they have no idea how God works! But for me, what REALLY matters is that God is working behind the stone... to bring healing when we get stuck in our brokenness, to bring courage when we get stuck in our fear, to bring abundance when we get stuck obsessing with scarcity, to bring us life when we get stuck in death.
You see, God is determined to have you and me and this entire world transformed from the broken, divided, fearful, desperate and dying place it seems too often to be, into the unified, whole, interconnected, courageous, hope filled, living creation that God is insisting it become.
As disciples, God is calling you and me on this side of the stone, to be at work as the living Body of Christ… God’s hands, feet, heart and mind, walking and working like Jesus did... doing everything we can to heal the broken, bind up the wounded, feed the hungry and comfort the fearful... God is calling us to do nothing less than challenge and change the world. But God is also reminding you and me on this Easter, just like every Easter, no matter if this is your first Easter or your ninety first, that when we get stuck in that work… and we will get stuck... even Jesus, got stuck on Good Friday. When we can do nothing more… when we’ve done all we can and have reached the bottom and find ourselves at the end of the road, terribly and horribly stuck… this Easter, just like every Easter, God is reminding us to not lose hope, but to do what we can, even if all we can do is put it into the tomb and roll the stone in place. BUT THEN God reminds us to hold on to the promise of Easter, because that promise is that God continues to be at work transforming all that is beyond our fixing or figuring, transforming all things from broken to whole and from death into life on the other side of that stone. Thanks be to God! Amen.