Let’s be honest.
Or, at least accurate.
Easter didn’t begin with the triumph with which we began our service this morning.
It begins in the dark.
For both then and now, the headlines in the news were and are more about crucifixion than resurrection. And life for too many still gets swallowed up by sorrow. And hopes continue to be dashed and dreams shattered whether by cross or by circumstance. We all know something of how that darkness feels. That being the case, we also know something of how those women felt who stumbled their way to the tomb of Jesus on that Sunday morning so long ago.
Eyes glazed over.
More empty than full.
More broken than whole.
Who, with tears in their eyes, willed themselves back to that Jewish cemetery.
They made their way there at some risk to themselves and in open defiance of the authorities who had crucified Jesus. But, despite the risk, they were determined to pay their last respects and to do what must be done in order to provide for a proper burial in their love-filled effort to counterbalance the shame and the horror associated with a Roman crucifixion. We can discuss and debate what actually happened in that moment when they arrived at the tomb or when that moment actually was, but that is not the point of the story and would only serve as a convenient distraction to what is really being asked and what is really at stake. The story turns on the haunting question asked of the women as they stood before that tomb with tears in their eyes. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Knowing Easter was coming…
And that I would be here and you would be there,
I have been thinking about and asking myself that question for several weeks now.
And, truth be told, I have probably been thinking about and wrestling with that question in some way, shape or form for even longer than that.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
It is the ultimate Easter question.
Posed first to the women…
To you and to me.
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Why do YOU look for the living among the dead?
The challenge for us in moments like this…
And maybe, to one degree or another, in all the moments of our life…
Is to decide whether or not to to trust that what we know of the Easter story is true.
True not just, or ever primarily about, what did or did not happen to Jesus,
But true that somehow in God’s grand scheme of things…
That crucifixion does not have the final word.
That violence does not have the final word.
That hate and fear do not have the final word.
That betrayal and failure do not have the final word.
That Death does not have the final word.
And, to decide, too, whether or not resurrection is possible.
And whether or not out of the chaos and craziness we sometimes experience in our own lives and see in the world around us, Life, in a way we could not imagine before, can and does emerge anew around us and within us.
The Easter question is this:
Beyond trumpets and flowers and bonnets and eggs and bunnies and baskets;
And, face to face with sorrow and brokenness and despair and death;
Can you hold onto…
Can you turn towards…
Can you believe in…
A hope like that?
But even then…
Even doing our best to hold onto that hope, we are still left with the question, “What next?”
Against all odds and evidence to the contrary,
What does it mean for you and for me to turn around and to seek the living?
Here is what I think I know.
It is not here, it’s somewhere out there.
It is not wrapped up in you or me, it’s somewhere out there.
Somehow seeking the living means stepping out into that world that crucified Jesus and continues to crucify people still.
It means caring and compassion.
It means seeing and naming and knowing those whom Jesus referred to as the least of these.
It means praying deeply, not for things or about things, but praying deeply enough that you find an intimacy with God that then nurtures courage enough and strength enough to live with an intimacy with others.
It means gratitude and grace deep enough that it humbles you.
It means refusing to turn away from the cross.
Refusing to turn away from the violence.
Refusing to turn away from that which demeans or demonizes or destroys another
And instead doing what you can;
Doing all you can;
To build peace and to bend that long arc of history in the direction of justice.
I may or may not do any of that very well, but my deepest convictions and my faith at its best tells me what I just said to you is true.
Now the truth is I can’t prove any of this to you.
I can’t prove Life is stronger than Death.
I can’t prove hope overcomes despair.
I can’t prove gratitude matters.
I can’t prove compassion is the way to life.
I can’t prove that new life can emerge from all that would entomb you and me.
I can’t prove that sense of something of Jesus alive and with us still.
I can’t prove God has the final word.
All I know for sure is this.
You and I have a choice.
A choice about which direction we will face and about which fundamental values will guide and shape our choices and our decisions. A choice about narrative around which you will build your life.
So, as you consider the Gospel and the wild, life-changing claims of Easter,
Consider also your own life…
Your own hopes and dreams.
Your own vision for what tomorrow might bring…not just for you, and your household.
Not just for those who look like you and talk like you and live like you, but for all who fall within the circle of God’s love which, in the end, is each and every one of us.
In your estimation what does have the final word? Life or death?
In your estimation, surrounded as we are by those who still crucify and that which still entombs us, does hope endure and is new life possible?
In your estimation, are the wild whispers of faith which surround the Easter which we remember and retell today idle tales or profound good news?
On the first day of the week at early dawn, the women came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared only find the stone rolled back and to be confronted by the ultimate question of Easter. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”