Easter March 31, 2013 Listen
Luke 24 wondering what happened
Roy W. Howard
It was very early in the morning when the women came, as they always do, to care tenderly for the body of the dead. Mary Magdalene and Joanna, Mary and those other women – all of them there to care for the one whom they called Lord. As is so often the case, the women were there first – and the men at a distance considered their shocking news as only nonsense. Which is to say they were un-willing to hear a truth that shattered their normal ways of thinking. What the women said – He is alive! He is risen! – changes everything. The men must have sensed the ground shifting underneath them. God’s life loose in the world, unfettered by death – they went to the only place that made sense: this is nonsense, an idle tale.
So it is that when confronted with a truth so daring as the resurrection, so hopeful, so shattering to the way-things-are, that the fall back position is always: “this is impossible, an idle tale, utter nonsense.” Occasionally there is another voice that whispers against that position; one that knocks softly on the door of resistance. It starts as it did with the apostle Peter on that first day, “What if what the women said is true?” That simple question is the seed capable of breaking through solid ground. “What if it’s true?” “What if death is not the last word?” “What if Jesus is alive?”
It’s these “what if” questions that enable us to consider life differently, including the utter nonsense that God would actually raise this Jesus from the dead. It’s like saying the future remains open. It’s like saying there is more to life than the markets can determine, our minds can fashion, our laws regulate or our bodies endure. It’s like saying there is a love so deeply embedded in the universe, so bound to the well being of humanity, that it will enter into our death and not be defeated. This love will continue, graciously bound to humanity in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we all shall live, and more. It’s like saying the women who care for the dying and the men who mend the wounds of the broken, and the communities of hope that welcome the strangers home, that resist violence and uphold the dignity of all, are continuing the work of the love let loose on Easter day.
All of which we know is an idle tale.
But what if it’s true? Peter acted upon the question that pushed against his resistance. In that singular act, his life changed forever. What if it’s true? It sent him racing wide-eyed, open hearted to discover for himself that everything he thought impossible to be astonishingly true; just as the women said. He must have stood there in shocked silence, stooping over staring into that dark tomb as if he were staring into the heart of mysterious dark depths of the universe, a few white cloths bearing witness of the body once there. His mind reeling, unable to contain the meaning, his heart more joyfully frightened than ever. A few moments staring into the mystery of the empty tomb yielded to wonder and amazement.
When you pursue the question of faith as Peter did – what if it’s true – you often come to the place where Peter came: amazed at what happened. Or as another translation says, he went home, wondering what happened.
We can only discover what the resurrection means by living into its truth with wonder and amazement. Only in wonder can we live into what Saint Paul calls “the power of the resurrection.” What matters most is living now with wonder and amazement of what God has done. Wonder is not a moment in time; it’s a way of life.
We can’t possibly grasp the resurrection anymore than we can grasp love as if either were merely a fact to be contained and known. The ways of love are a mystery. That is where wonder begins. Though you can neither contain nor grasp the resurrection (or love) you can live into each with wonder. You can live with your neighbors in the truth that the resurrection is real, that God’s love in present now and that each person is beloved of God. You can live each day with wonder – wide-eyed and open hearted – amazed at the possibilities of God alive in the world. You can live in the knowledge that your sins are forgiven. This much you can do without claiming to know anything more about the idle tale of resurrection or the nonsense of love. Peter went home, wondering what happened. Living in that wonder, he became an ambassador of love. So can you.
In the end, Easter is a festival of wonder in defiance of despair. It’s a conviction that the Love that has come into this world in Jesus Christ, has not died, but lives here and now and is present to each one of us. Though we may walk through a veil of tears, not knowing what is coming next, we know that we are not walking alone. The One who lives is with us always.
This is the power of the resurrection. Alleluia! Amen.