Tuesday, April 6, 2010

He's gone

This past week I heard a story from one of our Sunday School teachers who was preparing her children to do a dramatic renactment of the disciples discovering the empty tomb on the first Easter morning. One little girl was drafted to be an angel. Even though she was far from enthusiastic in her role, her teacher made sure that she knew her lines, "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, but he is not here. Behold he is risen and gone before you."

When the time for the performance came, the little angel's mood had not improved much. She sat in the set of the tomb, her halo askew, her foot tapping anxiously. When the disciples arrived and asked their question, "Where is Jesus?', the little girl shot back dimissively--"He's gone."

In one important sense she was right. On Easter Day we make much of the empty tomb, but the tomb is just a sign pointing us to the Risen Lord, who is not here, but has gone before us. He IS gone, and that is GOOD news! Our Gospel reading on Sunday focused on Mary, and her utter disregard about the empty tomb. Peter and John took it as proof, and that was enough for them. But Mary stayed, weeping, looking for Jesus. Mary reminds us that Easter is not about the event of the empty tomb, as miraculous at that may be, but about a relationship that we can have with the Risen Lord.

One of my favorite writers, Barbara Brown Taylor, talks about growing up back east where every year as a young girl she would find the shells of cicadas, an insect that leaves a hard larva casing behind on its way to adult bug-hood. She was fascinated by those hard brown lacquered shells that she would find around her house--what happened to their occupants? Then she realized it it was these same insects whose voices she heard singing in the high in the tree tops every warm summer night. She never saw them, but she could hear them, and sometimes the chorus was nearly deafening. The shell only pointed the way to the living animal And so he warns us, don't pay so much attention to the empty tomb that you forget to talk with the gardener.

Many people came to church this past Sunday looking for the empty tomb and for "proof" of the resurrection. But our churches, with all their glorious worship, are themselves empty tombs, pointing towards a greater reality, that of the Risen Lord. That same Lord offers to us the same kind of relationship that he did to Mary. Jesus is gone, but the Risen Lord lives in us forever! Alleluia!