The disciples arrived at the tomb and they saw and believed yet they still did not understand. They were puzzled to pieces.
On Easter Day it is very easy for us to race to celebrating the incomprehensible event of Jesus resurrection without pausing to reflect on just how perplexing the event is.
Maybe, this is a reflection of our culture which pursues happiness above all else.
Maybe, this is why I would say to you on this day that it would appear to me that Easter Bunnies and Chocolate goodies appear to have won. we live in a culture that has a preference for bunnies.
We prefer the instant gratification of a chocolate hit over the confusion of an empty tomb.
Even in my short time in ministry, a mere 16 years, the ascendancy of the alternate story has infiltrated and saturated the Easter holiday. This week as I asked people about the meaning of Easter the answer that came back was about chocolates, relaxation and family time.
To be blunt I do not think I can compete with this message ambiguous as it may be.
In Coles on Thursday every employee was wearing rabbit ears. As two people dressed in bunny suits wandered past I asked the guy at the checkout whether he was enjoying his bunny ears and he said under his breath no. Then quickly said I better say yes just in case my boss is listening.
When I shared what I did he told me he would be going to church on Good Friday – it was a family tradition. They don’t go on Easter Sunday, just Friday, and he really couldn't make any sense out of why they went given they don’t go to church any other time. He said it was bit like Christmas. He was puzzled to pieces. None of it really made sense.
It left me asking myself, ‘why do we bother coming here on Easter Day?’ Why aren'twe at home spending time with family or eating chocolate or more likely both?
You see we come and we stand before the empty tomb and I think for many of us we are as puzzled as the disciples: we are puzzled to pieces.
We come; I come, with all the pressing questions of life and its meaning.
Why am I here?
Is there a purpose?
What happens when I die?
What happens when those I love die?
Is there a heaven?
Is there a hell?
Why is there is suffering in my life?
Why is there is suffering in the world?
Why do people hate?
Why do I hate?
Where is God in all of this?
Why is the tomb empty?
If Jesus is raised why don’t people believe it?
The questions seem unending and the search for answers takes us beyond simplicity.
The disciples believed but they did not understand.
Are we the same?
We believe but we do not understand!
And if we believe what do we believe.
The empty tomb, the church, the scriptures, faith are places of mystery as we encounter the divine.
As a theologian I explore these questions all the time. It is part of my role to seek out the questions and to see out the answers.
This morning I piled some of the books that I have read about this God and this good news we share, as you can see I too am in over my head!
I don’t have all the answers: I stand with Peter and Mary and the other disciple. I stand with you who come with your questions and with hopes and with your faith and with your doubt. I too am puzzled to pieces.
So what can I say on this day that for most people is about relaxation, family and chocolate – none of which I offer.
I asked my family what to say today and I want thank Lucy who suggested I talk about the shape of the tomb. It is from that yawning opening that we experience the fullness of mystery and grace as we bring all of our questions.
Lucy suggested a talk about one issue, but after some consideration I have three points to make.
The first which Lucy reminded me of is that the shape of the opening, from whence the stone was rolled, is a circle. She reminded that a few weeks ago that I pointed out the circle, which is on this Celtic cross that I wear, is a reminder of eternal love.
The opening of the tomb she said is a reminder of God’s unending love. It is as simple and as complex as that. With all of our belief and not understanding, with all our questions and puzzlement, God loves us steadfastly and forevermore.
Secondly, the tomb is a hollow space it is empty but once it did contain something. A few weeks ago I watched an episode of Shaun Micallef’s show Stairway to Heaven. He was sitting in a cave with a Hindu holy man – a guru, in the Himalayas. When they spoke about the cave the holy man likened it to a womb, a place of security and safety. A place I would argue from which new life springs forth.
As I considered this insight and wondered at standing before the cave in which Jesus body lay, and I remembered Jesus words to Nicodemus, I could not help but think that this empty tomb, was the womb from which God brought forth new life.
Birth, re-birth, new birth, is about hope for the future. As we stand with all of our questions and puzzlement the empty womb represents God’s desire for new life in us and says to us there are other ways to live.
And finally it was the metaphor of the mouth that came to me as I imagine myself before this empty tomb, this cave, this womb. Jesus was laid in a tomb which was pretty much a cave and each cave has its mouth.
A mouth opened calling out – maybe in joy, may be in hope, maybe in surprise. But it is Mary’s encounter with Jesus in the garden which is most telling. Mary in her confusion, in her belief but not understanding, does not recognise Jesus.
But then he calls her by name. In that intensely personal moment of revelation Jesus speaks her name and so as I stand before that open cave mouth, as each of you stand there as well, I wonder can we hear Jesus calling our names as well.
You see I don’t have all the answers; what we believe from Christian to the next seems to change. And, we all have our own questions. The disciples believed but did not understand yet as puzzled as they were the open and empty tomb spoke to them and it speaks to us with all of our questions.
God’s love is unending.
God is bringing to birth something new.
And God is calling us by name.
Can you hear it? Can you hear God speaking your name?