During Easter services at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, over 1700 worshippers raised their voices in unison to proclaim, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” On the words, “The Lord is risen,” hinges the entire Christian faith, the meaning of the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, the difference between death and eternal life.
Because of their faith in these four words, legend tells us that every apostle died the death of a martyr. But over two thousand years later, how easy is it to believe that Christ has conquered death and a new creation has been born?
Do you ever wonder . . . where is this new creation? When peace in the Ukraine is more elusive than ever – it’s hard to know where the new creation is. When one lone person with a gun kills three elementary school children and three adults in Nashville – it’s hard to know where the new creation is. When people go to bed hungry in our own county – it’s hard to know where the new creation is.
Where is the evidence of the risen Christ in the midst of this reality? The Gospel of Mark tells us that when the Sabbath is past Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James awaken at dawn and go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices.
Significantly, they seek him. In the midst of their heartbreak, dejection, and defeat, expecting nothing but a lifeless form, they nonetheless go to Jesus. They go in search of him.
Then they walk straight into the empty tomb. These three women do not gaze inside and run off. They face the blackness, the uncertainty, and walk right into it. They walk into darkness and find light. They walk into emptiness and find fullness. They walk in alone and find angels there to guide them.
Where is the empty tomb in your life? What is it that lies before you gaping in blackness and uncertainty? What do you need to walk straight through?
Where is the new creation? Paradoxically, we’ll most likely find it when we have the courage to do what the women did, walk right into the middle of the darkness, trembling with fear. Paradoxically, we’ll most likely find it where we least expect it. It wasn’t until they walked into the death of the tomb that they were told, “He is risen; he is not here.” It wasn’t until Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that those gathered there believed he was raised in glory.
Where are the people of the new creation? In the midst of fullness and abundance, blithely sailing through life with few problems? Probably not, because those who have been created anew, look for all the world like people carrying a cross.
We must walk into that place where we most fear being. We must walk into emptiness and darkness to find fullness and light. Only when we have the courage to walk right into it, will it no longer hold power over our lives. Only when we walk into the tomb, which is womb-like, can we find new life, rebirth.
Wherever you find yourself on your spiritual journey, may these Fifty Days of Easter find you filled with the courage of those women from so long ago, ready to walk without fear into the unknown, into the darkness, where light awaits.
The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Rankin