Returning to Bethesda in the fall, we often hear one question, “Did you have a good summer?” While our secular world refers to the seasons in this manner, our liturgical calendars refer to the time between Pentecost and Advent as Ordinary Time. Interestingly, our Daily Office Readings in Ordinary Time often focus on the Passion of Jesus which seems out of place, out of sync. But is it?
The trial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus inform our lives as Christian people. In his story we find our story. In his life we find life, new life which was first revealed in an empty tomb. “On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.” (Luke 24:1-4)
Amid their heartbreak, utter dejection, and defeat, expecting nothing but a lifeless form, the women rise early and go to the tomb. Even though they’re perplexed and terrified, they nevertheless walk straight into the empty tomb. 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.
To find new life, we too must walk into the empty tomb in our lives. We must walk into that place where we most fear being. How we avoid these dark corners of our lives! We sometimes mask them with overwork, overeating, overdrinking, overbuying, whatever we can find to avoid that empty tomb that resides somewhere within each one of us.
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 womb-like tomb, can we experience new life, rebirth.
Just as this is true in our personal lives, it is also true in our life as a parish. There is no better time than an Interim period to walk into those empty tombs, squarely and without fear, to see what new life God has just waiting for us.
It is significant that the women go to the tomb together. They do not go alone. When they face the darkness, they are with people they trust. They have a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. Together they find strength. Together they demonstrate an essential characteristic of leadership, the ability to keep going regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the uncertainty they personally feel.
Where is the empty tomb in your personal life and in our communal life at Bethesda? What is it that lies before you gaping in darkness and uncertainty, keeping you from the life of spiritual truth that is meant for you, for us?
Can you, like these women, have the courage to walk in?
The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Geitz