When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
He is not here. Jesus of Nazareth is not in this tomb.
He is not here.
During our Easter garden service at church, I realized that if Easter had been a month ago, the garden would not have been as beautiful as it was. There would be no daffodils. The ground would be barren. The branches would be empty.
He is not here.
But standing in the garden, yesterday morning, it was easy to find signs of resurrection everywhere. It’s been a hard winter – but the blooms are finally opening up. The flowers are coming up from the ground. Creation echoes resurrection.
I noticed this week that trees take their time to bloom. They all start off dead, and then they bloom furiously – the magnolias and the redbuds show off their gorgeous branches. But then slowly, the work of resurrection starts, as each bloom turns to a leaf in its own time. On Sunday morning, our forsythia was half green, half yellow – a reminder of the slow work of resurrection.
But sometimes we see the empty trees and the empty tomb and like the women we don’t know what to do. We don’t know where to look.
And then, the angel in the tomb tells them.
Jesus is not here. Jesus has gone ahead of you to Galilee. Jesus, the resurrected Lord, has gone to do the work of resurrection in the place where he ministered. He’s gone to do the work of resurrection in the world. Jesus isn’t just resurrected, he carries new life back into the world. Resurrection isn’t just something happens on Easter morning, it’s ongoing. Jesus isn’t quite finished after he is resurrected.
When I decided to feature different voices during Lent, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I wasn’t even sure if it would work or not. But then I started getting these stories that were honest and important – stories that talked about sorrow and frustration, but that also talked about hope. It became something that was incredibly beautiful.
When we feel like our stories are empty, when we hear the familiar refrain of he is not here, I pray that we find a way to look for the whispers and reminders of hope in our lives and in our world.
Jesus is resurrected, but he goes to minister in Galilee. He reminds us that after resurrection, there is still more work to be done. That hope is alive in our world, and that our job is to participate in it.
Over the past several weeks, lots of you have been participating in the work of resurrection, because you had the courage to share your voices. You’ve reminded me that the stories that we carry are important. Let’s be willing to bring the good news into the world that Jesus is not here, in this tomb because he is present with us, so that we can continue the work of the resurrection. Amen.