Preached on Sunday, 21 April 2019 at Church of the Ascension in Seattle, Washington
Easter Year C
Have you ever been perplexed? What do you do? How do you deal with it?
In Luke’s gospel, he tells us the women are perplexed. They’re not afraid – not yet, anyway. They’re not rejoicing with shouts of Alleluia. They’re puzzled, perplexed. Here they are, all ready to do right by Jesus, their beloved friend, teacher, rabbi, spiritual leader. They have followed him and supported and sustained him, all the way from Galilee. They’re prepared with all they need to give him a proper burial.
Except the tomb is already open and his body is gone. There’s the disconnect between what they expect and the reality of an empty tomb; a missing body. They’re perplexed. Now what? What does it mean? What should they do now? What about all these spices?
As they’re standing, wondering, the two men in dazzling clothes suddenly appear. Now they’re afraid and fall to the ground, hiding their faces.
“Remember,” the men say, “remember what Jesus told you.
“Remember, he said he would be crucified.
“Remember, he would be raised on the third day.”
Remember what you already know. It has new meaning now when they find this unexpected reality.
“See. See, he is not here. He is risen. You’re looking for Jesus in the wrong place.”
The do see and they go to tell the others.
The others have a different response to this perplexing disconnect. Most of them flat-out dismiss it; they won’t acknowledge that it could even exist. They don’t allow themselves to be perplexed.
Peter, on the other hand, goes and checks it out. He finds the tomb empty, just as the women said. But then he goes home. Why? Doesn’t he remember? Doesn’t he see? Maybe he’s afraid. Or ashamed. Maybe he just needs some time alone to process what he saw.
Why don’t any of them go looking for Jesus?
What do you do when you’re perplexed, puzzled; when what you expect and what you think you know don’t fit with the reality you find – especially when it comes to God? I think most of us find it uncomfortable. Sometimes we avoid it altogether, denying that there is a disconnect. Sometimes we try to explain it away, even if our explanations don’t make any sense at all. Sometimes we try to rush through it trying to get to that comfortable place of being sure of what we know, as quickly as possible. Even if we’re wrong. Even if we know we’re wrong.
What if we were to slow down and wait for a bit? Wait for God’s revelation.
Remember what we already know. What God has already shown us. Remember who we are. Remember we are God’s beloved. Remember you are God’s beloved.
Wait to see what Truth God is unfolding before us now. What new meaning do we find in what we already know?
When we’re confused, perplexed, questioning, there’s an opening for God to shine through. An opening for God to show us something new, something deeper. For God to show us where we’re called to go; what we’re called to do. It’s harder for God to get through to us when we’re certain we already know.
What do we See that God is showing us this time in this on-so-familiar story? It’s not only that the tomb is empty. It’s not only that Jesus is raised from the dead. It’s not only that we hope for a resurrection like his; that we hope for everlasting life. It’s not only that Jesus has conquered death.
It’s also what Jesus does next, after he steps out of the tomb. He doesn’t skip town. He doesn’t go straight to the Father. No, he stays among the living. He stays so that we can See that even the cross can be redeemed. He stays so that we can See just how much God loves us.
Last night, at the Great Vigil of Easter, I summed up all the biblical stories we had just listened to in a one-sentence homily:
God does; God has always done; God will continue to do whatever it takes to reach us, to bring us, one at a time, if need be, to that place where we will receive and accept the fullness of God’s love, without reservation or restrictions.
That is the core and foundation of my faith. It is why I’m here.
In our joy and celebrations, in our despair, in our fear, and in our confusion – God reaches out to us, loving us, longing for us to openly, fully receive all of God’s love.
On this joyous Easter Day, here is my hope for you.
May you Wait for God to unfold the Truth when you are perplexed.
May you Remember what God has already said and done; that you are God’s beloved.
And may you See and embrace the fullness of God’s love for you.