Tombs

A sermon, based on Luke 24.1-12, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Easter Day, April 21, 2019

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In today’s gospel, there is one detail, which, for me, at first glance, appears odd and out of place for Easter Day: The words (of the women) seemed to (the disciples) an idle tale, and they did not believe…Peter got up and ran to the tomb…looking in, he saw the linen cloths…(and was) amazed at what had happened.

“Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women” shared the news of Jesus’ resurrection (thus, becoming the first evangelists!). However, his disciples, the male disciples didn’t believe. Peter was amazed only that the tomb was empty. The women only had to be told, albeit supernaturally by angels. The men, later, had to see Jesus before they believed.(1)

(That the male disciples had to see to believe may say something about gender-specific spiritual acuity, but that is the subject of another sermon!)

Now, we weren’t there. We didn’t hear and see what they heard and saw. Nevertheless, our belief in this story is important.

By “belief,” I don’t mean what this story says about Jesus. That, though he was crucified, dead and buried, he was raised from the dead. That he is the Christ, the Messiah, God’s anointed one; the only Son of God by whose resurrection we have eternal life.

Yes, all this is the heart of Christianity, without which there is no Christianity, therefore, of utmost importance. Yet this is not my focus today. Rather by “belief,” I mean what this story might say to us about us.

I hear and see two things.

First, death may not be only at the end of this life when our flesh returns to dust. Death can be now. There are tombs in which the living can dwell, bound and burdened, tied up and tied down. And, here, I confess, that I am talking about my experience with and of me. Whether any of this speaks to and for you, only you can say, but I dare to believe that the following examples I offer of what I call “living death” are universal to our human existence…

Past failures over which we brood when they often unbidden come to mind…

Rote repetitions of old behaviors, which make past failures ever new…

Memories of poor, uninformed and impulsive choices…

Masks, false faces of all-sufficient, omni-competence that camouflage from the world and ourselves our ever-present neediness…

Resentments about hurt and harm done to us by others that strangle our capacity for kindness and render impotent any impulse of forgiveness.

Anything and everything that makes our daily experience of living like dying, these are the tombs, our tombs of the living dead.

Do we, dare we believe this?

If so, then, secondly, the Easter story declares to us that there can be new life. New life that begins when we, believing the women’s proclamation that there is resurrection from the dead, take a step to stand outside of our tombs. So, to do something different, to be someone different than those who dwell in the past, trapped, tied up and tied down in the tombs of yesterday.

There can be new life. Do we, dare we believe this enough to dare to do, to be different?

If so, then we understand the irony of the angelic inquiry, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

And if so, then, even more, we understand the meaning of the Easter proclamation, “Alleluia! Christ is risen” for we will know how to say, “We are risen, indeed! Alleluia!”

 
Footnote:
(1) See Luke 24.13-43

4 thoughts on “Tombs

  1. Paul,

    Soooooooo, I hope it’s ok to say Damn on Easter!! But WOW!! The Living Death!! I’ve lived sooo many of the examples you shared in this sermon, but I’m ready to let all that go, AND the people in my life who are also Living Death”!! There’s so much more to life than letting all these unnecessary things get in our way of living the life Jesus intended us to live.

    I’m ready for this New Life!! I dare to be different!! I thank you for this sermon and I thank you for allowing me to take your Lenten course! This Lenten season has by far been the most growth I’ve made in forty days in my life and I’m forever grateful!

    Much Love!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew I wasn’t the only one who thought that sermon was “fire”!! That’s a great point that you wanted to hurry and get to the good news!! That thing needed to be recorded but at least I have the written version to look back on!!!!!
      Love you back!!!

      Like

      1. Yeah, I wished I had recorded it. It was, as Al Rollins used to say, “a stem-winder!”

        Thanks, always and in all ways.

        Love

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Soooooooo, I hope it’s ok to say Damn on Easter!!” As we oft say to each other, “You make me laugh!” And, yes, it’s okay! As I reflect on yesterday and the preaching of this sermon, it was a speeding train breathlessly flying down the tracks from start to finish. I had a parishioner tell me, “Paul, by the time you finished, I was tired!” Another parishioner said, “Man, you were on fire!” I believe what was driving me (literally!) was the desire, once I launched into the litany of death-dealing behaviors, to get to the good news about new life! And, more than once, I stopped (though those words aren’t in the text) to declare, “Now, I can’t speak for you and I don’t know about you, but, please know that every example I cite is out of my experience of me.” So, perhaps on immediate second thought, as I write this now, I was rushing to get to the good news for myself as well as for the gathered community.

    Happy to have been a part of your good and gracious Lent.

    Love you

    Like

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