“Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy… – Matthew 28:7-8
They were on their way to the grave after a death filled with sorrow in the midst of a busy holiday. Death comes at inopportune times when we cannot give grief its due. Now they were at the grave to finish the job of burial and to cry out their grief. They came to the grave wishing they did not have to be there, hoping it was not real, but expecting to find death. Their memories could not console them now. No laughter or hope was left. Death had taken everything from them.
When we don’t want to believe, the turned up sod and temporary marker forces us. Life is gone. Death is done. The grave has won. We have been there. We have the scars. We still carry the pain of the loss.
We come to Easter and its empty tomb because we too have a past filled with disappointments, sorrows and dead ends. We come seeking a future – the future Jesus promised. We come facing our own mortality and yet we come seeking more than comfort. We want life stronger than death.
He has been raised! Now we are challenged to let go of the pain and memories, of disappointments and despair, of sin and guilt. What may seem an unbelievable tale or words that promise something too good to be true are real. He has been raised! You will see him! Easter beckons to us. Hope slaps our disappointment in the face. Don’t be afraid. Don’t live as the dead among the living. Don’t be distant from the present hope that God has given you. You are not on your own nor are you your own. You belong not to death but to life in Christ; sin, death, and the devil have no power here.
This Easter, our first as bishop and synod, pastor and people; my great prayer and fervent hope is that we will continue to live into this story, this resurrection story – and live as if it matters.
What would we look like; how would the church be different if we took this joyful Easter hope as seriously as we do the many disappointments, dead ends, broken promises and death that confront us each day?
At Easter, we too will make our pilgrimage to the empty tomb. Let’s not go home the same way we arrived. Let God’s love astonish and amaze us one again – and let our fear be swallowed up into a great joy. We can risk everything for our love of God and neighbor; everything, for even death gives way to new life.
This is my message for you. Don’t be so busy with your preparation (Lutherans love Lent) and celebration (we also love a party) that you miss the promise of Easter: We are resurrection people! Let us go with little fear and great joy, together, to share the good news.