Is It Finished?
Well,we finally made it through all those long, lonely, dreary days of Lent to the blossoming of Easter joy! And I find myself with nothing to say. You know that old adage about knowing your audience? I was thinking about that as I was trying to prepare this Easter message and it left me as tongue-tied as ever. For some of you this is the 22nd time I have celebrated Easter with you. I doubt that any of you would be remotely interested in any new insight I might have on the resurrection. Besides, instead of hearing the Word, we have lived this Good News as a community every day for the last 365 days.
Today, we joyfully celebrate with our C+E Christians, our Christmas and Easter attendees. I suspect that what draws some of you here are the traditions of Easter, childhood memories of bonnets and white gloves, the singing of the familiar old hymns, the glory, the pageantry, the joy of an Easter spring after a long winter. Or maybe you’re here because you haven’t quite given up on your belief in God and you just need to keep your foot in the door, you know, just in case. Or maybe, you have not given up on your faith but have given up on the church; see no relevance for it your life. To be honest, there are days I don’t blame you. Being community together is not without its struggles. Either way, I doubt if anything I say in the next few minutes is going to change your Sunday routine.
Or maybe you’re visiting this morning. You may belong to another church and are just in the area for a family gathering. Welcome. Or there may even be the small possibility that there are some searching for some missing link in their lives, people who are known to us today as ‘seekers’. I doubt that any words I offer today are going to fill that void for any of you.
Why do I doubt this? Because words are just words. The aching in most people’s hearts needs more than words to fill it. The Good News is not something you report upon like Lisa Laflamme on the National. What most of us are looking for is something deep within, something we feel, something we need to experience.
Words! How many words did Jesus use to try and instruct his disciples? How many times and in how many different ways did he tell his disciples that he would be delivered into the hands of sinners, that they would crucify him and on the third day he would arise. He talked about tearing down the temple and rebuilding it in three days. He sat with them and said, “You see this bread. This is my body which will be broken for you. This wine? A new covenant I make for you with God with my own blood. Take, eat, drink and remember me.” What did they think he was talking about? Yet, by the next day, what we now call Holy Saturday, they had forgotten.
Words. And now there were no more words. They had heard Jesus say it with his own lips, “It is finished.” Done. The tomb is sealed. One betrayed him. The other denied even knowing him. The rest deserted him. On this Holy Saturday, you could find them scattered all over Jerusalem, hiding. Death had won, and all those words of hope, liberation, new life, were buried with him in the tomb. Words. Just words.
Take a walk with me. It’s Sunday morning, really early on a Sunday morning. The sun has barely cracked the sky. Everything is still. Dried leaves do not scamper across the road. Bird song has not risen yet. The air is like the glass and, as you move through it, you do so cautiously, so not to shatter it. You are not alone. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, walk with you. You walk slowly. There’s no hurry. Jesus isn’t going anywhere. There is no idle chatter among you. What’s left to say? Today is the third day of returning to the old world. What Jesus led to you believe about yourself, the hope he gave you, even the slightest hope you had for the redemption of this world, well, it is finished.
Now there is nothing but silence. Mary Magdalene is still a prostitute and Mary is the mother of a disciple without a master. You go to the tomb, not in search of hope, but simply to complete your religious obligations. To spread rich spices upon his body to cover the stench of death’s rot.
You turn the corner before the tomb and there before you is an open tomb. Freeze frame that moment in your mind. Don’t rush past it. Stand there and feel this moment. What do you do? Do you search for the rational explanation, the explanation that belongs to the world you knew before Jesus? Someone has taken him. Maybe it was the Romans, in fear the Jews would take the body. Maybe it was Jews, fearing the Romans would take him. Maybe it was simpler than that and it was just some grave robbers. Or…or maybe you remember…remember what Jesus said, “on he third day I will rise again”. Maybe it isn’t finished. But that’s not realistic, is it? We have no words to explain it. That is, until the eternal breaks into our lives and asks us, “Why are you looking for the living among the death?
You see, right there, this has nothing to do with words. This has to do with experiencing the Living Word, the Christ. This has to do with feeling deep within the truth of these words, “Remember? Remember?Remember when he told you that he would be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified? But that was not all he said, was it? He said he would rise again!! Remember?”
That’s where we find ourselves today and, in all honesty, everyday of our lives. Each and every day we find ourselves standing on that path looking at an empty tomb, deciding what it is we will remember. Every day it is a choice which dictates the actions of our lives. Moreover, it dictates what we believe, the moral compass that directs our lives, that defines who we are. Do we choose to remember the promises of resurrection and new life, or do we choose to remember that all that was finished?
What we choose to remember today is more crucial to our world than in any other time in history. For today, we are approaching a time of no return, for our environment, for our survival as a species, for the survival of this planet. If we choose to remember that power is defined by the accumulation of wealth and fame, then we have our rewards and our consequences of that.
Yet, if we choose to remember the words and actions of the resurrected Lord of Life, then we remember that to become lord of all, to become powerful, we must become servant of all, and I do mean all. A servant for one another, a servant of creation, a servant for the nations of the world.
If we choose to remember that, in this world, it is the survival of the fittest, that the cream rises to the top, then we have our reward. But if we choose to remember that the last shall be first, and that in this resurrected new life, there is no east or west, north or south, no male or female, master or slave, but we are all one in the love of Him who died for us.
If we choose to remember the hurts and injustices done to us and seek an eye for an eye, or thirst for vengeance then, we have our reward, and constant warring and bloodshed and he genocide of the innocent will be our way of life. For no peace can ever be won with a gun in our hands. Yet, if we choose to remember the mocking of the one who wore the crown of thorns, who endured the 39 lashes of injustice, who felt the betrayal of all those he had healed who now yell, ‘Crucify him!’, if we remember the greatest words of love ever spoken, “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” remember the one who prayed and died for his very enemies, then, nothing is finished. it is only just beginning.
It is your choice. It has always been your choice. All I ask is that you don’t turn your back on the empty tomb because to try and avoid the tomb is, in and of itself, making a decision. Take your time. Take all the time you need. Stand before the open tomb, experience it with more than words, see it, feel it, smell it, experience it with your heart, and then decide what you choose to remember.