But on the first day of the week, at early dawn,
they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
……. But the men said to them,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here, but has risen.”
Two Weeks Later – It’s Still about Empty Tombs and New Life
It has been a little over two weeks since we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord. Notwithstanding that the Easter decorations and flowers are put away, the images of that event continue to shape who we are 2,000 years later. One of the many moving images of the resurrection story is the empty tomb. If we think about the image of the tomb, it is clear that tombs are places where there is no life. Tombs are places where there is darkness. Tombs are places where death is housed. The other side of this image is the abundant light and new life found just outside the tomb. In my mind and heart’s eye, that light and life is so powerful that it invites and compels us out of the darkness into its presence.
Now not unlike many religious feasts, it is tempting to celebrate the light of the resurrection on Easter Sunday simply as another great moment in history. We are tempted to make it another ‘sound-byte’ of our journey. However, in doing so, we would be cheating ourselves of the life-sustaining gift and power we’ve received. The truth is, the journey from darkness to light continues to shape our witness and faith journey today.
My own personal discipleship growth has been challenged by the journey from darkness to the vastness of light and new life. It has been prompted by the movement from despair to hope. I have often been tempted to sit in the darkness of the tomb, seeking to find comfort in ‘what has been.’ There is something even warm about sitting in the memories and losses of the past, unwilling to set out into the light. These moments have been shaped by a phone call by a stranger asking me if I was “Ruth Santana-Grace” – followed by the words “Your father is dead.” The unexpected truth of this phone call sent me into a deep grief. He had not been sick. He died outside of Wal-Mart as he got back into his car with my mom. He literally took three breaths and left this life. The grief sent me into the comfort of sitting in the dark. Frankly, the light of a new dawn felt threatening. I remember thinking “how dare the sun rise while my heart and mind are embedded in the darkness. As I look back on that and other painful chapters along the journey, I’ve come to understand that at that moment of loss, the light made me wonder – What would happen if I allowed myself to walk out of the darkness? Would I forget the voice that made me laugh? Would I forget the ‘crow’s feet’ by his eyes of mischief? Years later, I know how not true that was. His spirit lives in me.
But as you know, I am not alone on this journey between the despair of darkness and the life of the light. I have walked with and known many people over my years in ministry who have found themselves at similar places – crossroads, if you will. They, like me, found themselves comfortable in the darkness because of illness, loss, pain and much more. They also were faced with staying in the ‘tomb’ or walking out into the light. They also were faced with that life-changing choice.
What I have learned about the darkness of the tomb is that ‘yes, we can often find comfort there,’ but it is not the life-giving comfort that comes from the promise of new life. The tomb offers a kind of comfort that paralyzes us and cheats us from the ‘God possibilities.’ The tomb offers a kind of comfort that at times feels secure, but ultimately, its walls will close in around us, making us prisoners of the darkness.
So, as we continue to walk beyond the moment of Easter through this season of Eastertide, I invite us to follow those first disciples through the mystery, the questions, the doubts, the wonder, the fear and the possibilities. I invite us to think about those “things, memories, events, emotions, concerns” that make us feel sheltered in the darkness of the tomb, unable to walk out into the light and life that Jesus so boldly offers. I invite us to leave them behind in the empty tomb, as we walk out with the risen Christ, into a new life.