The tomb is empty

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

April 12, 2020 Easter Sunday

Matthew 28:1-10

Everything happened so quickly for Jesus, the disciples really did not get a chance to say their proper goodbyes as it was Joseph of Arimathea that took the honor of taking Jesus down from the cross; preparing him for burial. As soon as the sabbath was over and that first dawn broke, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb to grieve and possibly say some prayers as they anticipated this was Jesus’ final resting spot.

Were they in for a surprise! That first Easter Sunday they came to the tomb for consolation and they are shocked to see the stone rolled back and an Angel greeting them with the news that Jesus is not there.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleuia!

Coming to kneel at the tomb and seeking some peace amid the tumultuous last couple of days they are not quite ready for what they encounter. At first the fear and trepidation may have tried to work its way in, yet the words of the angel give them hope of the promise being fulfilled. The very thing Jesus talked about before he died was coming to fruition.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleuia!

These really are words of hope and comfort in this time. A time that we did not fully expect when we began our Lenten walk back on February 26, Ash Wednesday. We had some great worship services planned as we walked toward this Easter Sunday and everything came to an abrupt halt in the middle of March.

In a way, we are reliving that first Easter Sunday when all the disciples were isolated being awash in grief for their teacher and Lord that has guided them over the past three years. They were frozen with fear, not sure where to turn next. It was the women that garnered the courage to go and be present at the tomb of Jesus. Only it was at the tomb that they got the best news possible.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleuia!

As we worship this morning in our homes we are following in the footsteps of the early church. A church that met in their homes, told each other stories, and broke bread around the table with each other as they remembered what Jesus had done for them and his command to go out and love one another as he had loved them.

Friends, we are in a new time and place. Our sanctuary this morning is empty just like the tomb. Yes, I too look forward to being together again in worship as we gather on Sunday mornings, but perhaps this is a sign that we are being called out of our buildings to be in the world. To sustain our faith with those in our household and to love our neighbors as Jesus has loved us. The stories coming out of this pandemic are incredible. From all of you that are sewing masks to donate to our healthcare workers, picking up groceries for one another, and offering assistance wherever it is needed has been incredible and has made me proud to be the pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Richmond.

Regardless of where we find ourselves this Easter Sunday, the truth is still with us that nearly two-thousand years ago Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. The brokenness of the world was peeled back that day for all to see and yet three days later, what was broken began the healing process. A healing that we have been in constant need of from the beginning of creation. Out of our brokenness Jesus makes something beautiful as the hope for all is revealed on the cross and arose from the grave three days later.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleuia!

No one can take Easter away from us. In the past I have read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to the children on Christmas Eve. We do not need all the material things that have become of our Christian holidays. It is our faith that makes these holidays truly what they are. No one can take our faith away from us. In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, I found this on social media the other day and speaks well to our time and place.

“It came without dresses. It came without ties. It came without baskets, eggs, hams, or pies. And he puzzled ‘til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Easter, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

As we spend more time apart, may we be reminded of the first disciples isolated in their room strapped with fear. Jesus came to assure them that all was well and commissioned them to go out and share the Good News. Jesus reassures us in our isolation and fear that all will be well, and we too will be reunited with each other to share the Good News. However, we also have the power of social media, so we can share that Good News in new and exciting ways. May you continue to look toward the hope found on Easter morning as we move forward in this pandemic, knowing that in the midst of anything we encounter, Christ is Risen, and his presence is with us throughout all we encounter.

Let us pray. Risen Christ, you bring hope to a world in a time that truly needs it. We give thanks for those that put their own lives on the line to reveal your presence in this world. Amen.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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