A Sermon from the Episcopal Parish of
St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts
Preached by the Rev. Timothy E. Schenck on April 24, 2011 (Easter Day)
Never has something so empty been so fulfilling. The women show up at the tomb on that first Easter morning and something amazing has taken place; something bewildering and confusing and even frightening. Jesus’ tomb is empty; he’s not there. And never has something so empty been so fulfilling.
Let’s face it; we’re generally not very big on emptiness. No one comes bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning in hopes of finding an empty stocking – though I guess it would beat a lump of coal. An empty gas tank literally gets you nowhere. No one likes empty promises. And even an empty net goal is the most anticlimactic play in all of hockey. So emptiness isn’t usually something to get excited about. Unless it’s Easter morning. Because in the empty tomb we encounter the miracle of our faith: that after three agonizing days, Christ has been raised from the dead; he is no longer there, he is risen. And in that moment, everything changes. Our burdens are released; our sins are forgiven; our lives are redeemed; and death is conquered once and for all. But it all starts with that initial discovery that Jesus was no longer held by his earthly prison; that the tomb was empty. Of course the whole notion that someone who had died was not to be found in his tomb is absurd. Something that makes about as much intuitive sense as an emptiness that satisfies.
But that’s the nature of Christ’s kingdom. A place where all of our preconceived notions get flipped upside down. A place that makes no sense from a human perspective. A place where a king is born in a stable rather than a palace; a place where the last shall be first and the first shall be last; a place where enemies are loved and the lion lies down with the lamb. A place where darkness becomes light; grief becomes joy; death becomes life; emptiness becomes fulfillment.
The beauty of the Christian faith is that when the sugar high wears off, when the Peeps have become stale (which can take years), when the organ has been powered down, when brunch is over, when the euphoria of Easter Day subsides, we’re left not with emptiness, not with a great void but with something that abides. Something that endures. Something that transcends the transitory, fleeting nature of life – and that is our relationship with the risen Christ. That, my friends, is what the empty tomb is all about; it’s about unparalleled and unheard of intimate relationship with God. And, again, never has something so empty been so fulfilling.
The empty tomb fills us with joy; it affirms our faith; it negates the sting of death. It powerfully illustrates that there is more to life than what we see; that beneath the surface of our earthly existence is a deep well of meaning. There is more to life than meets the eye just as there is more to Easter than Easter Eggs no matter how beautifully dyed or decadently filled. The Resurrection puts our lives into context and gives us perspective on what really matters. And what really matters is simply this: to love God and to love one another as Christ loves us. As confusing as we sometimes make things, that’s the essence of faith. It always comes down to love. Because God so loved the world that he gave his son to live among us and to die for us and to be raised for us.
And it’s important to remember that nothing can separate you from God’s love. God doesn’t love you in the abstract or in theory or in principle. God loves you in the specificity of who you are. Not a portion of you, not the sugar and spice and everything nice part but all of you – even those parts you really don’t want to bring to church (and, no, I’m not talking about your kids).
The Resurrection shows that God wants to have us not just for the short time we walk upon this earth but for all eternity. And isn’t that an incredible display of love? God’s relationship with us is not a short-term commitment but an everlasting covenant; one defined by unconditional love and everlasting forgiveness.
On Easter Day, God does some amazing things. Through Jesus Christ, God gives fulfillment and meaning to emptiness. God gives hope and joy to despair. God gives resurrection and life to death. May this Easter Day fill you with the joy of the risen Christ. May you remain open to seeing the wonders of God’s loving presence in the world. And may you revel in the reality that never before has something so empty been so fulfilling. Alleluia and amen.
© The Rev. Tim Schenck 2013