Sometimes a nod is as good as wink, don’t you think? As a kid I thought so. If I didn’t get a direct no to something I asked my parents, teacher or someone supposedly in charge, then I took it as a yes. A nod is as good as a wink. The result; I was in trouble more times than I thought it fair.
On Easter eve we need to be careful to not invoke that saying here. The women come to the tomb. They have a special task to do. They had the necessary spices to anoint the body with even though the tomb had been sealed by the Romans. Were they aware of this or were they expecting to have the customary access to the body? They were surprised, not that the stone had been rolled away, like they were expecting to be able to get in.
What they were surprised at was the fact that the body was missing. As I am sure you and I would be. What they had expected was not the case. How did this happen? What had happened? Even the words attributed to the young men in shining clothes only hint at the possibility of a resurrection. It is not enough for the Peter and the disciples. They need more than a nod is as good as a wink, and they go home and put all down to the emotion of the moment.
David Ewart suggest “This passage contains no resurrection. But this lesson also contains trusting the amazing void.”
What a powerful though for us tonight as we envisage what is to come, “trusting the amazing void”. Nothing is definite. It could be or it could not be. What we seek may come and it may not come. Children waiting for the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and Easter Bunny embrace the amazing void – that huge dark hole between when they start wishing for the special day and when it actually comes.
Dogs live in the present moment so much that when you say I’ll be back in an hour, they immediately look at you and go ‘are you back yet?” There is no gap between now and later, all is now.
Not for us humans and we often want to rush over the void to the moment when all is as it should be. We will do anything to get by the ‘amazing void”. The idea of trusting it is foreign to us. We need certainty, health, happiness, control. The dark place of emptiness and uncertainty is to be avoided at all costs. Yet for many of us we will spend a great deal of time in that place and be asked to trust it as a place of renewal, hope and possibility.
Only a handful of Rhodes scholars have had a disability but the newest Australian scholar Matt Pierri is not out to change the world, just people’s perceptions.
His own world changed three weeks before his 16th birthday in 2007 when he broke his neck playing Australian football at school and was left a quadriplegic.
He spent the next three weeks in hospital followed by five months in rehab.
The Year 11 student kept up his studies while attending rehab and regaining movement in his hands and returned to school to complete Year 12 the following year. He is now the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship”
He trusted the amazing void.
Our world is full of those, who like Matt and for various reasons, have had to trust the untrustable and find a new way of making meaning. Often it is no where as exciting as a Rhodes Scholarship, it is often just the courage to keep on keeping on, doing what needs to be done, and doing it over and over again.
Mother Teresa writes in her letters to her spiritual advisors that for some 30 years she had no confirmation of the presence of Jesus. Somewhere along the way Jesus had seemed to disappear yet she kept on doing what she was called to do, even in the midst of the dark and threatening void.
Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and writer, Thomas Merton, modern mystic Eckhart Tolle and others all talk about the dark night of soul in which they were forced to trust when all seemed lost.
Easter Eve is that moment in the story of holy week. Jesus has died on the cross and been placed in the tomb. Now, when they thought they at least had the certainty of his body, they are left with no thing to mourn. The dark place of mourning just got darker. When you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Murphys’ rule and Murphy was an optimist!
Yet there is a glimmer of light, a word that points to the possibility of a risen Jesus. For Mary and the women this sends them running back to the men. For Peter it is just another strange event in his experience of Jesus and seems to far fetched and bewildering to even consider.
All this leaves them with a void, an amazing void, a void that is the tomb and the incredulity of the situation. So this is what Jesus talked about at the temple about pulling it down and building it up in three days, is this what he meant? Surely not. Yet…..
Sitting in the dark place of hopelessness and bewilderment allows our senses and reason to expand to embrace the possibility, to get us looking for something else, something that transcends and transform our situation. We need to take the time to allow the mysteries held in the void to become clear to us and to speak into our lives, not all at once, a little bit at a time. For Mary and Peter and the disciples the empty tomb and the possibility of a resurrected Jesus was too much to hold at one time, and needed time to allow them to begin to embrace the situation.
Loss of health, death of a loved one, a tragic accident, shocking news and more can hurl us into this amazing void from which we will eventually emerge transformed and different, but not all at once. We have to sit in it and allow it to unfold itself one frame at a time over, often, a lengthy period of time.
In the Easter story from Palm Sunday to Easter day we are asked to sit in each space and explore the experience of that day, the challenge of Palm Sunday, the love of Maundy Thursday, the violence of Good Friday and now the void of the empty tomb.
Each will unfold itself as it will and you will be transformed by the journey. Amen.