Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!”
- John 20:1-2
As the women walked to the tomb early on the first day of the week, the dawn was just breaking the horizon. They went to anoint the Lord’s Body, to prepare it properly for burial, a service they could not perform at His death because of Sabbath law. As they walked to His tomb, every hope they had for the future had turned into despair, every dream ended in the grotesque violence of the Cross. The only expression of love and devotion left to them was to anoint Jesus’ Body in death.
If we live long enough, each of us is forced to experience the deep rending of our hearts in grief and sorrow when we lose someone we love. Yet, death takes other forms as well: the torn bonds of marriage or the ending of longtime friendships, the foreclosed home and neighborhood lost, the career to which you gave your best years crumbling into insignificance. Hopes and dreams shatter for myriad reasons. The list could go on and on. How many different ways can the human heart break? How many different forms does impenetrable darkness take in the course of human life? Today in our society, the incessant drumbeat of accusation and distrust reverberate in anger and callous vulgarity.
A sad fact of Christian faith today is the relegation of the Resurrection to the end of life. Last week, Rasmussen reported that 72% of Americans believe that Jesus was the Son of God Who was raised from the dead. That is wonderful news! Certainly, believing that death does not triumph, no matter how final it feels, is cause for gratitude and the source of courage. Unwittingly, however, too often we are left with half-lived lives because the Resurrection wasn’t real today. We didn’t know the promise for today. Like the women walking to the tomb to anoint the dead Body of the Lord, we strive to respect the ending, when unbeknownst to us, God already has inaugurated a new beginning. We live as if what we see is all there is, and we forget the eternal One Who both permeates our lives and stretches ever onward and outward beyond space and time.
Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky (d. 1958) described the power of the Resurrection for daily living in this way:
“In Christ, a man’s life can always begin afresh, however burdened with sin. A man can always surrender his life to Christ, so that He may return it to him, liberated and whole. And this work of Christ is valid for the entire assemblage of humanity, even beyond the visible limits of the Church. All faith in the triumph of life over death and every presentiment of the Resurrection, are implicit belief in Christ, for only the power of Christ raises, and will raise, the dead… We are baptized into the death of Christ, shrouded in water to rise again with Him. And for the soul lustrated in the basptismal waters of tears, and ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection is not only hope but present reality.”
For every dark and despairing moment in human life, for every tear shed in failure and defeat, in heartache and death, the Resurrection is our God’s answer, and the Resurrection is made real for us and in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, where hope becomes reality even now. Not when we die… Not ten years from now… Present reality.
Herein is the key to all that ails the human race, this need to be made new and to leave behind the fears, prejudices, and hatreds that swamp us and darken our souls by destroying our hope. Daily, we are given the opportunity to touch the Kingdom of God in prayer and worship, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Daily, eternal life and joy are poured into our hearts, if we allow our souls to look beyond the horizon upward to seek the face of God.
Because times of darkness and uncertainty, heartache, failure, and disappointment, and even times of death visit every human being, the present reality of the Resurrection is the buoy that holds our lives above despair. In His Holy Spirit, God has given us all we need to live lives of hope and joy beyond anything this world and this life offer. Thus, when we live in the present reality of the Resurrection, the worst and the best experiences of our lives are measured against the infinite life of Christ’s Kingdom, which is revealed to us by His Spirit.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest news, the most powerful victory, the world has ever seen. But we fail to live that way when we leave the Resurrection’s power for the end of life. If we lived in the present reality of the Resurrection, we would be living in the present reality of God’s Kingdom, with all the resources – wells of love drawn from the source, infinite wisdom and understanding, compassion and passion for the least and the lost, the joy of Christ Himself, and most of all, the transfigured life of Kingdom possibilities and potential. We could be beacons of light to a confused, angry, and lost world, or we could be the same as everyone else in this generation, dependent upon political gains and losses and triumphs of human will.
The women walked to the grave in the dark moments before dawn, steeped in despair for all they had lost, grieving for the Man they loved, angry at Jewish and Roman leadership willing to crucify Him, unable to see any good achieved by His death, and without possibilities for the future, having invested their lives in Him. But with the coming of the dawn, they found an empty tomb and a Risen Lord – so far beyond their expectations that they could not have imagined the possibility. Yet, nonetheless, He rose. Jesus rose from the dead and lived still! Lived magnificently, so perfectly beautified and imbued with Divine life so as to be unrecognizable.
That is the living hope we have, born of the Resurrection and the power of God to bring forth victory and profound good, boundless good, in the middle of the muddle of human life. In whatever circumstances that darken our lives, the present reality of the Resurrection is the dawn of new life, new possibilities, new dreams, and new hope. The Resurrection is the promise for every human being ever born for all of time in every nation, race, and tribe. We, God’s children, ought to be living beacons of light and purveyors of love and hope in the midst of a world trapped in darkness of endless of night. To do so, we first must become a people of the new dawn who live in the present reality of Resurrection.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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