I always become a little frustrated when I forget to refill the tank on my snowblower and run out gas on a cold windy morning while clearing my driveway. Inevitably with fossil fuel, one stops at empty, and there is no where else to go, but to get a can and a funnel.
The problem of stopping at empty is the intended journey of clearing the driveway comes to a stop and an end, and one is left standing in the cold. One of the most grieving sunrise services I have witnessed was a community sunrise service I participated in about 25 years ago. I was always “pumped” on Easter morning. Easter Sunday worship was a highlight, if not the highlight of years. The great bridge from Christmas to Easter, Incarnation to Resurrection was complete. But this particular sunrise service left me in grief. A well meaning pastor, in speaking of Mary Magdalen and the other Mary finding the tomb empty could only conclude the tomb was empty. And reading from Mathew 28, his sermon
concluded with the proposition that all we could be certain of was the tomb was empty, and beyond that there was no certainty of what happened next. Mary Magdalen’s and the other Mary’s meeting with the angel, then meeting Jesus was credited to the emotional hysteria of the moment, their visions created from being distraught that the body was not there. The sermon’s conclusion was that the only thing certain in Mathew 28: 1-10 was the body was gone and all else was speculation and mystery. We could only stop at empty, and wander away wondering what God had done. There was no conclusion, except an empty tomb and hysteria the produced a movement called Christianity.
I suspect my grief that sunrise morning is understood by those reading these words. I remember thinking, “Why stop at empty?”
When I read the opening paragraph of Matthew 28, the two women find an empty tomb, and then a second great chapter of God’s movement in human space and time begins. The angel, the messenger, tells these two women: "don’t be afraid." The admonishment brings about for the two a mixture of being afraid and joyful. The picture is being afraid in the unknown yet powerful presence of God, and the knowing that God has acted. And there is the resurrected Christ appearing, again telling the two not to be afraid. I suspect their fear was beginning to dissipate, a fear of the unknown, replaced with a fear and awe of the Holy inexplicable. They obey Jesus’ command and rush to tell the other disciples. Of course we know from the other Gospels that the men didn’t quite believe them, until Peter and John
saw for themselves.
Why stop at empty? Why not trust the resurrected Christ? Why not welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit? The disciples move from emptiness to openness: Open to the receiving of Jesus Christ, receiving a greater filling of the Holy Spirit, receiving that in knowing and living with Jesus, the individual, the body of Christ and the whole of culture and society can be transformed into reflecting God’s image. I don’t understand why anyone would stop at empty and not welcome and reach for a fresh and deeper filling.
4/9/2023 08:59:18 pm
Loved your connections and illustrations.
First Baptist Church of Keene
4/17/2023 08:13:53 am
Having just been to Magdala, gotta say, She never did. She never stopped. And neither should we. Thank you Dale, for this. I will miss your amazing meditations. Linda
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