Ah, yes, Easter Sunday is almost here. That wonderful day full of candy, bunnies, eggs, and time with family around a table filled with delicious foods. If modern day Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween got together, I think the result might be contemporary Easter celebrations! For some, there will be the obligatory worship attendance, scheduled right between the morning egg hunt and the afternoon banquet. The church will welcome them with open arms and do our best to share God's love with each and every person who gathers. We will do so because it is what we have always done; welcomed those who, for whatever reason, found themselves at the threshold of some church seeking a glimpse of grace and love, a glimpse of God.
When we gather this Sunday we will say (or shout!) to one another, "Christ is risen!" with the anticipated response, "He is risen, indeed!" It seems so commonplace in our Christian vernacular, but it truly is anything but common. It is a radical declaration that holds as much power today as it did in first century Israel, if only we will allow it.
I can only imagine how the women must have felt when they discovered Jesus' body missing. What kind of person would disgrace the body of their beloved rabbi? It isn't long before their shock turns to terror as two men in dazzling clothes inquire, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" This entire narrative causes me to reflect on a time when I believe I did expect to find a body and instead found what I worried was an empty tomb.
It was the late 90's when I received an unexpected call one evening. The voice on the other end was filled with terror and in an instant my world was flipped upside down. It was my wife, Heather, calling from the scene of an accident she had just been involved in. It was a brief, horrifying few moments before she abruptly said she had to go because there were now firefighters on the scene.
I sped to the scene and the worry I felt turned to despair when I laid eyes on the accident. Just as Heather reached her hand out the window of her little Dodge Neon to pay the toll on 294, a gentleman in a truck slammed into her at approximately 45 mph. No brakes applied. As I approached the mangled steel and glass strewn carnage, I glanced at the offending truck and noticed blood on the windshield. Everything in my being anticipated the worst, and I tried to prepare myself for the lifeless body I was sure I would find in that metal tomb. As I approached, I discovered that there was no one in the car. No body to be found. The tomb was empty. A state trooper informed me that Heather had been taken to the hospital in stable condition. As I look back on that moment I see an angel, in his pressed, dazzling trooper uniform, asking, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
I'm not sure why it is that life and death seem so closely intertwined. I don't know why it seems that we appreciate life more after a brush with death. What I do know is that day, on that highway, I found a new appreciation for the life I have with Heather; and I believe it forever changed the way we live our lives together.
In the Apostles' Creed, we affirm that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried. The events of Holy Week invite us to the cross. We also affirm that on the third day he rose again from the dead and that he ascended into heaven. Easter morning invites us to the tomb to look for ourselves. There we meet angels who ask us, just as they asked those first women, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?", and we are reminded that Christ is risen! How does the experience of Christ's death, the discovery of the empty tomb, and the declaration that Christ is risen inform how you choose to live a life of gratitude for the new life we have in Christ?