We have arrived at the day for which we have been preparing for the last 40 days.  It is Easter Day, the day of Resurrection, the day when we remember and celebrate the fact that the women went to the tomb and found it empty.  And yet, despite the season of preparation, despite our disciplined efforts to make room for God in our lives, despite the fact that we have been looking forward to this celebration for weeks, we may still feel unready.  We may still feel unprepared for this celebration, because the Resurrection challenges our assumptions and transforms the way we look at the world.  Even as we celebrate the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead, we may have lingering doubts.  After all, people do not rise from the dead in our experience.  In spite of all our preparation, we may feel unready to proclaim that Christ is risen.

We are not the first people to have these doubts.  Luke’s gospel tells us that the women went to tomb early in the morning, only to find the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus gone.  After two men in dazzling clothes asked why they were looking for the living among the dead, the women rushed to tell the apostles, who dismissed it as “an idle tale.”  This word that Luke uses can also be translated as “foolishness” or “nonsense.”  For the apostles (and probably for the women who went to the tomb), the idea that someone could rise from the dead was ludicrous.  First-century Jews knew just as well as twenty-first century skeptics that people do not rise from the dead, that death is the end of the story, that talk of resurrection is nonsense.  The apostles had the same doubts that many of us have.  The tomb may had been empty, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ followers were ready to proclaim that Christ is risen.

emptytombNevertheless, even as the apostles dismissed the women’s story as nonsense, one of the apostles ran to the tomb to see if it was true.  I can only imagine what Peter’s inner monologue was like as he rushed to the place where Jesus had been buried: “This is so stupid.  Those women must have been seeing things.  Maybe the gardener was messing with their heads.  Anyway, there’s no way that Jesus’ body is gone.  There’s no way that he rose from the dead.  Things like that just don’t happen.”  Peter was among those who confidently dismissed the very idea of resurrection, and yet as he approached the tomb, doubts may have crept into his mind.  What if the tomb was empty?  What if he really had risen from the dead?  Luke’s gospel provides a wonderful detail: as Peter arrives at the tomb, he has to stoop to look inside.  As he approached the tomb, he had to slow down and pause at its entrance.  He had to take a deep breath and stoop to peer into the gloom, terrified of what he would (or wouldn’t) find.

Even in the midst of our doubts, even in the midst of our confident belief that the very idea of resurrection is nonsense, Easter challenges us to take a deep breath and stoop to peer inside the empty tomb.  We may look to satisfy our morbid curiosity, we may look to prove our skeptical neighbors wrong, we may look because we are desperately in need of God’s promise of new and abundant life.  Whatever our motivation, Easter challenges us to look for new life even in those places that have known only death and despair.  We may have our doubts, but Easter challenges us to look past our doubts and embrace the possibility of resurrection, the possibility of transformation, the possibility that this life can be renewed by the power of God who loves us.  When we stoop to peer inside the empty tomb and embrace the possibility of resurrection, we can proclaim to this world that God’s love and faithfulness have the power to transform a world that his enslaved to death and despair.  When we embrace the possibility of resurrection, we are given the opportunity to live resurrection lives of love and service to others.  Resurrection is more than an empty tomb; it is a promise that the world can be transformed, that the evil powers of this world are no match for the love of God, and that we have the ability to make this world a better place.  Even if we are afraid of what we will find when we peer inside the empty tomb, we are called to proclaim the resurrection by working for the transformation of the world.


KN-C23643In September of 1962, John F. Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University in which he announced to the world that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  This was an astonishing assertion for him to make.  John Glenn had only recently orbited the earth in Friendship 7, and that was difficult enough.  A trip to the moon seemed completely beyond the capacity of the young National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  Scientists had no idea how to get to the moon, no idea how to land on the moon’s surface, and no idea how the astronauts would return to earth.  Nevertheless, JFK promised that in eight years, an American would walk on the moon.

In the speech in which he makes this promise, the president put the moon landing on the timeline of human endeavor, mentioning the founding of Plymouth colony, George Mallory’s attempt to summit Mount Everest, and Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic.  None of these events came easily; none of the people involved could be certain that they would be successful.  Why would they risk their lives and their fortunes for something that is not a guaranteed success?  Why should the United States risk its reputation to accomplish a seemingly insurmountable goal?  Kennedy answers that gnawing question like this:

But why, some say, the moon?  Why choose this as our goal?  And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain?  Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?  Why does Rice play Texas?  We choose to go to the moon.  We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

JFK affirmed that things worth doing are often difficult to do, and that if there is an easy way out, the endeavor might not be worth our time.

Throughout his presidency, Kennedy affirmed that America is meant to do difficult and challenging things.  From his first inaugural address, where he urges the American people to ask what they can do for their country, to his speech at Rice University where he says that we will go to the moon because it is difficult, Kennedy expects much from the people he was elected to serve.  From our contemporary perspective, this is astonishing.  One of the primary ways that companies try to sell us things is by telling us that they will save us time and energy and will make things easy for us.  Every article about exercising, which is hard work by definition, encourages us to try a “quick and easy” workout.  We tend to avoid doing things when they are hard.

We are now in the “dog days” of Lent.  Our Lenten routines are no longer fresh and new, but we have not yet arrived at the emotional intensity of Holy Week.  We may be tempted to take a hiatus from our Lenten disciplines because it would be so much easier to pay less attention to what we eat or how we use our time.  It’s important, however, for us to remember that these Lenten disciplines are not meant to be easy.  This does not mean that they are supposed to be arduous, but they are supposed to challenge us, to help us develop a deeper understanding of our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.  So keep at it.  Try not to see your Lenten routine as a chore, but rather as a way of opening yourself up to the grace of God.  Remember that we engage in these Lenten disciplines not because they are easy, but because they are hard.