16/02/2016

The empty tomb

A central image from the Easter story is the empty tomb. The stone rolled away, the body gone. Jesus is not contained in the prison of the stone-cold cave; he is not imprisoned by death. He is free, alive and unpredictably present in the world.

As we grasp that, we are freed to grasp the central hope and promise of Easter.
The kingdom does not end in defeat. Jesus’s story reaches a climax as he bursts through the barrier of life and death.
 
The tomb is vacated because Jesus is alive and present in the world. And then the energy, the ‘dunamis’ as the apostle Paul says, the dynamic power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead, becomes available to us in the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. An outpouring that reminds us that God cannot be contained. Not by a tomb, not by a temple, not by a church building. He is alive and present in the lives of those who are working to make a bigger difference; alive, present and recognised in the lives of those who make a bigger difference in His name.
 
The image of the empty tomb presents a challenge for me and for all who are actively seeking for and praying for the renewal of the church. We see in it the certainty that God is working in the world, that his mission – as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28 – “go make disciples of all” – calls all to be “out there”.
 
So how does this speak to our efforts, our desire, our belief under God that in this Diocese we are called to be a bigger church making a bigger difference? We believe that the Church is ordained by God as the best way to learn more about what it is to be a disciple. We know Jesus is the Lord of the church and we are called to worship Him and to come to the Father through Him in the Spirit’s power. And so we commit ourselves to worship in the fullest sense, offering our whole beings to be that living sacrifice of service that follows the model of Jesus.
 
And over the centuries we have shaped buildings to help us in this. Some beautiful. Some less so. Some functional. Some that have become difficult to use in any meaningful sense. These are vessels of love - not empty tombs - but sadly they have the potential to be a place that Jesus has left, where we don’t feel the presence of the living Lord, where people endure a sterile, unattractive and joyless expression of their faith.
 
But of course they also have the potential to be much more. To be houses of the bigger church, bursting with energy, hope and presence. Full of those loving the Lord, seeking to love him more, taking risks, falling down and being picked up again. Doing it all in the strength of the Lord. The building not an empty tomb, but a vibrant hub for the community. A place of love and service where people recognise the risen Lord in the Christians that worship there.
 
Jesus broke free of the tomb once for all, so that God’s kingdom would not be contained but would grow through the world. This Easter our joy and our calling in our turn is to release the great news of Jesus’ resurrection, sharing His love in all places with all people.

Christ is risen: He is risen indeed. Alleluia!