A wag once said that it's always darkest just before the lights go out. We may chuckle at this cynical modification of a common aphorism, but I'd suggest that in some ways it's truer to life than the original. I think we've all experienced--I know I have--that moment when belief falters, hope dies, and we cry out from our cross: my God, my God, why have you forgotten me? And sometimes--again, I speak from my own experience--the darkness seems not to yield. The lights don't come back on.

Today, however, millions of people around the world are celebrating a moment when the lights did come back on. Or rather, that moment when the women found the tomb was empty. In Mark's gospel--the original version--that's where the Easter story ends. That's a version of the story truer to my own life than the glorious post-resurrection appearances tacked on later, or related in other gospels. "He is not here." In other words, it's up to you to find him.

Now, I identify as a Christian, or better, a Christ-centered Friend, but I have a hard time believing in the empty tomb. There's a sense in which I really haven't yet experienced it in my own life, or perhaps haven't recognized it when I've seen it. I've struggled with this for a long time, but it was only a few days ago that I was given a clue to how to live with this struggle, when a Friend quoted Flannery O'Connor:

"Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not."

I've reflected on this for several days, and what comes up for me is that knowing isn't something I have any choice about. Knowing is like looking at a word printed on a page--I can't help reading it. I look at the empty tomb, and I can't help seeing it, can't help knowing that it's true. Belief, however, is something I have to choose, and I guess I'm not ready for that yet. Maybe I never will be. Maybe I shouldn't ever be, because it seems to me that knowledge doesn't leave room for fear, while belief feels like something I do to build a wall against fear.

But that doesn't matter today. Today I celebrate my knowledge of the empty tomb. Belief will have to wait for another day.

(Adapted from my First Day ministry this morning.)

Views: 40

Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 6, 2010 at 12:33pm
Well, technically the earliest story is from Paul:~ "I saw him, after so-&-so and so&so and upty-upty many other people," who says absolutely nothing about a tomb.

The tomb is unlikely; Romans didn't work that way. They particularly wouldn't have allowed it for someone executed as an alternate king claiming a piece of Roman-occupied territory; the idea wasn't just to terminate anti-Roman leaders in the worst way, but to utterly humiliate them, and particularly to deny them honorable burial in the process. Probably, if Pilate (not the most accommodating of Roman governors) had made the concession of taking the bodies down for the Holidays-- (during a festival that packed the city with excited Jews from all over the known world, celebrating their ancestors being freed from foreign slavery!) we'd be talking about relegating them to the dump, to a shallow mass grave at best. Joseph of Arimathaea may or may not be fictitious; there have always been people willing to take big risks to do the right thing, and Pilate might have owed the guy one.

But Paul doesn't even bother to tell that story; for him it's about the Messiah suffering the disgrace of a shameful, unspeakably non-kosher death, but being afterwards vindicated by God-- raised from death to sit "at God's right hand." It seems likely that Paul hadn't even heard anything about a tomb; it wasn't even an issue until people started doubting: ~"You mean God put him together again after the dogs had been chewing on him?"-- "Oh no, there must have been a tomb. God wouldn't have let the Messiah's body get dissed like Jezebel's!" The story does grow visibly from gospel to gospel; how would it have been improved before it was even written down...?

Is a body a specific collection of 'atoms and void'-- with some atoms constantly being added, others being shed? If some of those atoms get chewed on, does that body get harder to reassemble?

Or is a body simply 'the embodiment' of someone's spirit?-- the visible ongoing process of feeling oneself localized in a particular place, able to act and sense from there?

What did God need to resurrect?


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