Sunday, April 12, 2020

Empty Tombs and Churches

An empty tomb is always something to celebrate. My husband's grandfather was very financially responsible.  He was never indebted to anyone and used his money wisely. When he looked into buying a burial plot, he found that he could get a better price if he bought in bulk.  So he bought ten, one for him and his wife and one for each of his children and grandchildren.  A few years ago, I was at that cemetery for a funeral, so I decided to visit his grave. I looked at the names of my husband's grandparents, and I thanked God for the way they lived their lives. What really caught my eye were the empty spaces next to them. Each of those empty plots represented a cherished family member, someone alive. Yes, an empty tomb is something to celebrate.

When my father died, my mother and I went to the cemetery to buy his headstone. In a time of sorrow, headstone selection feels like it is filled with endless decisions: What color stone, what font, what image, and what remembrances.  We wanted the headstone to be attractive and to properly reflect his life. However, when I was younger I couldn't fully wrap my head around that symbolism. It made me uncomfortable to walk through a cemetery because each headstone I saw reminded me of what was happening underneath the ground. Jesus used a similar metaphor to hold the religious leaders of his day accountable:
“You are like tombs that are painted white. Outside, those tombs look fine, but inside, they are full of the bones of dead people and all kinds of unclean things.  It is the same with you. People look at you and think you are good, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and evil" (Matthew 23:27b-28, NCV).
When the women went to the tomb that first Easter morning, they did not find what they expected. Unlike the religious leaders who had pretty outsides and ugly insides, the outside of Jesus' tomb had been disturbed, but the inside was perfect. It was empty.

Like Christ, we who are believers are being resurrected.  We are being called out of our tombs to a new life. That life does not exist in the buildings we call churches, but rather the body we call The Church.

Today our churches are as empty as the tomb was, but I thank God that Jesus is alive.  And so is The Church.

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