Revealed! – Rev. Tony Romaine – Easter Sunday, April 12th, 2020
I must admit I am a huge fan of those shows on HGTV where they take a house and remodel it and then surprise people with all the renovations and improvements; and the Big Reveal, as it is called in show business is always priceless and unexpected. Well, how surprising would it be to those who were expecting a closed tomb, a body to bury, and yet now they see an empty tomb and no body! If they pulled back the apron, pulled back the curtains, rolled back the stone…and there was nothing, we might not think that much of a reveal, and certainly in our day and age of modern television, that would be the antithesis of a Big Reveal. However, this emptiness, the empty tomb of Jesus was a bigger reveal than anyone could possibly know!
This morning, we are just as surprised, for we too are mourning an emptiness right now. As we worship here today, our church is mostly empty, our favorite places mostly empty; and perhaps, our own souls and spirits running dry from a long Lenten season. But just like the empty tomb was filled with meaning, our empty church is serving a different purpose for us this Easter morn. Sure, our church is not full of the hum and buzz of physical energy, but something new is happening here today, some big reveal is on the brink.
I said when this whole Covid-19 thing started that we would one day get to celebrate Easter as a resurrected people, and that we would wait for that day when we could be together physically in this place, our church, once more. But my eyes have been opened to something amazing; indeed God has revealed and reminded me that we are a resurrected people right now, that we are always a resurrected people when we partake in Jesus’ love for one another, Jesus’ love for the world, Jesus’ desire that the Church exist; and that love cannot be confined to a space or a place. When we do all these things, we live into the resurrected selves we are and create connections that are stronger than death, stronger than Covid-19, and are strong enough that distance and space cannot keep us apart.
And when we celebrate our resurrection, when we look into the tombs of our lives and realize they are just empty spaces, when we roll back the stones of our hearts, and see that our Savior is with us always, for we are His resurrected people, who must proclaim that Good News; well then, we live revealed, we live anew, and we can remind this world that something exciting and new is happening.
“How can it be?,” you might ask. “How can we celebrate something new when all of what was normal is seemingly lost?” “What could God possibly be revealing to us in this broken season?” It seems like so long ago now, especially in the difficulty we are currently experiencing, but at Christmas time, God burst forth into our world. And in so doing, when Jesus was born, God revealed something entirely new, did something entirely new, and did something that was completely unexpected. Fast forward to today, Easter Sunday, and here we are at the empty tomb once again hearing the Scripture that has become so familiar to us, hearing the words of John and the story of Mary and Jesus in the garden! And we hear about God doing something else entirely new…Resurrection!
In doing this, God revealed something entirely new to us, that God who loved us so much as to create us, who knows us so well; knows that we are sinners who are unable to come close to perfection, who sent Jesus to teach us, live with us, guide us, and then die for us; God revealed to us that the unconditional love which we heard about from Jesus was true, and the amazing grace that would grant us life eternal would forever change our lives.
“Yes, but what is new about that?” you might ask, “what is new that I haven’t heard before?” “How are our lives forever changed, what has been revealed?” Well, it is true that we can come close to understanding the resurrection and how our lives are changed by God’s grace, but there is another important “reveal” that has changed our lives that we often overlook. Listen again to the words from Colossians 3:3-4, “3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” I bet you are all like, “well now that is clear, huh!”
No…well what the words from Colossians are getting at is that our lives are directly tied with Christ. And so, we are born into Christ, we die with Christ, and we live a life eternal thanks be to the revealed Christ! Moreover when we reveal our life in Christ, or in the words of Acts; witness to all that Jesus did, our true nature, our true reality, our lives will be revealed for all to see! The Easter message we have been hearing for so long, which comforts our souls and reminds us we are saved thanks to Jesus; is less about how Jesus died for us and actually a revelation of what we must do to live; an entirely new way to live; a life in which everyone around us knows who we are in Christ through the way we love ourselves and the world…through the Risen Christ revealed unto the world!
And just like Jesus revealed something entirely new to the world in His birth and His life, so too we are being opened up to entirely new realizations about how we can come together as people during this difficult time by being tied to Jesus in His death and resurrection. Yes, our Church is empty and our world has been shaken to its core. Yes, we would rather have Easter with our loved ones and be able to share brunch, or Easter candy, or just the pleasantries of being near to one another. But let us not look past how our lives are still resurrected even if we are far apart. Let us not overlook the ways in which we are being transformed this Easter to be a resurrected people, to remember we are resurrected people!
Over these past few weeks, we have connected with one another in new and exciting ways, we have made more phone calls than perhaps ever before; and interestingly, even though we are isolated, we have spent more time lately thinking of how to be with one another, how our neighbor is getting by, how our fellow church members are doing during this challenging time, than we probably did when we could physically be with one another.
In this paradoxical manner, we are mirroring how Jesus is in our lives now. We no longer have the physical connection with our God who came and lived among us, walked among us, and died among us. Just like we currently do not have the physical connection with one another in our lives. And yes, the tomb is empty and we feel the emptiness, as a loss of not only that physical connection between us and our Savior, but between us and God. Just like our church lay empty and our isolated souls feel empty at the loss of connection within four walls and a roof.
However, we all too often forget that Jesus, while resurrected and no longer on earth, is within our hearts each and every moment and is with us through the Holy Spirit. We forget that no matter how far we may be from one another, we are never too far to pray for one another, call one another, send a card or letter to one another…and when we spend time connecting, taking time out of a schedule that during “normal” times might be too jampacked to even take the time, then we are being Jesus to that person through the very same holy Spirit that connects us with God.
And that is when the Big Reveal happens, that is when we suddenly realize that we are a resurrected people who are gathered together through time and space. We are a resurrected people who may see an empty church or feel isolated within our own environs, but let us feel the fullness of the revealed Christ within us and the warmth and closeness of God through the Holy Spirit. And it is in that revealed, resurrected state that we then make a new normal, one in which we no longer take our friends, family, or congregation for granted; rather, we connect, we contact, we pray, and we live in the Holy Spirit as resurrected people joined by our Holy God; joined through the sacrifice of our Savior, joined in a love beyond love!
And in that emptiness, when everyone is watching and all they see is an empty tomb, an empty church, an empty world…It is up to us to fill it with the life and light of Jesus Christ in whom we are a revealed, resurrected people blessed by the grace of Christ to witness to the world; to share with the world the Biggest Reveal of all; that an empty tomb is not completely empty, that an empty church is not completely empty, that as a resurrected people we are full of the revealed Christ. Happy Easter, Christ is Risen indeed, Amen!