But Tomb was Empty: Easter
I like to tell stories about people with Down syndrome, in part because my son Christopher was born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome people sometimes have a way of seeing the world differently than those of us so called normal people. And so it is sometimes helpful for us to approach life and scripture through their eyes. It’s an education.
There’s an old story about a Sunday school class that was learning about the Resurrection. Among the children in the class was David, a boy of about seven who had Down syndrome. The teacher had gathered a number to Legg containers, the egg shaped plastic containers that held nylon stretch leggings for women.
The teacher asked the class, “now children take this container and gather some sign of new life”. The children went outside for it was a nice day in April and not in unpredictable Vermont. The children all returned and revealed their various discoveries and treasures of the signs of new life. One little girl scored a butterfly which she let out and it flew up and into the room and out a window, another a crocus, another a bud from an apple tree, and another a tuft of new spring grass. One boy came back with a stone to symbolize the stone that was rolled away from the empty tomb.
When it came time for David to open his Legg’s container, it was empty. “Oh David some of the children said, didn’t you see something that was the sign of new life?” The other children chimed in. David confused at their response, said, “ but, but the tomb was empty.”
As it happens with some children with Down syndrome, they are also born with a heart defect. David had such a heart and within a few months of the class, he died. At the church David’s coffin lay in state and each of the children came to his funeral and each carefully and reverently set their Legg containers, beautifully decorated, on David’s coffin. All of them were empty.
As with Mary of Magdala, she came that first Easter and the tomb was empty. The only ones to have seen the resurrection were the angels. When Peter and John came they looked. Saw the empty tomb, turned around and left. Mary stayed and begged the gardener “tell me where you have taken him so I can finish dressing and anointing his body for burial.” It was then she heard her name, it was called in a voice that was familiar to her, and she saw Jesus. And that has been the way the faithful have experienced the presence of Jesus since that time. A voice, or a presence, or in what the Celts call the thin places that lightly separate us from the holy, Christ comes.
The tomb was empty, but someone keeps calling my name.
EASTER: The Three Women:
Easter: Luke 24:1-10 Early, the three women arrived at the tomb where the body of Jesus had been lain. Two men dressed in white told them, “He is risen”… “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.”
It was January 2013 and we were at the wedding of our daughter in India. The two adult children, Emily from Burlington, Vermont and Abhimanyu from New Delhi had, for the sake of love and insight, managed to transcend the bonds of clan and place and religion. They brought us to a land where we thought we never would go. 7500 miles, as the crow flies, on the other side of the globe, we were as far away from our New England roots as air travel and love would lead us.
New Delhi was warm with a slight chill in the night. The city was chaotic. The twenty million population survived, it seemed, without traffic rules. Cows and dogs, sacred, as were all living and non-living things in India, roamed the streets and vacant lots as they scavenged for scraps of food among the weeds.
Into the scene arrived three women: My wife, Jean and two of Abhimanyu’s aunts, dressed beautifully in colorful saris. I watched as they laughed and celebrated this new couple in our lives.
They reminded me of the three women who arrived at that long ago tomb. Expecting to dress the tortured body of Jesus, they were confronted with another reality: you cannot bury love. I imagine they would have sat together, weeks or months or lifetimes later, just as the three women in saris two thousand years in the future. As they remembered that day I can see them sharing a wonderful brew of tears and laughter.
We call it a new paradigm. It’s a resurrection of the life of the mind and heart. A new community would move out from Jerusalem into the world. And so our children took us away from our comfort zone: from Burlington to Delhi.
We thought we knew our little worlds. Now just about everything was changed. A new world was opened to us. From Jerusalem, Jesus would lead them into Galilee. Abimanyu’s uncle is a Hindu priest would beckon us to Varanasi. The love of God would need to move the fourteen inches from the brain to the heart. You can’t bury love. Love will out. Now there’s new life, a new world, another possibility for the healing of the nations, and maybe, even grandchildren. Ah yes, definitely, a granddaughter is due soon, after the long winter of 2015, she’s coming in July.
A Good Friday Disclaimer: After listening to the Passion Narrative read out by an eleven year old Jesus and a twelve year old Pilate:
Dear people of God. As we listen to the story of the Crucifixion let us be reminded that Jesus was a Jew and remained a Jew during his lifetime. All of Jesus followers were Jews. The conflict with the Jewish establishment is the perennial conflict between an oppressed minority with a world super power. The execution of Jesus was first and foremost a Roman Execution. The purpose was to send fear into the hearts of those who would oppose Rome. Pilate who is pictured here as someone who is trying to save Jesus life was actually according to the Roman Historian Josephus, too brutal even for the Romans and was removed from office.
The writers of the Gospels were writing at a time of extreme oppression of the Jews and by extension those new followers of the Way of Jesus the Christ.
We have great need to understand that any future or present persecution of the Jews continues the same or similar oppression that began over 2000 years ago and continues to this day in the bombings of Jewish places of business and houses of worship in Denmark and Paris.
In such a way the blood that flows from the wounds and sides of Jesus is the same blood of all those who suffer for wisdom and justice, those who are innocent victims of any system that scapegoats any minority. It is for them that Jesus the Jew suffers on the cross. We pray that the God of Israel who was the Father, Mother God of Jesus and Mary and the Apostles may forgive any vestige of anti-Semitism that finds a home in our minds and that our hearts will be turned to love for our Jewish brothers and sisters. This prayer we pray in the name of Jesus our Jewish brother.
Dear ones, please read James Carroll’s: Constantine’s Sword and Christ Actually. Revise as you may seen need for improvement. B