Saturday, 30 March 2013

Running On Empty: a Short Homily for the Easter Vigil

In 2006, the Archbishop Of Uganda, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi began his Easter Message like this:

When we are told the water tank for the Archbishop’s Palace is empty (which it often is!), we say, “That is not good.” When my wife, Mama Phoebe, discovers that the food store is empty, we say, “That is not good.” When my driver tells me that the fuel tank in my vehicle is empty, I say, “That is not good.”

If you are like me, most of our associations with the word ‘empty’ are negative. We think, “empty is bad, and full is good.”

Yet, Easter challenges that assumption, because it is an empty cross and an empty tomb that are central to our faith. The resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ sets him apart from all other human beings throughout history and especially all other religious teachers. Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. Mohammed is dead. Jesus and Jesus alone has returned from the grave, never to die again. Jesus is alive today! Empty is good!

Empty has been good right from the beginning. In the very first reading this evening, from the very first verse of the Bible we heard, “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered” (Gen 1:1) it. In other words, the earth was empty and dark. Then God started filling it. God spoke until everything was made “and, indeed, it was all very good.” (Gen 1:31) God filled the emptiness with goodness. The filling was good. Empty became good. It’s been the same ever since.

In reading number six from Isa 55:1 “Ho!” God said, “come!” My word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (v11) God speaks and his words fill emptiness with fruitfulness, accomplishment, success and life: full-on and forever.

God makes empty good enough to run on. Running in empty takes on a whole new meaning.

Mind you, at first, empty didn’t appear to be good to the women in our Resurrection Gospel from Luke when they arrived at the tomb and “did not find the body of the Lord Jesust” there (Luke 24:3) They were perplexed (v4), and terrified (v5) because of its emptiness, and because of the “two men in dazzling clothes” (v4), and when the women told the apostles about it, the apostles thought it was nothing but “an idle tale” (v11), that their words were empty; but, empty, as they were soon to discover, was good.

In Luke’s gospel, Peter must have felt as if he was “running on empty” in a bad way when (Luke 24.12) “he got up and ran to the tomb” and “saw the linen cloths by themselves.” But then empty must have changed because “he went home, amazed at what had happened.” His heart was full. Empty, he discovered, was good.

The tomb was empty because Jesus had conquered sin and death. The empty tomb means the world is full of the resurrection power of God Almighty.

Empty is good because with God empty never stays that way, in Jesus he always fills it. With Jesus there are no half-empty glasses or lives and there are no half-full ones either. The tomb was EMPTY. He is FULLY and wonderfully raised from the dead. There was no half-dead with Jesus. There is no half-raised. There is no half-saved, no half-eternal life. The tomb was EMPTY. Empty is good! Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will run on empty full-on for ever. Empty is good.