Sunday, 31 March 2013

Running on Empty—Part the Second: a Short Homily for Easter Day

This uses the same opening and closing as last night's homily for the Vigil (here), but with thoughts on John's account of the Resurrection instead of Luke's. Soon you will also be able to hear it here

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 verse of the Bible we read, “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.

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

Mind you, empty didn’t appear to be good to Mary in our Resurrection Gospel reading this morning. Mary Magdalene must have felt as if she was “running on empty” in a bad way as she ran to tell Simon Peter and the other disciple that Jesus was gone and the tomb is empty. Then Peter and the other disciple ran back together and they, too, found the tomb empty except for the cloth and wrappings which had been around Jesus. But, empty, as they were soon to discover, was good.

First, John tells us the other disciple “saw and believed.” Empty must have been good for him.

And then Mary was weeping outside the empty tomb in which she had expected to find the body of her beloved Jesus. For her, empty was not good. And then she turned to see Jesus standing there with her (v14), but didn’t recognized him until he spoke her name. And then, wonder of wonders, just as the word of God filled the empty void with the goodness of creation at the beginning, the words of Jesus filled the dark, empty void in Mary’s grieving heart with the goodness of his presence and she knew the empty tomb was a good thing; a very good thing, indeed.

“I have seen the Lord!” was the next thing she said to the disciples. Her heart was full. Empty, she 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.