Moderators Note: Bishop Lowry's video message to the conference for Easter is available for viewing or downloading at the end of this post.
The day opens simply, while teetering on the edge of eternity. The Evangelist Luke records the story. “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.” (Luke 24:1)
It is not an unknown situation. Check out today’s similarities from newspaper headlines that catch the essence.
This past week, the horror of another mass shooting has dominated the news.
This past week, a gruesome murder trial has riveted our attention.
This past week, deaths from the COVID-19 Pandemic have passed 550,000.
This past week, … you can fill in the blank.
Cancer and car accidents can render the same results in intensely personal ways. There is not a one of us who does not know what it is like to walk tomb-ward with the women. Like the women, we’ve all have faced mornings crushed by grief or snared by the weight of despair. We know what it is like to teeter on the edge of eternity.
Whether we wish to acknowledge the truth or not, this is where Easter morning finds us – on the edge of eternity with the waters of life pouring over us. “Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, we are all haunted by a truly awful sense of impermanence,” wrote playwright Tennessee Williams. As wonderful as life can be, it is also fragile and can change in an instant.
On the edge of eternity, Luke reports “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (Luke 24:2-4) He goes so far as to note in the opening phrase of the fourth verse that they were “perplexed” about this. (Luke 24:4) Just like us they weren’t sure what to make of Easter morning. Perhaps grave robbers had stolen the body; or maybe the body had been moved; or even possibly they had come to the wrong tomb. For us, maybe today is just a bright pause before reality crushes back down upon us. Or perhaps, this is but a brief interlude in celebration of spring, bunnies and chocolate eggs.
In their dazed perplexity, the truth confronts the women at the tomb with a future of hope. “Suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’” (Luke 24:4-5)
In that instant, the world shifted. Luke doesn’t record that they encountered Jesus. He doesn’t say they realized the men were angels. He doesn’t say they realized the body wasn’t stolen. He says, “they remembered.” (Luke 24:8)
They remembered the teaching of Jesus about his arrest, trial, death and resurrection. They remembered the promise that through Him, God conquers despair, defeat and death. They saw beyond the finality of the grave and came face to face with the gospel truth. The Lord Jesus is not among the dead but the living. “He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:6)
In the shattering words of the angels and the earth-shaking remembrance of Jesus’ teachings, the cross of death slams down in place bridging the impossible chasm between the edge of eternity and a future of hope. That is what this day is about. No longer do despair, defeat and death have the final answer. Their rule is broken – once for all. “Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” (Luke 24:8-9)
It happened then. It happens now. Whatever we do – lay or clergy – don’t relegate Easter to the shards of history. It is so much more. It is about life on the edge of eternity for us and for our loved ones; for nation and for our world.
It is a tautology to assert that life is fragile and can be easily thrown aside. We live this truth in a Colorado shooting tragedy, a pandemic, a car accident. When reality batters us with its rushing torrents, Easter invites us like the women to remember that he has risen conquering despair, defeat and death. Jesus is not some dead leader we memorialize, rather He is the living Lord who is with us right now and will remain with us to the grave and, yes, beyond the grave to eternal life. Because of this day called Easter, the cross of hope has become our bridge to a future of hope.
The Bible says the women “told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” The Greek word for “an idle tale” describes the babbling of a fevered and insane mind. (see William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 292) They dismissed it, just as it is easy to dismiss Easter as merely one bright moment in the celebration of spring. What do you suppose caused Peter to run and check it out? I don’t know, perhaps he too remembered the teachings of Jesus. I invite you to join Peter and check it out for yourself.
The edge of eternity is now bridged by a cross of hope. The same Lord who put it in place on that Easter so long ago now invites you to a future of hope filled with joy and confidence and courage even when things are at their worst.
He’s risen for you and for your loved ones. He is risen for our nation and for our entire world. He is Lord of all!
Please click on the below to view Bishop Lowry's 2021 Easter Message