April 2020

The Tomb Was Opened for Us to Enter

Easter, April 12, 2020
Matthew 28:1-10

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –

Alleluia, Christ is risen! And the response of Christians throughout the world is, “Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!” However, I believe that the response of much of the world would be, “Oh really?”

More than any other day of the year, Easter is God’s way of  bursting our bubble of worldly mortal conditioning with the blaring trumpet-like wake-up call to open our hearts and minds and lives to the divine reality that has been staring us in the face all of our lives, but we have been too spiritually dull-witted to stare back and see with divine insight.

It is as if God has been knocking at our brains shouting, “Hello, hello, is anyone in there? The lights are on, but it looks like nobody’s home!” The truth is we are home, but our windows are shuttered and our shades are drawn to see, notice and believe only what suits our interests politically, economically, socially, morally, and spiritually. I strongly believe that we have so distorted and manipulated the Word of God to our liking that, if Christ were alive today, he would not recognize the movement he started. But Christ is alive, blowing the blaring trumpet, sounding the alarm, shouting alleluias from celestial mountaintops to wake us from our mortal comas and acknowledge that God has been with us and watching us all along.

A rabbi once shared a funny story about a blind man who attended a Passover Seder. Someone passed him a piece of matzah. He ran his fingers over it and shouted, “Who wrote this garbage?” I fear that such is the response Christ would have about the type of Christianity that compromises God’s all-inclusive compassion and justice to preserve a false sense of prestige and power. Indeed, who wrote this garbage?

However, the question concerning compromised concepts of Christianity should be less about authorship than about the age-old conflicts at play between the culture of God and the culture of the world, even in the time of Jesus.

Easter should be the day that Christians throughout the world celebrate women in ministry, because it is their proclamation that reignited what would have otherwise been a dormant and dying religious movement. The way of Christ was a counter-cultural movement that affirmed the value of women during a time when women assumed the status of property bought and sold by men. They were encouraged to keep silent, even in faith communities (1st Corinthians 14:34), and their eye-witnessed testimony could not hold merit in a court of law.

Into this culture comes the upsetting rabbi from Galilee, who attracted many women as disciples and financial donors to his cause; from whom a Samaritan woman who became one of the first eye-witnessed evangels to his messianic ministry while his male disciples were still in training. And in all the gospel narratives about the resurrection written by men, once again, it is the female disciples who are the first eye-witnesses to the risen Christ; the Christ who proclaimed that in the culture and realm of God women were no longer property to be bought and sold, but were as “angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:28)

“Hello, hello, is anybody home?” one might imagine of God rapping at our brains. “Did you get that text message and tweet where I said, ‘like angels in heaven?’”

Sometimes it takes a seismic upheaval in our worldly conditioning to shout alleluia and praise God for rescuing us from the grave of mortal mentality. And so it was that when the women went to the guarded tomb, they experienced an earthquake by which an angel of the Lord rolled away the tombstone, not to free Jesus, for he had already left the premise; but rather to rescue them from their own graves by allowing them to enter the tomb and see with their own eyes the glaring reality of God’s power over the grave.

An angel of the Lord rolled away the heavy stone sealing the tomb. But Christ says that by faith you are able to move mountains (Matthew 17:20), which starts with the mountain of our mortal mindset that obstructs our vision of God, and our awareness that we are more than we make ourselves out to be. You are more than flesh and blood and bones that are here today and gone tomorrow. You are children of the most-high God, conceived for immortality; conceived to live in communion with angels; conceived by the breath of God.

Christ has risen from the grave and, by the grace of God, so shall we. Amen.