Luke 24:1-12 1On the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The 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. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s been quite a week. I could point to the last week of Jesus’ life, and his trials and crucifixion, but I’m actually speaking of something else, something more recent.
This week, the Notre Dame Cathedral burned—not a total loss, but it was feared for quite some time that it would be. The fire started about 10 minutes before seven in the evening (in Paris) on April 15. In less than an hour it had spread to the oak and lead spire which collapsed 13 minutes later. The roof, latticed with 800-year-old planks, roiled with flames, and collapsed at seven minutes after eight. This collapse damaged the high altar at the east end of the structure, though the golden cross appeared to be unscathed.
The famous Rose Window, the Great Organ, both towers, and the flying buttresses were spared. Many relics were rescued. The statues of the apostles had been previously removed as part of the restoration.
Moneys came pouring in from around the world to rebuild and restore the iconic structure…
And some were reminded of what had happened in Louisiana this past month, where three churches within the same parish suffered from arson. The GoFundMe effort to raise funds for those historically black churches rose to 20 times its value from $50,000 to a million within two days, in large part in reaction to the large donations toward the restoration of the cathedral.
The Louisiana churches undeniably were victims of arson. The Cathedral fire is believed to have started due to an electrical short connected with the restoration equipment. Now, all four can be rebuilt.
Might we see the rebuilding of destroyed structures as a type of resurrection? Many do. I know at least one of my colleagues wants to show the glowing golden cross amid the charred destruction of Notre Dame as an illustration in this morning’s sermon.
Would the same happen here? This building is not Notre Dame, though this structure, too, includes stained glass windows and a tower (and a pipe organ). How many outside this congregation would pledge to rebuild this site if flame or wind or flood or quake would level it to the ground? Let’s hope we never have to find out!
On Twitter, Concordia asked a question about this (generally) in the wake of the fire at Notre Dame, and unlike most of our tweets that receive no response at all, we got a red heart. Our question wondered, “When is a building more than a building? When we lose such a building, how does our faith support us? Is rebuilding ever quite the same? Does it compare to the resurrection of Jesus we observe on Easter Sunday? Why, or why not?
In our Gospel story, two men in dazzling clothes speak to the women looking for Jesus’ body, asking why they look for the living among the dead. They tell the women Jesus has risen, and remind them of Jesus’ telling them ahead of time what would happen.
Jesus had died, but the news was that he lives again, and the women remember, but then they tell everyone else, and no one believes them!
Will things every really change? Are we destined to repeat our history forever, disbelieving the good news, defining our future in reference to the dead of the past?
In the Al-Hol displacement camp in northeastern Syria which houses relatives of members of the Islamic State and others who have fled violence, militant women are threatening those they see as impious with knives, spitting at them, and damaging or burning down their tents. These militants desire sharia law, with all choices made for them and do not want to allow others any different.
Our congress has received the redacted Mueller report, and now they’re arguing about what to do with it.
Many people do not want to believe that the cathedral fire could have been an accident, and one who claims expertise says that wood that old can’t burn that easily… as if any of us has copious experience with 800-year-old wood…
Like the militant women of the camp who want decisions made for them, like people who want someone to blame for the cathedral’s destruction, like the people who seize on the parts of reports that support their chosen agendas, like those who refused to believe what differed from the norm when told by the women who’d gone to the tomb, we often want things to be easy, or at least easily explained.
The resurrection of Jesus to life after his execution was a new thing, and it was not an easy thing to believe, or an easy thing to share with others unlikely to believe it. If everyone who heard that news had kept their eyes focused on the past, on the dead, they could not have shared the news that continues to give us hope nearly 2000 years later. Death cannot end the power of God.
Yes, we need to remember history, but not in a way that dictates how things must be forever. Instead, we learn from that history so we are prepared for today.
There are those who believe nothing will ever be the same because of the fire… Some believe nothing will ever be the same because of militant religious uprisings.
The truth is that nothing is ever the same because of the resurrection, even though it seems like nothing really changes in this world. People are still people, greedy, selfish, and mean. That’s why Jesus died on the cross.
But now, Jesus is alive, and promises new life to us, as well, not only in the resurrection, but here and now. We can start over now. We can improve the world in which we live now. We can stop blaming and start living now, because Jesus is alive.
It doesn’t make things easy. It doesn’t make Democrats and Republicans automatically chummy. It doesn’t make the militant suddenly non-violent, or the abusive immediately kind.
It might, however, help us to see the good in others, to build on that, to see how to love them, even if we can’t like them. We can’t keep on living the hatred, living the past, living the blindness, searching among the dead. Instead, let us live in the love of God, sharing it with everyone we meet.
We can, because Jesus is alive!