My Buddhist friends call it monkey mind. It’s that state of mental anxiety where you can’t stop thinking about what you need to do, where you need to be, and what you need to say to whom. By Wednesday night of this week, I was all monkey mind. So I did two things.
First, I went to the Container Store. The Container Store is making a good profit off of monkey mind! “If only I can find the right drawer organizer and a slick bento box for my children’s lunches, then I can relax,” is what draws people there. I came, I shopped, and I left. But monkey mind remained.
So I made a list. It was a list of everything I needed to do and everywhere I needed to be on Thursday. Once I had my list, I re-wrote it putting everything in chronological order – First, I drop of the kids at school, then I go to this store, then I send this email, etc. I put little circles next to each item so that when I had done it I could fill in the circle and have a lovely little moment of satisfaction – like executing a nice tack as I sailed the waters of overwhelm. I reviewed my list before bed on Wednesday, picturing myself getting these things done and being calm and at ease through it all.
You can see where this is going. Nothing went as planned on Thursday.
The line was impossibly long at Staples when I went to pick up the Easter Bulletins, and then the box they came in broke in the parking lot, scattering the bulletins & causing me to spend time picking them up. I never got to make the phone calls on my list because other people kept calling me. I was late to one appointment because someone stopped me to chat about family matters, and another appointment didn’t happen due to logistical misunderstandings.
And then, in the evening — that Maundy Thursday evening — at the end of our beautiful foot-washing service, I don’t know how it happened, but a pitcher of water got knocked over, and suddenly we had the River Nile running the length of the aisle. I want to thank whoever caused that happy accident, because it was that boo-foo that knocked some sense into me at the end of a day that didn’t go as planned. In that moment, I let go, and I looked back on the day and saw that while my agenda didn’t happen, a lot of other wonderful things did.
I finally learned the name of the Staples salesman who has helped me dozens of times, when he came out to help me pick up the bulletins in the parking lot. The woman who stopped me to talk family and I found we had more in common than we had ever realized in six years of working near one another. And the River Nile incident had illustrated the grace of imperfection, which is what I had just preached about before the foot-washing.
My problem on Thursday was not that I expected too much. It was that I expected too little. I expected to “get through it.” I expected to do an adequate job with my self-generated tasks. But God was giving me more.
On that first Easter morning, the disciples had pretty low expectations. They expected death. Loss. Defeat. Cross that one off the list and move on – Jesus is gone.
So when the women come to tell the male disciples that the tomb where Jesus had been laid is empty, they dismiss the news. There’s no room for it on their list. And besides, it’s just women, and as the historian Josephus wrote in that same century, “From women, let not evidence be accepted, because of the levity and temerity of their sex.”
They’ve already given up. Except Peter. “Let me make room for a shred of hope,” he thinks, — “enough to get me to check out this tomb. Let me just peek into the tomb and have a look- see. Sure, women chatter idly but they sound really convinced.”
And that shred of hope made all the difference. Notice two things:
First, it is women who entered the empty tomb and received the news from the angels there. This matters. All through the gospesl, God is revealed through the voices of the most unexpected, unauthorized, sketchy people. All through the gospels, it is the people who in our society we are quickest to defame, degrade, or dismiss, people whom the loudest voices would dismiss as “losers,” who God entrusts with holy messages. So on this Easter morning, this gospel invites you to ask yourself, “Who aren’t you listening to? “ Who might have a holy word for you, a transforming word for you, if you would stop to hear it?
Second, notice that the one man who chases the hope is not just “a disciple,” but a specific, named disciples: Peter. Peter- who flamed out as a faithful disciple in the last chapter, denying three times that he even knew Jesus. Yet now he takes the faithful action. Now he goes to see and he is blessed. And later he will be given a beautiful, holy responsibility by the risen Lord. God is not done with Peter.
So if you think it’s too late to “get it,” too late to be a disciple, that you’ve done something that puts you beyond the pale in God’s eyes or anyone else, this Easter gospel is for you. Nothing and no one is beyond the power of God to save. Any time. Anywhere.
I don’t know what your life has been like or what you carry in your heart on this Easter morning. But maybe, just a shred of hope is all you’ve got. Maybe your to-do list and your prayer list and your bill-paying list and your list of grievances against God, the world, and yourself are so long that it’s hard to imagine Resurrection.
But if you have a shred, a hanging chad of hope, like Peter, go look in the tomb. God is ready to do more than you or I can ask or imagine. That’s the promise of Easter. That is Christ arising.
Christ has risen. That’s the testimony of this church, not just because the Bible says so but because we see it happen all the time, in and through people willing to be like Peter.
In this congregation, we see dead hopes raised, lost sons found, people come through shipwreck and looking back to exclaim, “I survived that?!” We see new vocations found at the most unexpected times, like a woman in her 70s waking up to climate change and being a fierce advocate in this community and the diocese. We hear Christ in the voices of children leading us in worship, newcomers calling us to live our faith more fully, immigrants and friends at our sister parishes in the West Bank calling us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of the world. Those who were weighed down with sorrow have been seen to smile again. Those who had been bruised and bowed down by the injustices and indignities of the world rediscover their dignity and beauty. And all through the church year, we turn to the next guy and say, “I have seen the risen Lord.” Let’s follow him together.
I’m going to keep on making to-do lists. But I am going to add to mine, when I make them, “empty tomb time” as a reminder to trust our Risen Lord and expect more. Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation in the church and in Christ Jesus forever. (Ephesians 3:20-21).