Marvin Repinski: Running to the tomb! Empty?

Published 6:30 am Saturday, April 3, 2021

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“Early the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’

“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.”

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Sometimes, seemingly strange details are part of the stories in the Bible. Note: Here “other disciple.” It’s like Peter was running on empty. He was behind the other disciple as they were rushing to see if the news of an empty tomb was true.

The background of Peter

The resurrection reality did not come easy for Peter. Why?

In earlier days, the Gospel story tells of a denial. During the trial of Jesus in Herod’s palace, Peter sat waiting outside. A young woman sent him into a panic when she said that she had seen him with Jesus of Galilee. He cursed and said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”  Another person who had observed the scene corroborated the statement and said that she too had seen Peter with Jesus. Again he cursed and said, “I don’t know that man.” 

After the crowd’s response, he swore and said, “I tell you I do not know that man.”

A strange record again. That evening in the stillness of the setting, a rooster crowed. Was that like a call in the night to say, “Peter, wake up — you’re on the wrong side!”

When running to see the Resurrection miracle

We, like Peter, may try to run to a new future, feet feeling like lead. A person’s conscience, if not deadened with lies and neglect, comes to us as a friend. It’s difficult to run to the tomb when hanging onto you is a scene of mistakes, memories of failures; crippling your walk or run may be a heavy heart that leaves you short of breath. The “run” is nearly impossible.

But wait. Maybe you’re like the person with a heavy heart, who attended a Lutheran church worship service. A response with laughter and a sense of forgiveness was embraced by this prayer:

“Incarnate joy, fill our hearts with love. Most holy miracle, fill our minds with truth. Oh word made flesh, fill our souls with peace. Let this holy day find the hour when all of us, in all places, in all faiths, in all colors, in all diversity of language, custom and thought, know ourselves to be the beloved children of God. Grand us forgiveness for our failures. Teach us the good that has been done in the name of Christ and with the Easter promise!”

Easter is a doorway to believing

Most of us who find support for living in the reality of the story of an empty space where once the body of the Savior was placed do not always state, “He is Risen!”

Former President Jimmy Carter is remembered as being rarely outspoken and not very confrontational.

But there are exceptions.

In a rousing exchange over issues among the Democrats, Carter, in a mood of disagreement shouted, “That’s a lot of baloney!” Citing this retort is a reminder that we do live with persons who may give this response to affirming the Easter story. My take on the negatives is not to put down the opposing views, but to try to understand. It’s a big world; there are many ways, views that relate to spirituality. We go on with convictions that are not, hopefully, chiseled in stone, but encourage dialogue.

When questions come front and center

A story from one person’s experience: Nasr-ed-Din Hodja, in the heat of the day, sat under a walnut tree looking at his pumpkin vines. He said to himself, “How foolish God is! Here he puts a great heavy pumpkin on a tiny vine without strength to do anything but lie on the ground. And he puts tiny walnuts on a big tree whose branches could hold the weight of a man. If I were God, I could do better than that!”

Just then a breeze dislocated a walnut in the tree, and it fell on the head of the skeptical Nasr-ed-Din Hodja, who rubbed his head, a sadder and a wiser man. “Suppose,” he mused, “there had been a pumpkin up there, instead of a walnut. Never again will I try to plan the world for God, but I shall thank God that He has done so well!”

To close this meditation with a prayer is most appropriate.

“Creator God, you bring life out of dead ends, and hope in the midst of despair. Forgive us for doubting that you are still at work even in the darkest hour, even in the most painful moments. Forgive us for our hesitant action, our cautious compassion, our too frequent reluctance. Redeeming God, teach us a stillness that leads to acts of kindness and clarity of vision. Shape in us a trust that leads to faithful witness and bold compassion. Form us in your love that loosens our worry and acting with justice, fills us with strength and esteem. Amen.”