April 17, 2022, “The Tower Still Stands” by Rev. Dr. Tom Eggebeen
Isaiah 65.17-25; John 20.1-18
It’s been quite the week.
A little of this and a little of that.
A week of good things.
And even some sad things.
We’ve been on top of our game.
And we’ve been kicked around the block.
We knew what we were doing.
And we didn’t have a clue.
We were pleased and happy.
We were disappointed and ticked off.
We ran outta gas.
And a friend helped us.
It’s been quite the week …
Holy Week we call it … and holiness means special, set aside, noteworthy; calls for our attention; God is holy, and holy smoke and holy mackerel – the smoke of incense rising to heaven, and fish eaten on Friday …
Holy Week: a special week, a week that calls for our attention, a week that sums up, and gathers in, the ebb and flow of life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What a week it’s been.
Christ enters Jerusalem, the people shout their dreams … disappointment sets in, the crowds turn ugly … the powers that be grow uneasy … things get messy real quick.
Pilate takes charge … Jesus is just another political dissident, a trouble maker, one of the usual suspects; better to crucify him now, fast and furious, to show the world some Roman muscle.
Religious people had their own ideas, too … protect the turf, keep things smooth, don’t upset the applecart … keep the Roman Empire happy … a deal had been worked out – no one liked it, yet everyone lived by it.
The power of Rome and the power of religion!
They got together that week, the infamous week we call holy.
Judas was willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver … Pilate was ready to sign the death warrant and wash his hands of the affair.
When political power, and religious domination, come together, we can be sure it’s going to end badly.
From the bloody crusades of the 11th Century to the Inquisition of the 15th Century … from the suppression of Galileo’s scientific work to the burning of witches in Salem … from England’s Oliver Cromwell to Governor George Wallace of Alabama, from Luther’s hatred of Jews to the horror of the Nazi Holocaust.
When hyper-religion and power-politics meet up in the public square, it ends badly – there is blood to be drawn and death to be had.
What a week it’s been.
But time moves on, and so does God … another week:
The Empty Tomb … the surprise of it all, the truth about God’s creation, and our place within it …
The Empty Tomb shouts to the world: life prevails … love wins!
The Empty Tomb shouts to the world … don’t give up, don’t give in … cry your tears, and look for deliverance … like Mary Magdalene by the tomb, weeping her eyes out, wondering what has happened … alone in that quiet place.
The rest of the disciples scurry away to the safety of their homes … Mary stays the course; she’s willing to weep … she waits in the sorrow of a broken heart.
All her life, she’s heard the message: Wait for the LORD! And that’s exactly what Mary does … she waits!
And then it happens … a rare and impossible gift … two angels in white … and finally … Jesus himself …
The angels give Mary a chance to pour out her heart … isn’t that what angels do?
These angels offer no advice; they ask about her tears, and they listen.
Pastoral care at its best – no advice, no preaching, no scolding, no goals to be had – just a question, a question, about her tears, and then, the angels listen.
A gift for anyone in distress … God’s angels listen to us, and we can be angels for one another: we ask how it is; then we listen … listen for as long as it takes … angels aren’t in a hurry. They listen to a broken heart.
Listen … and be Silent – two powerful words: spelled with the same letters … Listen … Silent … Silent … Listen.
Sometimes I come home with my own little pile of burdens, and say to Donna: “Don’t say anything; just listen to me.”
To listen to someone, we have to be silent.
To be silent, means we can listen.
Mary turns around … wonder why she turned?
Was she done pouring out her heart to the angels?
Did she hear something? Sense something?
She turns … there’s Jesus.
She thinks it’s the gardener.
I love that moment of misunderstanding.
Jesus IS the gardener … all things through him created, the Word of God … the first Garden of Eden … the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb … the final Garden, the Garden of the new heavens and the new earth … the river of life and the tree of life, for the healing of the nations.
Jesus IS the gardener …
Creating … giving life … making all things new … then and there; here and now … making all things new … here in this place and in our time, our lives, our world .. right here in our midst … in this place, and all around the town.
People of Westminster – the Tower still stands …
When I drive up Lake Avenue, there it is … shining bright against the mountains to the north … the Tower still stands.
Yes, it’s steel and stone, and it’s so much more.
It embodies the hopes and dreams of every soul that has ever lived … the hopes and dreams of everyone alive today … and all the children still to come … a reminder … a reminder … in our world there IS a place where tears are honored with a holy silence, a place of peace and hope, renewal; a place where truth is told, love given, mercy extended, humility practiced, justice pursued, … with a generous welcome to all.
Dear friends …
The Tower still stands … and Christ is Risen!
Hallelujah and Amen!