As we hunker down in our homes trying to avoid a lurking, unseen, viral enemy, we notice the impact and emptiness it has caused. We see empty restaurants, offices and movie theaters. We drive on empty streets, witness empty shelves in the grocery store (especially on the toilet paper aisle) and hear the empty sounds of silence of fellowship forced to stand six feet apart.
This Sunday will be a first for everyone. Pastors will gather at the churches prepared to give an Easter message to an empty church. Yes, it will be broadcast or live streamed, but when in our nation’s history have we ever closed the church? Certainly, never in my lifetime.
The preachers will be good-hearted and cheerful for their virtual audience, but the koinonia of gathering together significantly loses its luster and vivaciousness when expressed via streaming electrons over the internet or radio. The irony of this unique experience is that we’re celebrating of all things — a discovery of emptiness.
Nearly 2,000 years ago several distraught, grieving women bought some spices early one morning and went to a tomb. They suspected the tomb was guarded; they knew it had a huge stone in front of it. Logistical planning and reason were drowned out by desperate anguish, that unbearable emotional pain that drives a person to do — something. Yet, they were greatly surprised to find the tomb opened. Fear, bewilderment, a cornucopia of confusing emotions enveloped them. Instantly, those feelings changed to great joy for they saw and met the Lord! They then hurried off to tell the others.
On that day the world changed. A bodiless grave meant the bridge had been built. The way, the truth and the life had been shown that offered a reconnection from our creator to those created in his image. The sting of death has been defeated.
So, as our pastors prepare to preach in a remarkable situation where their pews are empty, we will be intently listening. When they gaze in amazement at their empty church, may they sense the joy and be inspired by the amazement of the greatest emptiness of all — the empty tomb. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!