Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12
Pr. Scott Kramer
Years ago on a trip to Israel my wife and I planned to visit some of the places that were important parts of Jesus’ life. One of these was the traditional place of his birth in Bethlehem. It’s a small, cramped space, with room for only a few people, beneath the floor of a church that was built above it. The traditional place of Jesus’ birth is not a shelter for animals, such as we find in the Bible. It’s a small cave.
Jesus’ life began in a cave–and it ended in a cave. According to our Easter story, a number of women visited Jesus’ tomb, which is essentially a cave carved out of local stone. They were there, of course, grieving the death of Jesus. But it wasn’t just grief. Soon they experienced confusion—“perplexed,” is the word that is used—because there was no body in the tomb. Jesus was gone.
It must have been crowded for those women in the tomb but besides the women, evidently there was room for two more. Suddenly “two men in dazzling clothes” stood beside them. From grief to confusion the women now experienced a different emotion: fear. As Luke puts it, The women were terrified!
After being reminded by the two strangers that these things would happen they rush out and tell other friends of Jesus their story. But these close friends respond as I probably would have in that situation: These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Is there anyone among us in such a situation who would have believed such a story?
No doubt it was crowded in the cave at Jesus’ birth. Later, at the end of his life, it was crowded in the tomb. But between those two cramped spaces–his birth and his death—there was lots of room! As he grew in stature so also he grew in love. Not just his body but especially his heart and his mind grew to the point that there was always room for one more person. In fact, by the end of his life there was room in Jesus’ heart for you, for me, for everyone who ever lived, and everyone who will ever live. Everyone!
Jesus took his cue not from religious traditions, not from political parties, not from patriotic loyalty, and not even from his parents, for none of these influences in our lives come close to matching the expansive, all-inclusive love of God. Over the course of his short life Jesus took his cue from the one he called his heavenly Father, whose love is for all people, no matter whom, no matter what.
Those women who arrived at the tomb experienced profound grief. There is room in the tomb for grieving people. But their grief turned to confusion. There is room in the tomb for people who are perplexed and confused. Soon their confusion turned to fear. There is room in the tomb for people who are afraid. Later, when they told their story to Jesus’ closest friends, their story was met with doubt and disbelief. But there is room in God’s heart for doubt and unbelief.
In the weeks ahead we will find that it gets even better. We will hear the story of how the heart of Christ has grown so large that having come back from the dead he is not bent on resentment or revenge or even justice. His is the heart of forgiveness.
There is room in the realm of God for all people, no matter what. What an incredible word of hope for a world divided! And what a challenge to hearts that remain cramped and closed. What a challenge to our instincts of self-protection and self-promotion. What a clear, strong word in response to people who seek to exclude and build walls and shut out!
The Easter story invites us to consider how we will spend our days between cradle and grave. To what extent will we study the example of Jesus’ expansive heart? Between the cramped quarters of womb and tomb will our hearts grow and expand in the experience and practice of God’s love? Will we live our lives as resurrection people?
If there is room for grieving people there is room in God’s heart for you. If there is room for confused and fearful people there is room in God’s heart for you. If there is room for doubt and questions and unbelief, there is room in God’s heart for you. If all this is true than the same is true for you if you are gay or lesbian. There is room in God’s heart for you. No matter what your skin color or your age, there is room in God’s heart for you. Whether you are rich or poor, male or female, first-generation immigrant or tenth generation resident, there is room in God’s heart for you.
The story told by the world in which we live is a story of cramped quarters. We are told that there are limits to who’s in and who’s out. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the assurance that not even death can separate us from God’s love. Not even death can diminish God’s love for you, for me and for all people.
“Christ is Risen” is not some religious slogan or “football cheer.” It is the confident proclamation that the expansive love of Jesus Christ just got bigger! There is room in God’s heart…for you!