Where is Christ’s body?!

Easter Vigil 2017
April 15, 2017

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Where is Christ’s body?! It’s the central question of our gospel reading. Dead bodies do not just get up and walk away. And each of the disciples handles it differently. Peter sees the empty tomb and the grave clothes and doesn’t seem to know what to make of it. John sees the same thing and believes. And Mary, distressed and distraught, thinks someone has taken off with the body. “Where have they put it?” she wonders in her grief and confusion. But none of them yet know the answer to that question.

“Where is Christ’s body?!” is also a central question for the people of God who bear Christ’s name in all the centuries since. Not just as a historical question, not just to explain his no longer being on earth with us, but with a real sense of desperate hope, an actual longing for the presence of God to touch and know in response to our deepest fears troubles.

“Where is Christ’s body?!” is a question the world is asking of the church, the body of Christ, in response to the ongoing strife. Where is the one who embodies peace? Where is the one who loves unconditionally without control or abuse? Where is the one who promises reconciliation? Is the church, the body of Christ, present in the struggles for justice and peace, for welcome and love? Where can we find personal hope and joy in the face of death?

Where is Christ’s body?!

The answer this night gives to that question is rooted in the ancient stories we gathered to tell to one another: Christ’s body was swirling in the watery chaos of the forming earth. Christ’s body was among the Israelites running fearful from an encroaching army and Christ’s body was drowning with all of Pharoah’s army, chariots and horses and all. Christ’s body was in the hungry and thirsty longing for water and food at no price. Christ’s body was in the valley of dry bones long before they began to rattle back together at Ezekiel’s prophesy. Christ’s body was bound and oppressed, imprisoned and sick, longing for freedom. Christ’s body was in the middle of the fiery furnace.

And these last holy days have offered us more answers to the question the disciples asked at the tomb: Christ’s body is kneeling down to wash dirty feet, sharing a meal with friends, putting himself in the hands of those who betray, sitting among the unjustly accused, dying among the criminals, lying dead in someone else’s tomb.

And now as we proclaim the Easter good news of the empty tomb, still ourselves wondering where Christ’s body is in our world, we have to assume the risen Christ is now doing what Christ has always done, taking on flesh in our mixed up human life. The empty tomb causes us to open our eyes to the ongoing possibility that God is busy again bringing something else to life. It causes us to look again at the world with new, Easter eyes to see not only the presence of Christ where it has always been with the forsaken and the dying, but now, too in the places where the forsaken are restored and the dying brought to life again.

And so propelled by the question of the empty tomb, we turn searching with Mary and find the barely recognizable body of Christ right there for us, too. We turn and hear our name spoken and we have the opportunity to reach out and touch. Even tonight to taste the body of Christ offered to us at the table. For while we are still searching, still making sense of the Easter reality, still wondering, “Where is Christ’s body?” it is in the midst of questions and doubts and fears and hopes all mixed up together that Jesus comes to meet us unexpectedly on our journey.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

-Pastor Steven Wilco