An Idle Tale

It has seemed to me that this Holy Week is hitting differently for almost everyone. I’ve heard both locally from our parish, but also from wider sources that this is a deeper and richer spiritual experience than it has been in the past, perhaps because we haven’t been able to fully walk this week together in three years’ time, or maybe it’s the tenderness of the state of our community and the world. But I’ve also heard the opposite; I’ve heard from folks that they just can’t seem to allow or make themselves spiritually present to the Way of the Cross this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were for the exact same reasons as those who have found it to be a rich experience. Throughout our Holy Week services, I’ve not seen faces I expected to see, and I’ve seen many faces I’ve never seen before. And whether we talk about this sort of ebb and flow in our spiritual lives in a public way matters very little in the face of its reality, or in the truth that this has been a part of Christian’s lives from the very beginning.

On this eve, on this holy day where we proclaim Alleluia! Christ is risen! We hear the story from the gospel according to Luke as he shares the first proclamation of the resurrection. As in all four gospel accounts, it is the women who first proclaim the Good News of the resurrection. Today we hear of their tenderness of preparing spices for Jesus’ body, we hear of their bravery of stepping into the tomb with a stone rolled away to shed their tears as they thought his body had been stolen, and we hear of their faith when they were reminded of Jesus’ foretelling of his death and resurrection and how they immediately left to tell the eleven apostles and the others the Good News of the resurrection.

And Luke tells us that once the Marys and Joanna tell the apostles that Christ is not in his tomb, but was risen from the dead, that Peter got up and ran to the tomb, found the burial cloths and went home in amazement. But Peter was the anomaly in the apostles; the other apostles, Luke tells us, thought that it was “an idle tale.” An idle tale. To call the first proclamation of the resurrection an idle tale seems blasphemous now, but we are not held in the busyness of grief in the way the apostles were, because we know not only of the hope that is coming, but that has already come and will continue to come.

An idle tale. I can’t fully blame them for thinking of such. It might seem an idle tell for the one who came and turned the world on its head the one who died a gruesome death just three days ago to not only not be in the tomb where they laid him, but to have been resurrected from the dead. While I bristle at the dismissiveness of not believing the women, I can’t fully disconnect the reality that to believe in the resurrection is hard, even with thousands of years of theological work. I can’t fully negate the reality that these men probably felt more hopeless than they had in their whole lives that early Easter morning.

But what captures my imagination about these men who dismissed the proclamation of the resurrection, is that the hope of the resurrection, the hope that this idle tale might actually be true pulls them out of their dismissive, hopeless state. This story – the greatest story ever told – once thought to be a pointless story, made up from the imaginations of the grief-weary women, so deeply convicts them that they begin to let the hope seep in. It hits Peter first as he goes to the tomb, only to find that this is not an idle tale but is something truly amazing. Something truly phenomenal, and as far from an idle tale as possible has happened and will forever change the world.

Perhaps you find yourself on this night convicted by this “idle tale” after a season of spiritual disconnect, or maybe you identify more with the women, whose faith and courage made them voices of the Good News, even when it is dismissed. Or maybe you connect most with Peter, who struggles, who never quite gets it right, even just before Christ’s death, but whose weary soul is so pierced by the possibility of hope that he is motivated to action. Wherever you find yourself tonight or tomorrow or a week or month from now, Luke’s gospel is the reminder that the hope of the resurrection can find us, it’s only our job to take seriously this idle tale.

 A sermon delivered to the people of Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green, KY on Luke 24:1-12 for the Easter Vigil on April 16, 2022.

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