April 16, 2022, God on the Dark Side, Luke 23:50-56 – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell
To listen to this sermon click the link above.
The stone is a major player in the stories of Holy Week and Easter. On Friday we hear how the Jews make good and sure that the stone is solidly in place at the mouth of the tomb, and how they set a seal set on it so nobody can mess with it, and just in case all that isn’t enough, how they send the Temple guard to keep watch outside the tomb so that no one can even get to the stone to move it.
We hear about the stone on Easter morning, when the sun rises and the women hurry to the tomb, and how they are shocked to find that huge stone rolled away and the tomb open and empty.
But tonight we find ourselves in the in-between time, on the dark side of that stone. Tonight we wait in the darkness and silence of the sealed tomb.
When I was a kid, I took a tour with my family of some underground caverns in Missouri. The guide leads you through cavern after cavern, showing you beautiful mineral deposits and rock formations, and then at a certain point they stop. And then the guide warns you – because it’s a little scary, if you aren’t ready for it – that he is about to turn out all the lights. And when he does, it is absolutely dark, darker than it ever is on the surface of the earth, because way down there in the depths of the earth there is no light at all, no reflection, no faint glimmer, just black nothing. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. You can’t see anything at all.
And that’s how it is here in the tomb. It’s nothing but darkness on this side of the stone. There is not only no light, but there is no scent of anything, no sensation of hard or soft or cold or hot or rough or smooth – no touch, no taste, no sound, here on this side of the stone.
But, what there is on this side of the stone, is God. Remember how King David wrote, in Psalm 139, “Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there;if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there.” When the body of Jesus lay in the dark of the tomb, even then God was with him. The words of Jeremiah that we just read tell us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end….The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” There is no light or sound, no breath of life, here inside the tomb. But there is God. And where there is God, there is hope.
One of our Lenten readings, a few years ago, was by a man named Bo Cox. He wrote about when he was a young man in prison, serving a life sentence for murder. He described himself as a person that was dead inside. His parents came to see him, week after week. They were afraid, and desperately sad as you can imagine. But he didn’t feel anything for them. He didn’t feel sorrow for the pain he had caused them. He didn’t feel any gratitude for the love they showed in coming to see him. He felt nothing at all. He didn’t feel any remorse for the life he had taken. He didn’t feel any sympathy for his victim’s grieving parents. Outwardly, he was a living human being, but inside, there was only the nothingness of death. He lived every single day on the dark side of the stone.
Sr. Helen Prejean wrote a book about a man on death row, called Dead Man Walking. That title is so powerful, because the truth is that there are a lot of people in the world, people in actual prisons, and people in prisons of their own making, people who are so lonely, or so afraid, or so crushed, that love and compassion and hope have withered away and died inside them. People like the young man that Bo Cox was, are truly the walking dead.
But God showed up in the love of his parents, who never stopped coming to visit him; who never gave up hope in him. God showed up in the love of people who worked and ministered at the prison, who treated him like a worthwhile human being. God was there, even in the impenetrable darkness on the wrong side of the stone. God found him there in his living death, and God restored him to life.
I want us to remember tonight as we wait with Jesus in the tomb, that God is here on this side of the stone. For all those people, in prisons and on the streets, for all young people growing up without hope, for all elderly people left in nursing homes to die, for all those who are the walking dead in this world. For our loved ones who have died, especially those who were too young. For ourselves, when we get lost in the darkness of our loneliness or our fear or our unforgiveness. For anyone and everyone who has ever found themselves on this dark side of the stone: remember tonight that God is on this side of the stone, too. We may not be able to see the light yet. But he is with us always. And where there is God, there is always hope. +