One of the embarrassing secrets of reading books is that we often don’t read them to the end.
Bishop Larry Benfield
Rehearsing the Christian Story
As close as I have ever gotten to heading into a tomb such as might have been the type in which the body of Jesus was laid was once in college when I took a tour of one of the catacombs in Rome. Back in the day when I was a college student, it was not a tourist attraction; I merely took a bus to a church, went in and walked to the lower level, and was given a candle and shown the entrance. No Disneyland sort of experience: no crowds, no voiceover in the background, no one dressed in period costumes. Just me and a candle and niches in the underground walls.
I almost got lost. The directions on how to traverse the catacomb were not clear. At one point the candle began guttering. I was more than a bit scared, I must admit.
But it was an experience less focused on death—and more focused on resurrection—than I consciously thought at the time. Yes, I was where the dead had lain long ago. But I was also in the midst of where early Christians came to anticipate a new life as they gathered among the dead. In the very midst of fear and getting lost and sometimes directionless paths and the chance of darkness overcoming what little light there was, these people found hope for the future. They knew that resurrection is to be surrounded by signs of death and yet be confident that a tomb can ultimately hold no one.
We learn from rehearsing the Christian story week after week and year after year that the many tombs in our lives—both imposed by others and self-made—cannot hold unconditional love captive. Doors will be opened, stones rolled away, burial cloths set aside because they are no longer needed. Yes, love has the power to conquer any human obstacle—if we but allow it. It was a powerful story 2,000 years ago, and this Easter story remains just as powerful today. It is our resurrection message, and it is our privilege to share this message with a world that so needs to hear it.
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