The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard* of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’* So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. (Matthew 27:62-66 NRSV)
Dear Friends in Christ,
The opening cut on Pat Matheny’s album First Circle is a dissonant and farcical march entitled simply, “Forward March.” I don’t know what inspired him to write the piece but every time I hear it I picture the guards placed by Pilate and the authorities at the tomb of Jesus. I picture them parading around the tomb filled with self-importance and certainty of purpose looking as silly as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion do when the don the uniforms of the guards at the castle of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz while fulfilling their mission to make the tomb of Jesus as secure as they could.
Our faith helps us to see the humor in that command from Pilate, “Go, make it as secure as you can.” We know that nothing can hold God’s love in. God’s love and power burst forth from the tomb and the stone is rolled away to reveal that it is so. God’s love is so great that nothing can hold it in.
The resurrection of Jesus is God the Father’s action to show us God’s faithfulness. On the cross Jesus commends himself to the Father. In the resurrection we see the result of that commendation. God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.
While nothing can hold God’s love in, I know both as a pastor and fellow traveler on the way that at times our human failings—pride, fear, prejudice, lack of charity toward ourselves and others, unwillingness and inability to accept that we are loved—can keep that power from working fully in us. These things are what the poet Michael Hare Duke means when he writes in his Easter poem/prayer, “the grave clothes hold us, they are all we know, grant us the courage to be loosed and live.”
Grant us the courage to be loosed and lived. That is my prayer for all of us this Easter. May God grant us the courage to be loosed from the grave clothes of doubt, fear, self-righteousness, and pride that we might live a life that shows the power of resurrection by and through our complete trust of the Father through our imitation of Christ.
Yours in the Risen and living Lord Jesus.
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller