Apr 20, 2019 by

by Stephen Noll, Contending Anglican:

I preached this sermon on Easter Wednesday 1990 at Trinity School for Ministry.

I wonder how many of you have read Anne Tyler’s book, or seen the movie, titled The Accidental Tourist. The eccentric hero of the book, Macon Leary, writes guides for tourists whose concern is how to travel as if they had never left home: What hotels in Madrid boasted king-sized Beauty-rest mattresses? What restaurants in Tokyo offered Sweet’n-Low? Did Amsterdam have a McDonald’s? Did Mexico City have a Taco Bell? Did any place in Rome serve Chef Boyardee ravioli?

Some day I hope to write a similar book entitled “The Half-Empty Guide to the Holy Land.” You see, what has most impressed me on my visits to Israel is not how present Jesus is there, but how absent he is. Of course, you can imagine him walking the streets of Nazareth or praying on the Mount of Olives, but you can do that from home as well. When you actually get to some likely New Testament site, you either end up lighting prayer candles in a mausoleum or you pay an Arab boy to take you to some gnarled fig-tree that looks like it must be 2000 years old. Well, you get the gist of my book.

The final chapter will be called “The Half-Empty Tomb” and will point out that to find “where they laid him” you must choose between a site with a sub-terrainian cave (the Orthodox have churched it over) or an ideal Garden Tomb at the wrong site (the place where General Chinese Gordon, surely a half-full traveler, cried “Eureka, I have found it!”.

If I have managed to scandalize you by talking this way in Easter Week, it’s because the empty tomb is a scandal – as much a scandal as the cross or the manger. The empty tomb is a scandal because it is the sign that Jesus is not just risen, but is risen from the dead. And if we want to appropriate the risen life of Christ, we must accept the conditions under which that life was first offered Jesus’ followers – and still is offered to us. Let’s look more closely at the accounts in Mark and Matthew’s Gospels.

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Read: EASTER OCTAVE, DAY SEVEN: The Prodigal Terrorist Enters Paradise


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