31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
April 17, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Imagine yourself hiking in the woods -at night. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like a smart idea. Think of all of the things that could go wrong. You could trip over a branch on the path. There might be animals lurking in the woods. Without your sight, you might lose your way.
There are lots of things to fear about hiking in the woods at night, and there are also a lot of wonderful things to experience. Those animals lurking? They might be some that you might never have the opportunity to encounter during the day – like a Great Horned Owl swooping through the trees or a bobcat slinking through the undergrowth. And as for avoiding obstacles and safely finding your way, that is possible too. Hiking in the dark simply requires a different kind of seeing.
In the daylight, we generally use the central part of our vision where the cones are located. Cones are really good at seeing color, at helping us detect the slight color difference between the red tulips and the scarlet purple ones. Cones need a lot of light to do their job though so they are not a lot of help on a night hike.
The rods, located in our peripheral/side vision, on the other hand, need very little light to pick up movement, shapes, and lines. They are quite useful for seeing in the dark.
Early on that first day of the week, Peter and John weren’t on a night hike though. They were running, racing to Jesus’ tomb in the dark of the early morning. Mary Magdalene had already been there and had discovered that the stone that was supposed to be covering the tomb’s entrance, the stone that was supposed to be protecting their Lord and teacher’s body, that stone had been rolled away.
So now, not knowing what obstacles lay ahead, not knowing what dangers lurked around them, not knowing what to expect, they ran to see for themselves. John, the “other” disciple, reached the tomb first. Looking inside, he saw the tomb was empty, but he didn’t go in. Was he afraid? Was he unsure about what he would find? Was he worried about what might be lurking?
All we know is that he waited for Peter to arrive. He waited for Peter to go in. When he, too, finally went inside, scripture tells us “he saw and believed.”
And that makes sense, right. It’s a familiar phrase – ‘seeing is believing’. John went into the tomb, saw it was empty, and he instantly believed in the resurrection.
That’s not what the gospel says though because the passage doesn’t end with “he saw and believed”. It continues with “for as yet they did not understand…[that Jesus] must rise from the dead.” (John 20:8-9)
It’s curious. How could John see and believe if he did not understand?
Sometimes, life feels like we, too, are running in the darkness. Each step forward feels like a step into the unknown. We want to clearly predict what is going to come next. We want to be able to see all of the obstacles well in advance. We want to see the dangers lurking and steer clear of them. And it is frustrating when all we see are hints and shadows. Like hiking in the dark, though, life requires a different way of seeing, a different perspective, and that perspective is faith.
Faith is not about seeing the way the world sees. On the surface, faith is not always rational. It’s not about connecting the dots or adding the numbers and getting a predictable outcome. Our relationship with God, our faith in God, is not always something we can explain in concrete, understandable terms.
Early on that first day of the week, while it was still dark, John and Peter ran to the tomb and when they arrived, they did not understand. Their minds had not yet put the pieces together because how could they? What had just happened boggled the mind? Jesus’ body was gone, but clearly not because it had been stolen. What robbers would have left behind the linen wrappings, let alone have folded them up so neatly? None of this made sense. They couldn’t wrap their brains around the unbelievable.
So they chose a different kind of seeing. They chose to have faith. Even though they couldn’t figure out what had happened to Jesus’ body, even though they couldn’t comprehend why the stone had been rolled away and why the linen wrappings were there so neatly, even though none of it made sense, still, they saw, they had faith and believed that something incredible, something extraordinary, something miraculous was happening.
They saw and believed because faith is relational. Faith is experiential. Faith is something you know for certain deep inside.
For three years, the disciples had lived with Jesus. They had learned with Jesus. They had walked with Jesus, and through him, they had come to know God. To have a relationship with God. So even though it did not make sense. Even though they did not yet understand. Even though they probably could not explain it to their nearest and dearest, they knew in their hearts. Trusting God, they saw in a new way and believed.
And trusting in God, they chose to boldly step forward into the darkness.
And we do, too. Every day, we walk, run even into our future, not always understanding what will come next, not always sure of what is ahead, and yet always trusting that God is there, guiding us and doing something incredible, something extraordinary, something miraculous.
This is what the life of faith is about. It is choosing to see the world from a different perspective, through an Easter perspective, that even when things look dark, even when all seems lost, choosing to trust God that the light is coming, that goodness is coming, that new life and joy are coming.
Even though we might not fully understand God, even though we might not have the good news of the resurrection all figured out, today, we boldly see and believe. We see and believe in the good news of God’s unconditional love; we see and believe that nothing can separate us from God and God’s love; we see and believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and that new life, new beginnings are ours, now and forevermore. Alleluia!