The Rev. Suzi Holding

An Idle Tale

That’s what Jesus’ disciples thought when they heard what the women had to say when they returned from Jesus’ tomb…their story seemed to them an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness…and they did not believe a word of it.

Yes, this was just a silly story spun by the sorrow and wishful thinking of these grief stricken women.

Seriously, the stone rolled away from the tomb, no body inside, two men appearing in dazzling clothes, saying Jesus was raised from the dead…why the women didn’t even see Jesus… An idle tale indeed!

When I was 4 years old, I told my mother about a new friend I had. We had just moved to Dayton, Ohio and I was lonely. I told my mom that he was coming over for lunch so she fixed a couple of peanut butter sandwiches for us, and I sat down at our picnic table outside. After a while she came outside and saw that the sandwiches were gone.

She asked where my new friend was...I said he had just left…she asked his name, I said it was Casper the friendly ghost, as serious as anything. Well she gave me a look, rolled her eyes, and shook her head as if to say “what nonsense, what utter foolishness”…truly an idle tale.

I imagine that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary and the other women got a similar look when they told the other disciples what they had seen….the men didn’t believe them.

But these women knew that they were telling the truth, the living gospel truth.

When the two men in the dazzling clothes told them to remember what Jesus had said to them, while he was still in Galilee...that he must be handed over to sinners, be crucified and on the third day rise again…

They remembered.

Of course they remembered. These were the same women who had traveled with him from Galilee, they had heard his teachings, witnessed the healings, they had been with him those last days in Jerusalem, they had seen him arrested by the soldiers, they had stood at the foot of that cross and watched him die, they had gone to the tomb and seen him buried and the stone rolled across the entrance to the tomb.

All those strange things he had said now made sense

Yes, they remembered….not in the way of nostalgia….but in the way of bringing the past into the present, the meaning of his past words and action made real. They remembered with power and deep insight, understanding his words now through the eyes of faith.

So why did this seem like an “idle tale” to the men? They had heard Jesus say the same things.

I wonder…Perhaps they had thought that Jesus’ language about his own dying and rising again might be a metaphor like all those parables he told.

They often did not fully understand what Jesus was saying.

They never thought, or even considered that what he was talking about was the battle being waged with the enemy, with death itself.

When Peter heard the women’s story, he didn’t believe them and I imagine thought them silly women. He had to see for himself.

So Peter got up and ran…ran to the tomb, stooped and looked inside and saw just the linen clothes…nothing else. He walked away…stunned, amazed, bewildered, wondering…and went home.

But there came a time when he wondered no more…..the idle tale became living truth for him, emboldening him, changing his life forever.

As the events of the next few days unfolded, the story was told again and again, no longer an idle tale, but a story of hope, a story of God’s saving grace and love.

This evening we have heard stories of hope, stories of God’s saving grace and love…some might say the Creation story is an idle tale, or the great flood is nonsense….or the dry bones coming to life is foolishness.

Yet these stories, and others, have been told time and again by God’s people as part of the amazing story of God’s love for God’s people.

For those of us baptized we are grafted into this story, and our story connects with each other and that connects to an even greater story….that story of God’s love for each of us.

Our stories connect with the stories of those early disciples, with martyrs and saints, past present and yet to come, and with redeemed sinners here, there and everywhere.

We are a people of story… our stories give us identity, a sense of who we are, and shape us into who we become. And this story is not an idle tale, but a story that has the power to transform our lives, just like it did for those early disciples, just as it has done for the faithful through the generations …. their lives have been transformed, they have been emboldened to live anew.

If the resurrection was truly just an idle tale, we wouldn’t be too interested in a baby born in a manger…

without the story of the resurrection, Jesus would have been just another innocent victim executed by Rome,

without the resurrection, bread and wine would simply be bread and wine,

without the resurrection we would be sleeping in every Sunday morning.

The story makes a difference…..for many this idle tale has become the story of life ….the story where we find courage, strength, justice, mercy and ultimately, foundationally Love...

the story that confirms death does not have the final word and assures us that there is something more beyond our earthly horizons….

In this Post modern post Christian secular world this may sound like an idle tale.

But for those of us who have experienced the risen Christ, we gather here because the story is not just an idle tale. We gather here because the resurrection of Jesus is what gives us life.

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] Amen.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15: 57

Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Luke 24: 1-12