Hope and Emptiness
Several years I ago I preached an Easter Vigil sermon on Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. There were several visitors in the congregation, as there always are on Easter and Christmas. I didn’t think any more about that service or the sermon until a week or so later when I received a letter from a man, another pastor, who had been visiting us that night. He commented that he’d just lost his mother, and that the sermon on the empty tomb had given him a hope and comfort that he hadn’t been able to find. I pulled that sermon out of the file and reread it, but could find nothing that would account for his response. I wasn’t especially surprised; it wasn’t the first time someone had heard something deeply meaningful for them that I’d simply never said! The heart has a way, guided by the Spirit, of hearing what it needs to hear.
But the letter did cause me to think more deeply about emptiness and hope. Emptiness always seems to be depicted as a negative space and a negative way of being. Emptiness often carries a sense of lacking – something is missing that should be there. It’s often dreaded as a kind of barrenness that needs to be filled with anything we can find.
Emptiness, though, can be many other things. It can signify potential – a space waiting for accomplishment of something graced and blessed. It can be a time of quiet when nothing is pushing at the doors of our consciousness and demanding our attention. It can be the time “in between”—time we can fill with rest—or with restlessness. Emptiness can be a gift of space that can mean refreshment and renewal and regeneration. And in the midst of emptiness we might find hope…..if we’re not afraid to live in the emptiness.