Every Riven Thing
A Sermon on at Easter Sunrise Worship
Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. They were perplexed. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing.
The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One, the Son of Man, must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Then they remembered his words. When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.
Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, an idle tale, and they didn’t believe the women. But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, amazed and wondering what had happened. —Luke 24:1–12
O God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts, be holy and acceptable to you, our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
This story turns on a dime. It flips. It moves us from brokenness to repair, from death to life, from sorrow to amazement.
It’s not just that the story flipped. The story flipped once they remembered. It wasn’t just the tomb broken open that made them run; it was the men in gleaming bright clothing who asked them to remember. It was remembering that caused them to rush back. To run away from the tomb. They remembered: Jesus had already said not to look for the living among the dead. It just took two men dressed in light to jog their memory.
And so they ran. Here in Luke, this isn’t fearful running. It is more of a darting run. A rush.
Like when you see a person, not quite decked out in running clothes, racing down the street.
You wonder, did they go out to run, wearing that? Or maybe they just got some news, and then need to run to tell someone. And you wonder, is it good news, or bad news that they are running to tell?
And so, this is a run to tell, a run to remember. They need to tell their fellow Christ followers the tomb is broken open, they remember, do not look for the living among the dead.
Yet, so quickly, the ones they tell dismiss their story. Our gospel writer, Luke, is setting us up to see that these women are credible, qualified witnesses, but for the disciples, in the moment, the story is only incredible. Surely an idle tale.
You can understand that, right? The broken-open tomb is too much to bear. It is too much, especially for Peter. Peter spent all night into Friday denying Jesus. Disowning Jesus three times before the cockcrow. And so, if there was any hope that Jesus was not among the dead, but among the living, he needed to see for himself, no idle tale would do. And so, Peter ran. Like a baton passed in a relay race of good news, Peter runs toward the tomb.
Maybe you are a runner, too. Running from the tomb. Running to the tomb. Running to tell someone that the stone was rolled away, that “Christ is risen, indeed.” Or maybe you are running to find out if it was true—that the tomb has been broken open, that death has been defeated. More likely we run for less regal reasons; running to earn our next piece of chocolate cake, running to de-stress, running to care for our ever-aging body.
Yesterday, there were no less than 4 bunny related races—Chicago’s Bunny Rock, Libertyville’s Bunny Wabbit Run, Palos Heights’ Chocolate Chase Rabbit Race, Wauconda’s Bunny Hop.
We are running people—every holiday, an excuse to move our bodies, to pump our arms, to feel the burn in our quads, to let our feet fly by until…our noses drip and our eyes water and our cheeks burn and our lungs explode and our blood pumps with frenzy and passion until we come as close as possible to unassisted flight.
And yet, do we run an Easter morning run? The run toward hope? The run toward life? The run toward the broken-open tomb? Before Easter, before we see the promises of the empty tomb, we run to seek perfection, to shun all flaws, to be free from defect, to thrive for the most refined, the most fit. In our pre-Easter run, we give into the pressure to appear effortlessly perfect, smart, accomplished, beautiful, and popular, all without visible struggle.
Yet, on Easter morning, something changes. We don’t give up hope, but we give up hoping for perfection. We don’t give up freedom, but we give up on freedom from flaw. We see again that while we might want God’s power to be like the rev of a V-8 engine, or the flex of a muscle, instead, our Easter morning run reveals that God’s power is in lowliness, here the first shall be last and the most honored guest is the servant, and the one who gives life must first die.
On our Easter morning run, we meet God in the upside down quality of the kingdom of God.
Easter promises are like this ancient Japanese practice, an approach to ceramics that goes like this: when a cup or a bowl or a dish is damaged, it should not be thrown away, but instead, should be given special respect, proper attention. The practice is called Kintsugi, which means, “to join with gold.” The broken pieces are gathered up and glued back together with a special lacquer that is infused with gold powder. The fault-lines, where the bowl has been broken, become bold and strong, golden and beautiful. In this way, the breaks themselves are given merit, a place of honor.
I wish someone had told me this about Kintsugi when I was eight and I broke my grandfather’s back scratcher. It might not have been that big of a deal, it’s hard to say. But I was little, and I felt really bad. After I broke it, once it was there in two pieces, I learned that it had been his mother’s. I remember later, seeing it haphazardly repaired and then eventually replaced. The new back scratcher was inferior in every way, mostly because it had not been my great grandmother’s. Could the original, the one I broke, been repaired with gold? Could the broken pieces have made it more beautiful—a link between grandchild and the great-grandmother she never knew?
But it’s more than family heirlooms, isn’t it? It is about this resurrection hope—the breaking in, the breaking through of God. It is about God repairing the world in all its brokenness with gladness, with gold. The dazzling gold of a sunrise, the unbearable gold of goodness that comes after loss, the sunning beauty that is melded together from tragedy, the community that forms locally and internationally in every kind of earthly human brokenness. With an Easter theology that adopts Kintsugi, we know the world as Earnest Hemingway puts it in A Farewell to Arms, “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, many are strong at the broken places.” Or, as playwright Eugene O’Neill puts it, “Humans are born broken. They live by mending. The grace of God is the glue” And here, in Kintsugi, a golden glue.
On our Easter morning run, we learn that the tomb is broken open. That death is defeated, that life emerges from the brokenness of Friday’s unbearable sorrow, from the shadows, from the shards, from what is broken and damaged, from what is scared and vulnerable.
The mythical order of the world is broken, the perishable becomes imperishable, the dishonored one is honored, the weak one becomes the most powerful.
The whole orderly mess is undone, and we are reigned over by the one who serves, we are saved by the one who dies, we are embraced by the one who was brought low.
What is riven, what is broken, what is torn asunder is not, the resurrection says, done for. Christ is crucified, Christ is risen, and the one on the cross could not remain on in the grave.
So, go on an Easter morning run. Repair your broken dishes with gold. This is, for us, why we sing out “Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Indeed.” In the resurrection hope, God runs with us towards the hope of good news, toward empty tombs, not because of our perfection, but because in our brokenness, God repairs us with gold. It is Leonard Cohen’s “broken hallelujah.” It is our weekly hope, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Easter story begins, not with shouts of hallelujah, but with burial herbs. It begins with the recycled human mantra that death comes from death, that the end is of course, only the end. But, the Easter story turns on a dime. The Easter story begins with burial herbs because ultimately Jesus’ suffering is embedded in our resurrection story, and the burial herbs that are left behind point us from death to life.
We might be tempted to say that on Easter Sunday, God is in power and kingship and perfection and power, even the power to undo every brokenness and imperfection. But, what I hope is here today in this perfect sunrise is God’s power, not in what we might call power, but in what we might call weakness, in what Bonhoeffer calls “the suffering God,” and in what Christian Wiman calls “Every Riven Thing.”
Christian Wiman is a poet, a profession that both sought him out and which he chose for himself. He was twenty when he decided he would take his muse and try to make a go of it. By the time he was thirty-two, a publisher said “yes” to a printed collection of his poetry. By the time he was thirty-seven, he was asked to serve as the editor of Poetry Magazine. But in those last years of his thirties, his poetry waned.
His poetry dried up just as he was falling in love with his wife, and just as he was being diagnosed with a rare, mysterious form of blood cancer, a cancer that was at once unpredictable and incurable.
He grew up a Texas Baptist, but spent much of his adult life more agnostic than not. But in this period without poetry, when his pen was dry and his cancer was fierce, Christian Wiman became actively religious again.
It was three years before he would write another poem, and it began with this poem, a poem that flowed out of him without warning as he sat down at his desk. It is called “Every Riven Thing” and that word riven is an ancient daring word, a resurrection word, I might say, a word that means broken, it means shattered or wounded or unhealed, torn apart, sundered. To me, it is a resurrection poem, a poem that connects us to one another, as part of what binds us together with gold to every other broken thing in this, God’s creation. And so, I will end with this.
God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why
God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where
God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see
God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,
God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.
 The School of Life. Eastern Philosophy – Kintsugi. Youtube. February 12, 2016.
 Krista Tippet, On Being. An interview with Christian Wiman, “A Call to Doubt and Faith, and Remembering God.” May 23, 2013.
 Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing: Poems. (2010) 24.