Hope in the Empty Tomb

By Rev. Charissa Suli, Assembly National Consultant

Ke tupulekina ‘etau Tui ‘i he Otua mo vahevahe ‘a e Ofa ‘a Kalaisi – “to grow our faith in God and share the love of Christ” was the Easter theme for the Cecil Gribble Congregation in the Sydney Central Coast Presbytery.

For the first time the congregation decided they would spend Easter away from their local church setting, book a campsite and in community together explore deeper the journey of Jesus to the Cross.

Over 70 people from all generations gathered in the north of Sydney in Elanora Heights at the Uniting Venues conference centre.

From new born babies to young children, youth, young adults, parents and elderly, they gathered as I took them on a journey exploring the themes of repentance, renewal, reconciliation and resurrection over the five days of Easter.

We were also blessed to have Virginia Lavaki from the QLD Synod, Convenor of the 2nd Gen team for the Tongan National Conference, leading Bible studies for the youth and young adults. 

We also had Silverwater Prison Chaplain Rev. Nau Taitusi give a bible study on Easter Saturday and share on the joys and challenges of prison ministry and the way the Church can support this kind of ministry in the community.

The camp ran from Maundy Thursday through to Easter Monday. On the evening of Easter Sunday we joined more than 500 people for the Auburn Parish Easter Youth Rally where Moderator of NSW/ACT Synod Rev Simon Hansford preached.

The Moderator encouraged us to think - what we are going to do with this story of death and resurrection we have come to know?

The story of Jesus' death and resurrection is not a story that we just hold onto but a story that is to be proclaimed to the world and in our everyday living.

There were many stories, laughs, tears, challenges and reflections shared at Cecil Gribble about what it means for us Christians to grow our faith in God and share the love of Christ.

As I look back, what stood out for me is that often we concentrate on Good Friday and rush to Resurrection or Easter Sunday.

We often forget about Jesus being in the tomb or we don’t pay much attention to the waiting in the tomb.

This Easter I’ve been reminded that throughout our Gospels we see in the resurrection narratives individual people having profoundly individual encounters with Christ.

The encounters don’t look identical, kehekehe ‘ae fetaulaki mo Sisu.

When Peter sees the empty tomb, he runs away, lele ‘a Pita

When the beloved disciple sees it, he believes, ‘oku ne tui.  

When Mary sees it, she weeps and waits for more, tangi mo tatali….  

At different times in our lives each of us have all arrived at the empty tomb whether it be for good or bad.

Each of us arrive at the tomb bringing our own baggage, our own losses, our own hopes and expectations.

What matters then is not what you bring with you but how your encounter with the Risen Christ meets you in the messiness of your own life, fetaulaki pe a’usia ‘a Sisu toetu’u.

What matters is finding in the empty tomb the hope we need for our own struggles, losses, traumas, failures and disappointments.

I have been reminded through the generous hospitality, the faith stories and love of the people of Cecil Gribble that in order for me to grow my faith in God and share the love of Christ to the world, I must begin within myself.

For us all, we begin within the rich, fertile ground of our own hearts, in our own stories, whether it be loss or blessing. When we come to the empty tomb looking for Jesus, that’s when transformation begins as Christ is revealed to us and we hear the sound of our names, spoken in love by our Lord Jesus Christ.