Then he took down the body of Jesus, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.
We keep the body of Christ here on the high altar, day by day, through the year, marked by a burning candle. It was in darkness tonight. He wasn’t there.
And so we found that after everything that had happened today, there was something left for us to do.
We went back tonight, like Joseph of Arimathea went back. We were all tired, and sore, and grieving. We were still trying to make sense of what had happened in the last twenty four hours. But we weren’t quite done yet. Just like Joseph wasn’t quite done.
In my work, sometimes I am the person who is asked to go into a room where a person has recently died and to formally confirm that they are gone. I try to wake them up. I do the things that you do to confirm that this person is not here anymore; that this is just their body. And it is just their body, but I sit with them for a couple of minutes and I try to make sure that they’re comfortable. I understand the impulse that made Joseph come back.
In this church, we receive those who have died into the sanctuary on the night before their funerals. We bring them back to this place where they belong, and here they stay, safe with God. And on All Souls Day, when we remember all our dead, we name them and we bring their names to this place, to this altar, where they stay throughout the year, safe in this beloved place, safe with God. We understand the impulse that made Joseph come back.
It’s about wanting to do right by our loved ones who have died.
And that was what we did for Jesus.
We took the empty ciborium that used to hold the essence of everything that we believed him to be and took it to the High Altar, where we keep the names of our dead safe. We lit a candle, a flicker of light in the darkness of a cavernous empty building. We left him there, with them, safe in the sanctuary of the place where we have witnessed the reality of his passion and crucifixion.
We remember Christ who at this hour lies in his tomb, and with him we remember all those who have died. We remember particularly those who have died in violence, those who have died in pain, those who have died alone, those who have died and have no one else to name them, and all those who will die tonight.
Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord.