O Empty Tomb (An Easter Hymn)

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The following Easter hymn was written in 2005 as an assignment for a systematic theology class. The task was to write a metrical text grounded in scripture and conveying a particular theologian’s perspective on that scripture.
This text is based on John 20 in which Mary, Peter, and John find Christ’s clothes in the empty tomb and are filled with confusion and despair. As they and the other disciples then begin to encounter the risen Christ, his continual offer is one of forgiveness and fellowship–“Peace be with you!”–despite their many betrayals.
The theological bent comes from Rowan Williams’ Resurrection, wherein Williams argues that the resurrection of Christ does not erase our guilty past, but instead provides a way through it. “The gospel will not ever tell us we are innocent, but it will tell us we are loved,” he writes. “Grace will remake but not undo.” The very fact that our past is not erased makes the grace of Christ’s forgiveness all the more necessary, powerful, and real.

O empty tomb, where is my Lord?
His body here no longer lies.
What vandal comes with wicked scorn
and leaves these tattered rags behind?

“Weep not, good soul, you find no theft,
Wipe clean the tears that stain your face.
The Crucified has conquered death
and greets again the human race.”

What glorious news! Rejoice, my heart,
that death could not my Lord contain!
But will his friendship he impart
when for his grief I share the blame?

“Fear not, my friend,” I hear him say.
“From death I rise with boundless love:
a love no deed can devastate,
a love no sorrow can disprove.”

Now as we dine and Christ breaks bread,
I find new purpose in my Lord:
To walk in mercy in his stead
and cast his love to all the world.

Possible hymn tunes:
     Triumphant: Truro, Duke Street
     Plaintive: Rockingham, Maryton
     Contemporary: The Water Is Wide