The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day
20 April 2014
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
One of the things I really admire about the Harry Potter books is that they take death seriously. It may seem like a funny thing to say about a children’s book, but to me it is a striking element of J. K. Rowling’s universe that death is final. For all the magic in the world, no spell, no charm, no potion, no precious object can reverse death. Even the most foul of magical objects, the hoarcrux, can only keep death at bay and the Resurrection Stone can only return people to a pale imitation of life in the flesh, barely a half-life. Harry’s parents are dead and will not return to their bodies. Sirius Black, perhaps my favourite character in the series, will not pass back through the archway in the sinister Death Chamber in the Department of Mysteries and tell Harry that he was only hiding. There is no return to life for Dumbledore’s broken body after the double blow of the Killing Curse and his fall from the Astronomy Tower. Death is real. Death hurts. Death comes at the hands of those who reject Love. Death comes to those who embrace Love in its fulness. Death is part of being human, it is part of the reality that we are not God.
And yet in the world of Harry Potter—just as in our world—there is one power greater than death. There is one power, one kind of magic, that triumphs over death and brings healing, reconciliation, and new life. Indeed, for the Christ-life figure of Harry himself, this magic brings resurrection, resurrection that gives those whom he loves a protection and a shield from the powers of death. This is the magic that “the Dark Lord knows not.” This is the magic that Voldemort underestimates, deems weak. This magic is, of course, Love. Love, generous, unbounded, self-giving Love is the power that saves Harry from death as an infant. Love, self-giving, generous, unselfish Love is the power that allows Harry to walk right up to Voldemort at the end of the last book and lay his life down for his friends. Love is the power that allows him to survive again. Love is the power that shields those whom he loves.
Love defeats the powers of sin and death. Love beats death every time. While the death of our physical bodies in this life is a reality, the unalterable reality upon which Rowling insists throughout her series, God has the power to transform that death into something new. Indeed we affirm that in death life is changed not ended. This is our hope in the resurrection. Love endures death. Our souls, the essence of our very selves in relationship to God, endures beyond physical death and we are assured of life with our God, life entwined and enmeshed with Love’s very self. Just as Harry discovered, the dead whom we love remain with us, a part of us, they exist in our memories and in our hearts, in our very souls.
What that will look and feel like for us when it is our turn, I have no idea. But I do know that Love is our past. It is our present. It is our future. Love will never let us go. Love will hold us fast. Yes, we can resist. We can pretend that this isn't true and that there is nothing out there beyond our own subjective experience in the here and now. It does not change the fact that Love is real, that Love exerts a pull on our souls, our hearts, our minds, and is constantly luring us, coaxing us into deeper and deeper connection with each other and with itself. Love is real. Love is powerful. Love always has the last word.
This is what the Harry Potter books have been teaching us and our children. For almost a generation they have been the most potent ambassadors into our culture of the power of Love, specifically the power of Love to defeat death, the power of the Christian Story, of the real nature of Resurrection, of the message and reality of the Easter we celebrate today. All those folks who got hot under the collar about witchcraft and magic missed the whole point. Magic is real. Yes, magic can not simply solve our problems and give us what we want whenever we want it. We can not simply wish something into being. We can not wave our magic wands and make something we don’t like disappear, or even more to the point, disappear ourselves when we become uncomfortable or get into trouble. Mark my words, however, magic is real.
Magic is the Holy Spirit. It is Living Water, the Breath of Life. It is the Divine spark that runs through creation. It is that which energises and moves us. It is coaxing us into relationship with itself and with each other. We can see it or we can pretend it doesn't exist. It is real and has power and is inside and all around us. Magic is Love and Love is Magic. It is that one thing in the world that can defeat the power death has over us. It is the one thing in the cosmos strong enough to knit us together with each other and with God in an eternal bond that will never be broken.
On Good Friday Jesus hung from the cross, made himself supremely vulnerable, opened himself to the worst that humankind could muster, which was nothing short of the rejection of Love itself. There in that moment, he showed himself still open to receiving the Love of God and to offering it back into the world. He showed that the death to which he was condemned had no power to inhibit his Love offered to the world. The death on Good Friday, the real death he suffered in and of itself showed the triumph of Love over death. We Christians on this day, this Easter Day, however, affirm that God in Christ accomplished more than this. We affirm that God’s Love is so powerful that Jesus rose again from the dead, transfigured, changed, but still himself, in order, once-and-for-all to put death in its place.
Yes, death is real, it is a part of life, it is a part of being human. And yes, those whom we love who have died will not come back from death in the form in which they lived. Nevertheless, we affirm, Jesus teaches us and shows us, that this death, the death of our mortal bodies, is not the end. Love endures all things, transcends all things. Love is everlasting and love has powers beyond reason. This love has the power to heal and transform our sorrow and pain and, Phoenix-like, bring new life forth from the ashes. If we pay attention, if we are open, if we are receptive, if we allow ourselves to trust, we can allow our hearts and minds, allow our bodies and our souls to be infused, be permeated with Love, Love that has the power to protect us, protect us at our core, protect our very essence, that which makes us ourselves, from the worst that the world has to offer. We have a protection that will keep us connected to God and those whom we love for ever.
On this Easter Day we gather to celebrate the most powerful force in all the cosmos. We celebrate the triumph of Love. We celebrate the power of the God who is identified with Love to bring forth new life from death, to turn our sorrows, and heal our brokenness. We celebrate the power of the God who is identified with Love to sustain us and give us the confidence to live lives oriented to love even when the values of the world seem to conspire against this path. On this Easter Day we gather with others who believe in the power of Love to transform everything and knit us together.
I pray that as we go forth from this place today, that each of us will be filled with a renewed sense that we are bearers into time and space of the abundant, generous Love of God that we have received here, received in the gathered community, received in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, received from the God of Love. May we all know and feel that magical Love pulsing through us, brimming forth from us, and be open to sharing that love with the world.
Andrew C. Blume✠
New York City
Palm Sunday, 13 April 2014
© 2014 Andrew Charles Blume