The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day
16 April 2017
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.
Exodus 14:10-14, 21-25, 15:20-21
Psalm 118:14-17, 22-24
On Good Friday our guest preacher, Mother Barbara Crafton, reminded us of the stark reality of death. The essential things that we must understand about Jesus’ death on the Cross, she told us, is that it is, in fact, just like our death. His death on the Cross was painful and horrific, but in many ways no worse than the deaths many of us suffer every day. Jesus’ death is our death. Each of us will die. That is the reality of being human. It is part of what makes life so precious.
Jesus’ followers from the earliest days have insisted on the reality of Jesus’ death as essential to understanding his full humanity. We have always affirmed that Jesus was fully human: that he lived and loved and worked and suffered as does each of us. Jesus fully experienced the reality of our lives and in Jesus we have a brother who not only understands what it is to be human, but shares with us in that humanity, shares with us even unto death.
Today on Easter Day we also affirm that in response to the inevitable reality of the death of our mortal bodies, God in Christ shows us that death is not the final word. God in Christ, fully divine, rises victorious over the fully human death of his body to recreate and affirm the reality that there is another larger life in which we also participate, a life that goes on continually, a life at the core of which is Love, and to which we contribute mightily. Our human lives, what we do and how we do it, matter as we participate in this larger life. Our legacies, what we have created and left behind, whom we have loved, whose lives we have touched, participate in that larger life.
If death has the final word, then it would have made sense for Jesus to accept those things he was offered when he was tempted, to have accepted that earthly power for himself. If death has the final word, if this is all there is, it becomes easy to focus solely on ourselves, our own families, and on others like us. If death has the final word, it is easy for us to turn inward. And it is clear to me that, just from taking a hard look at our nation over the past few months, that there are people, even people who call themselves Christians, who act as if death is in the ascendent. We see a visible resurgence in discrimination and violence against minority populations, of a reluctance to welcome strangers and refugees, of a willingness to weaken the safety net for the most vulnerable among us. These are clear examples of what it looks like to believe that death is more powerful than love. This is what it might have looked like if the story ended with placing Jesus’ body in the tomb.
This Lent we read stories of Jesus, in his life and ministry, rejecting the ascendency of death, rejecting a narrow view of what truly matters. Jesus offers a place in the kingdom where love triumphs over death both to the privileged and highly educated Pharisee, Nicodemus, and to the unnamed Samaratan woman who came to the well at midday to avoid the judgement of her neighbours. Jesus heals the blind beggar, even on the sabbath, rejecting the idea that disability is somehow the result of sin, but part of what is to be human, at the same time showing the power of God, to show that he is the light of the world. And yes, Jesus raises from the dead his friend Lazarus as a sign of the glory of God, as a sign that those who share the faith of Christ will have everlasting life.
But more than this, Jesus showed us in his life and ministry, the risky ministry of love, the ministry that brought him into conflict with authority, that the death he was dealt by the powerful is nothing in the face of Love and that it has the power to transform the whole world. As he promised, Jesus lived out his humanity to the end, unto death, and then returned to his friends, transformed, transfigured, himself, but more than himself. The empty tomb and the community that encountered the risen Christ and became transformed themselves by that experience, shows us that death does not have the final word, that there is more, that there is Resurrection life for all of us.
Resurrection life, the living water of which Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, is vital and powerful. We share in it through our Baptism and our participation in this Eucharistic community in which we are constantly reincorporated into the Body of Christ. Resurrection life, the life in which death does not have the final word, calls us to care for more then just ourselves and those like us. It calls us into a larger life, a life in which we truly love one another, even those outside these walls, even those whom we have never met, even those who look and sound and act different from us.
So yes, death is real, but so is the Resurrection that we celebrate this morning. The joy of Easter is the joy of knowing that evil and sin and death, as real as they are, as painful as they can be, and as powerful as they can seem, are put in their place, put in perspective in the face of the risen Christ. Love is that to which we are called, unity with God in Christ, this morning in the sacrament we receive, and every day out in the world as we take up the Cross, turning that symbol of death into one of hope and new life.
Andrew Charles Blume✠
New York City
Holy Saturday, 15 April 2017
© 2017 Andrew Charles Blume