The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day
21 April 2019
O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Right at the beginning of Lent, about six weeks ago, we heard the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. In the central moment from that episode, the devil “took [Jesus] up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.’” What Jesus is specifically being offered is rule over a share of an earthly kingdom—the Roman Empire, in fact, with its vast network of political and economic human power over which the devil has real authority. And while the event is framed as a special vision seen in a “moment of time,” the kingdom of the devil, is nonetheless established in the real world as a rival to that of God, with different priorities, different aims.1 Jesus makes it clear with what kingdom he stands: “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Jesus will not betray his Father and make himself a king like the corrupt and self-interested rulers of the world. He will not align himself with the powers that stand in opposition to God, in opposition to justice and love.
Over and over in the last few weeks we have seen that Jesus offers us both a vision and the reality of a different form of kingship, a different way of ordering society, one in line with the aims of the unfolding kingdom of God. In parables we met on the one hand the forgiving father who welcomed back his lost son, who receives back into the fold those who have wandered away and who seek reconciliation, and on the other the Lord of the vineyard who will not hesitate to unseat the corrupt leaders who mishandle the gifts they have been given and who stand in opposition to God’s work. On Palm Sunday we welcomed the “king who comes in the name of the Lord,” the peacemaker, who was hailed as such at his birth by the angels, and here in this moment spontaneously by the people who see something wonderful unfolding. And on Maundy Thursday we met the king who washes feet. The king who also humbles himself and shows that what he does, all he does, in fact, is deeply rooted in service. Jesus is the king who serves, and even in his final moments on the cross creates relationships and proclaims forgiveness. Jesus is the king who in being completely open to receiving the love of God pours it forth into the world, not for his own sake, not for the demonstration of his own power and largess, but for the benefit of the whole world, for us.
In public and in private, in large and small ways, Jesus revealed himself in his ministry to be something new, something amazing, something at once threatening to authority steeped in the preservation of their own power and appealing to the people who are suffering and oppressed. What he showed the world—in the refusal of earthly power and in his exercise of divine authority projected in the direction of justice and love for all, especially those on the margins—caused those threatened by him to place him upon that cross and to see him die the humiliating death of a criminal.
Today on Easter morning we learn that nothing on earth, that nothing that human can do can stand in the face of this tidal unfolding of God’s kingdom. Indeed the worst humans can do, taking the Son of God and killing him on the cross because in the peaceful, non-violent exercise of his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing, his vision (and more than that his power and authority) threatened the existing power structures of an empire, this is nothing in the face of God’s monumental love for creation, God’s purposeful movement in which “He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.”
On this morning God in Christ has defeated death itself and showed us that his kind of kingship—the king who brings peace, who welcomes the outcast and the penitent, who washes feet, and who personally serves his people—is the true way for us. It is both our pattern for how we follow and how we lead and a promise to us that whatever adversity, oppression, corruption, hatred we face in this moment can and will be turned by God into something new, something founded and based in the Love of God.
This morning we encounter the empty tomb, discovered not by Jesus’ male disciples, but by the women who had come to minister to Jesus’ body “with the spices they had prepared,” to offer him the kind of love and attention he had showed to them and to all whom he met. What they found were the angels who reminded them that Jesus himself had told them that “the Son of man must be handed over to sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day rise,” and they returned to the disciples to share this news with them. Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus defeat of death itself was first attested not by the powerful, not even by the eleven remaining disciples, but by these faithful women. This is the work of the new king, the peacemaker and reconciler. Today it is our task to go from this place and proclaim in whatever way we can best do it—in word or in deed—that the king who comes in the name of the Lord is risen and brings peace and reconciliation to a broken world, that he has defeated the powers of corruption and death and charges us, empowers us, authorises us to minister in his name.
Andrew Charles Blume✠
New York City
Holy Saturday, 20 April 2019
© 2019 Andrew Charles Blume