Easter Day – April 16, 2017
So, what did Jesus come for? Was it to give us less death or to give us life? To give us less death or to give us life?
While the answer to that question may seem obvious, we live in a society that is obsessed with less death. What do I mean by that? We are focused on having less of what we don’t want. We are consistently coming up with new ways to prevent something – think about all of the prevention programs that exist such as crime prevention, child abuse prevention, etc. They are all designed to prevent bad things from happening.
Less death or life? This is where perspective comes in. How do we see the world? Having a resurrection perspective of the world can make a difference. So how do we turn from “less death” struggles to discovering and growing what is life-giving?
In our gospel reading this morning, the women, when confronted by the divine messenger and the news that Christ has been raised, “left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy”. Isn’t that a wonderful reminder that fear and joy are not opposites but, as with doubt and faith, can be experienced at the same time and, and actually, might be inseparable? Fear seems to be “in the air” these days and for all kinds of reasons. Jesus’ resurrection does not spell an end to fear for those who follow him, but instead makes it possible to experience joy in the middle of what might otherwise be crippling fear. So, I’m saying that resurrection doesn’t simply answer or end problems — it creates something new. Christian faith does not remove us from the hardships, limitations, and challenges of this life. What it does is create for us possibilities that simply would not be available had God not intervened, first in the raising of Jesus and again by entering into our own lives.
“Christ is Risen,” is an invitation to lay hold to the resurrection power of Jesus to see more possibilities in the people and situations around us than others might see. So many people today will sit down to tense dinner tables, or to an uncertain employment future, or to a continuation of illness with no end in sight, or the loneliness of having endured the end of an important relationship. Christ’s resurrection does not wash those realities away, it makes it possible to experience joy in the midst of them as God continues to create something new.
The resurrection of Christ creates the possibility to do spontaneously and joyfully what otherwise would be impossible. Might we recognize that the Christian answer to fear is not simply comfort but also invitation to a life of courage? That participation and purpose are some of the gifts of the resurrection? That we are not simply longing to hear “it will be okay,” but “here is the life and work God is giving you”? That we might face the challenges before us with confidence and address the problems we will encounter with courage and joy, knowing that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is not done yet. Not done with the world God loves so much, and not done with us, the children of God, who God also loves so much.
Perspective means resurrection makes a difference beyond the call of the trumpets, the scent of the spring lilies, and a day on the calendar that demands church attendance. It’s the kind of stance that says this day will matter tomorrow, the next day, and the next week. It’s the kind of viewpoint that enables moving about in life able to call attention to resurrection moments, resurrection experiences, or those instances when resurrection changes how you might interpret the world.
In times like these, we don’t just need resurrection moments. We need resurrection interpreters. We need those persons willing to make sense of the world in ways that call attention to God’s sense. We need believers who will say, “what you see is not what has to be.” We need disciples, like Mary, to name what the world sees and then name how the resurrection enables us to see the world differently.
Easter isn’t over. That resurrection wasn’t a once-and-done historical aberration but reflects the dynamic and ongoing nature and work of the God we meet in Christ. Karl Barth once said that “the goal of human life is not death, but resurrection.” That does not mean that death is not a fearsome reality, only that it does not have the final word. The promise of the resurrection is not simply what God has done, but what God is still doing, still leading us forward into new life and possibility and forgiveness and love.
And who can better understand the cross than the man who chose it? Who better to hold us close in our loneliness than the man who was left to suffer all alone? Nobody, not one human being on this earth understands a dark Friday more than Jesus, well before anyone thought to put a “Good” in front of it.
I believe in the resurrection, I believe it will come when I am stuck in a Good Friday perspective. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible – evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Good Friday and Holy, in between Saturday existence without fear that Easter Sunday won’t come. It will come. However, the way it looks, the way it will look, almost always surprises me. So I watch for the angel on the tombstone.
Easter is not over, it is on-going, and perhaps the best response for 21st century Christians to make to that good news is the 1st century response, “Christ is risen, indeed!” Alleluia! Happy Easter!