Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter Sunday

"But these words seemed to them an idle tale."

They weren't the last to wonder if Easter is simply a fairy tale. You hear TV personalities referring to Jesus as a "zombie." Or there are people who write deeply ideological books passed off as "history" who claim to "prove" that Jesus never existed, much less rose from the dead.

Still others, while affirm that, yes, Jesus did, in fact exist, say that resurrection couldn't have happened.. Some folks say that Jesus walking out the tomb under God's power after being dead for three days is simply too incredible to be believed by rational, thinking, people. They say that it's impossible to open one's eyes after the body has shut down and after the heart stops beating.

So folks say that the resurrection only took place in the minds of the delusional or deceptive. Either the gospel writers were using a metaphor, a literary device borrowed from other cultures, a myth to tell a pointed tale, rather than reporting an actual fact. Or they were just making the story up to justify the new religion that'd created. These words, seemed, to them, an idle tale.

While much of the bible is, in fact, literary. I tend to believe the gospel writers were both reporting fact and telling a story. While it's not my intention to somehow "prove" the historical accuracy of the gospel stories, because I don't think that's their point. The point of the gospels is to bear witness to what God has done in their lives. And we can go back and forth, arguing over the evidence, offering solid proof for the resurrection's truthyness. But Luke doesn't do that. Luke just proclaims what has been reported to him. And he was probably convinced of the resurrection, not through rational argument, but through the changed behaviour of the disciples. Their lives bore witness to what they had seen. They had gone from grief to joy, from a crowd of scattered cowards to a courageous community. For among them, Christ has risen indeed.

We hear that Easter is NOT just about a dead man opening his eyes. Easter is NOT just about our sins being forgiven. Easter is NOT just about the miracle of victory in the midst of defeat.

Easter is about God's firm commitment to LIFE. Easter is about how God wants life to thrive in the world. Easter is about how God wants everything to be made new.

Wherever life emerges in the midst of death, there is Easter. It is there that Christ is Risen.

Wherever people reach out to others, withdrawing from self-interest, there is Easter. It is there that Christ is Risen.

Wherever hungry bellies are filled, wherever tears are wiped dry, wherever the grieving are comforted, there is Easter. It is there that Christ is Risen.

Wherever justice triumphs over oppression, wherever the weak are lifted up and proud de-throned, there is Easter. It is there that Christ is Risen.

Or, I like how second century preacher, Melito of Sardis puts it in his Easter sermon. A full-throated proclamation of what God has done today in Jesus, he thunders to his congregation:

And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed.

Who was it?

It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling.
But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled!

He who hung the earth in place is hanged.
He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.
He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree.

The Sovereign is insulted.
God is murdered.
The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand.

But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven.
When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity,
and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer,
and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned,
and had been judged for the sake of the condemned,
and buried for the sake of the one who was buried,
he rose up from the dead,
and cried aloud with this voice:

Who is it who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me.
I set the condemned free;
I gave the dead life;
I raised up the one who had been entombed.
Who is my opponent?

I, he says, am the Christ.
I am the one who destroyed death,
and triumphed over the enemy,
and trampled Hell under foot,
and bound the strong one,
and carried off mortals to the heights of heaven,
I, he says, am the Christ.

Therefore, come, all families of the earth,
you who have been befouled with sins, receive forgiveness for your sins.
I am your forgiveness,
I am the passover of your salvation,
I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you,
I am your ransom,
I am your light,
I am your saviour,
I am your resurrection,
I am your king,
I am leading you up to the heights of heaven,
I will show you the eternal Father,
I will raise you up by my right hand.

This is the One who made the heavens and the earth,
and formed humankind in the beginning,
The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets,
The One enfleshed in a virgin,
The One hanged on a tree,
The One buried in the earth,
The One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven,
The One sitting at the right hand of the Father,
The One having all authority to judge and save,
Through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time.

This One is "the Alpha and the Omega,"
This One is "the beginning and the end"
The beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible.

This One is the Christ.
This One is the King.
This One is Jesus.
This One is the Leader.
This One is the Lord.

This One is the One who rose from the dead.
This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father.
He bears the Father and is borne by the Father.

"To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen."


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