Friday, May 1, 2009

It's STILL Easter!

The Resurrection, Cookham - (1923-7)
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Indeed he is still risen. Easter lasts for 50 days and even after that, Christ is still risen.
But so what? Over at Liturgy- "Lent Prepares for Easter...Yea right" there is an interesting discussion on the challenge of keeping Easter for 50 days.

It's very similar to the Christmas - once Christmas Day, comes, it's over and we are on to something else. By 7 pm you can't even find a Christmas carol on the radio. Of course people are sick of Christmas because they have skipped Advent and become celebrating Christmas in November if not sooner.

The problem with Easter however, is a little different in nature. Most churches don't skip Lent. We get into Lent. There is midweek worship, soup suppers, Lenten disciplines and the like. And then Holy Week and the Triduum, more worship, more prayers, more spiritual reflection. And then Bam Boom - One day of lilies, pretty dresses, rousing hymns, a ham dinner and it's back to life as usual.

I spend a lot of energy reminding folks that we can't ignore the cross. Ours is a Theology of the Cross, not one of Glory. But we worship a crucified AND risen Lord. Both those aspects of Christ are crucial. We cannot ignore the cross. Christ suffered and died a human death. We cannot gloss over or ignore the fact that his life and teachings put him in opposition to the ways of the world and led him straight to the cross.

But the story doesn't end there. If the story of our faith ended on the cross, we would have no faith. It would just be another tragic story of a good man who tried to fight evil in this world and was killed for his efforts. We would have no reason to hope in this world. We would have no reason to take on evil in this wolrd because our story would be a story of good defeated by evil.

Or at best we would have a faith that had nothing to do with this world ---we would give up on this world as lost to evil and would have nothing to hope for but to die ourselves and go to heaven.

In fact this is the spirituality of many Christians - they see nothing redeemable in this world and are just waiting to get to heaven, when the all the good stuff happens.

See, much as we may try, it is impossible to avoid the cross in this world. We understand suffering and death. We may not like it, but we get it. So it's easy to get into Lent and Holy Week. We understand Good Friday.

Resurrection, that's another story. Part of the problem is what N.T. Wright writes about in his book, "Surprised by Hope - Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". I haven't finished this book but already it has had an impact on my preaching. The problem is that we Christians have lost the biblical witness of the bodily resurrection. We think the next life has nothing to do with this life. We don't need to worry much about this nasty old fleshy world because our souls are going to fly away to spiritual realm that has nothing to do with this life.

If that's true, what is the point of the incarnation? Why would God take on human flesh and enter this world and human history? No, I think God has invested way too much in his creation he called "Good" for us to give up on it.

I agree with Wright, that Jesus' resurrection is a bodily one. He was born into a body - he died in a body and he rose in body. He was born into human history and he rose in human history. That's always been crucial to me - it wasn't just a "spiritual" resurrection. The essence of the Incarnation is God entering human history, bringing the Kingdom into this world.

I am with Updike and his poem "Seven Stanzas of Easter":
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable,
a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

Easter is the colliding to heaven and earth. When God raised Jesus he brought the future Kingdom into

this world. Easter means New Life starts today, in this world – not in the next.

It’s almost beyond our imagination – like the disciples in Luke 24 we are almost “disbelieving for joy” – it seems too good to be true. We need these 50 days of Easter to take it all in.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Oh fill us Lord with dauntless love;
Set heart and will on things above
That we conquer through your triumph;
Grant grace sufficient for life’s day
That by our lives we truly say
Christ has triumphed! He is living!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!


  1. I don't know whether this got through, so a trying again. I used to not be able to deal with the Resurrection at all; I was too crushed by the guilt of Jesus' having had to die for me. But that has gradually changed, although even now I don't quite dare focus on the events of Holy Week as much as I should like, just in case.

    A few years ago, I wrote, in a sermon: "If we just look on the Resurrection as an event in history, then no matter how much we believe it, we aren’t making the most of it. Christ was not raised for his benefit, although that too. He was raised for our benefit. For your benefit. For my benefit. Because of the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit can come and indwell us, heal us and enable us. Because of the Resurrection, our sins, which Christ took upon himself on the Cross, have not only been forgiven, they’ve been totally disposed of. Let’s not waste the Resurrection. Let’s allow God to come and indwell us through his Holy Spirit, to help us work through our doubts to a more secure faith, to heal us where we need healing, and to make us whole. Who knows, we might be in for an exciting time!"

  2. Have you read Wright's book on the Resurrection? Because I think he challenges us to go even further than the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as individuals, although that is true - that there is a new world coming...

  3. I don't think I have read that. But, of course, the Resurrection was/is for the whole world, not just individuals, although them too... the world is redeemed, I think.