Monday, April 13, 2015

The joy of the Resurrection renews the whole world

Over the next few days I will be sharing with you some inspiring quotes about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Of course, Easter is a celebration of his resurrection as an historical event. The tomb really was empty! But is is much more a celebration that he is alive today and for evermore. It is also a celebration of OUR resurrection. I don't mean just the one we look forward to on the Last Day when the Lord shares the fulness of his victory over death with us (although that's well worth celebrating in advance!). I mean the reality of our having been plunged into the dying and rising of Jesus in the miracle of our baptism . . . joined to him, and now sharing his risen life - even in THIS world - so as be able to meet all our joys and sorrows, not in our own strength, but in the supernatural power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Remember last Sunday's Epistle in which St Paul said to the early Christians (and to you and me!) "If you, then, be raised with Christ . . . " (Colossians 3:1).

There really is no story about the Resurrection in the New Testament. Except in the most fragmentary way, it is not described at all. There is no poetry about it. Instead, it is simply proclaimed as a fact. Christ is risen! In fact, the very existence of the New Testament itself proclaims it. Unless something very real indeed took place on that strange, confused morning, there would be no New Testament, no Church, no Christianity. 
- Frederick Buechner, in The Magnificent Defeat 

How fair and lovely is the hope 
which the Lord gave to the dead 
when He laid down like them beside them. 
Rise up and come forth 
and sing praise to Him 
who has raised you from destruction. 
- From the Syrian Orthodox Liturgy

Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.

How can these things be said, and sung, and celebrated, as they will be by countless millions this Easter? Only because the blotting out of life by death is not the horizon. The definitive line is not drawn there. From that nothingness and darkness and the seeming triumph of the darkest powers of evil, new life was born, a new creation came to be. On Easter morning a tomb was found empty, a stone rolled away, and a new order broke into the world. The Easter stories of the Gospels are not about “the resurrection of relics”, but about an amazing new life and transfiguration. It is not the resurrection of a principle but of a person, who calls us by name. In St John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene hears the calling of her name by the risen Christ, though blinded by her tears she thinks Him to be the gardener. Clutching his feet she tries to pin him down, to shut him up in the old order, but he tells her not to touch, not to seek to hold down his risen life. She is to go and tell the Good News of resurrection, that all may be drawn into the ascending energy of the love of God.

Jesus breathes on His disciples His life-giving Spirit, the divine life of the new creation. “Go and live that life, live out that love”, for “Christ is risen and the demons are fallen”. The principalities and powers are dethroned. They have no ultimate control of our lives. From the nothingness of death and the absence of God and meaning, Christ rises in triumph and love’s redeeming work is done.

- Bishop Geoffrey Rowell (b. 1943), in The Sunday Times  8/4/2007


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