At this third mass of Easter –to the latecomers to the party – you’re welcome, forgive us if the ‘hard core Christians’ are a bit jaded – we continue to rejoice that Christ has risen from the dead.
But what does that mean?
Well, as I say, each year, I’m sure its not about eggs, or bunnies, or even any contrived media stories about people using or not using the word “Easter” to flog their secular activities, products or services.
What it is, what it means, is about us: who we are, what being a Christian is about, and what we can become. In short it is about worship, mission and service.
Jesus’ resurrection: his physical rising from the dead and emergence from the tomb is central to all of this. This is our enfleshed God in majesty amongst us. This is the God who shares our lot, gives his life and brings the fullness of his glory into the world. Our response – the only fitting response to that seismic event which has shaped so much of history, is to worship him. That’s after all what this place is for. Not for when we feel like it, not just for the big days, not just for when its convenient or in the style we like. No, for every day.
That’s what being a Christian is, that’s what Easter reminds us of. That’s what we renewed last night. That’s what we continue to celebrate today: that Jesus’ rising from the dead empowers us every single day – for our vocation is to be lived out every single day. The brilliance of the light of Easter casts away the darkness of the excuses we proffer as to why that shouldn’t be the case. And we need to wake up to that reality. It’s time to re-prioritise what we do.
Easter is about radical transformation. A dead man walks. And if a dead man lives again then with God, truly nothing is impossible. We can, if we want, become absolutely the people God knows we can be. And the joy of the Easter celebration give us that kick in the backside we often need to start to realise that potential when we walk with Jesus.
That’s not though a gift given to us for our personal collection for display in our own corner cabinet of faith. The resurrection life – lived out through the witness and ministry of the Church (yes – that’s you as well as me) is a gift to be shared – the original gift that keeps on giving.
The Christian, Catholic and apostolic faith we witness to isn’t like a fragile egg to be protected and cosseted, conserved and mummified. It is a living organic vehicle for the transformation of the world. We just need to start with our own patch, first.
The news spreads. The first witnesses rush to tell others – there is an urgency to the message, the Good News of the resurrection. That is as true for us today – as it was for them then. As witnesses and heralds of the resurrection today – as those who, through baptism are conjoined in apostolic life and mission, it’s our job to tell others about Jesus – not anyone elses, and we cannot, dear friends, slink away into the past belief that someone else is responsible for that! The evangelisation of the world, this country, this town, this parish, this church is our job – yours and mine, and we are not proper Christians if we refuse to engage with that work – or hope we can delegate it, or buy someone else to do it all for us.
We have to show up, roll up our sleeves and get on with it. Not because it helps the numbers, puts bums on seats, pays the quota, or makes me look good (though all of those things are incidentally true – particularly the last point). We do this because it’s our way of saying thank you to God for what he offers us: life and life in its fullness.
But we can’t just tell people. Words are not enough. We have to show people in acts of loving service that Jesus resurrection from the dead makes a difference, in world which needs to hear and see and experience that as much today as ever it has.
And yes, that costs. It costs us time and effort, it costs us physically and mentally, it costs us personally and financially, it costs us because good things don’t come cheap – our sacrifice is but a pale reflection of the sacrifice God has made, his Son died. What did we give back?
The world we inhabit does not enjoy many of the securities we enjoy here. Yet if we, who are rich in every way shut ourselves away, parochialise our faith, and diminish our witness it is as though we are yet to emerge from the tomb, unable to learn how to actually live because we are still spiritually dead.
Yes, we live in fast changing and uncertain times. The tectonic plates of society, politics, justice, security and faith change: but they always have. If we cry out: the world is changing, then the answer is: it always has. We cannot stop that change: it always has been so.
That is driven by the resurrection, the constant though, is Jesus, his revelation is Hope.
One of our Church Wardens lent me earlier this year a copy of a book of speeches Barak Obama made in his journey from local politician to president. Some of the oratory is simply magnificent – and I hope my American friends here wouldn’t mind me saying that that’s something from a country where many politicians couldn’t find a complete sentence if they tried, let alone a whole speech that makes sense.
Whatever your political persuasion, there is an awesome phrase, a theme, he uses again and again throughout his public service. It is simply “The audacity of hope”
As the then young Senator Obama put it:
“Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: in the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, a belief in things not seen, a belief that better days lie ahead.”
Hope – so unusual to hear. Fear is usually the friend of politician and terrorist alike: the devil’s finest work. Fear obscures hope, diminishes it and seeks to silence it.
But fear never wins. Fear can be overcome. Fear can be cast out. The might and power and majesty of the resurrection is: hope casts out fear. As I sang last night at the start of our Easter celebration:
“The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride. Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled with God!”
We can, in our worship, our mission, our service give in to fear that drives us into the yesterday of our own imagination fondly half remembered; we can listen to the voice of fear that paralyses us from achieving anything; we can give in to fear and die.
Or we can walk in hope of that yet unseen, listen in hope for that yet unknown, live in hope for that yet to come – confident that our God is with us, for he has risen from the dead.
Let us, dear friends in the light of the resurrection live up to the responsibilities of our baptism and have the the audacity to worship, the audacity to witness, and the audacity to serve. As we continue our Easter celebrations let us rejoice in the superabundant audacity of hope that God has blessed us with in the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!