Who Needs the Resurrection?
Last Sunday I spoke about the necessary silence of all victims. Our culture loathes hearing the voice of victims. Of course, many victims are dead and their voices are never heard. But the vast majority of victims: refugees of warfare, the poor and hungry, homeless, aged and infirm, are kept out of earshot or not allowed to speak. This is the way our human culture likes it: out of sight, out of mind.
This is what makes the Resurrection of Jesus Christ so important. Jesus, like all victims, put to death by the will of the crowds and powerful of this world, was the One and only Voice that survives and speaks to the world beyond the grave. In these weeks of Easter-tide, we, and the disciples, will be able to hear Jesus' Voice. What does he say?
When the Risen Jesus appears to his saddened, nervous, and guilt-ridden disciples in the Upper Room, the first thing he says is "Peace." He doesn't say it only once but three times!! He is giving them a fresh call to follow him (He called them once, but for three years they really didn't "get it," and, when the going got tough, and their Lord was taken into custody, they fled.) "Peace" because Jesus forgave them. And, instead of calling them to revenge his death, he says "Peace" again, and tells them to get out there and bring God's forgiveness to the world.
Jesus was alive and well, despite his wounds still showing, and he wanted them to know it. "Come over here Thomas and check out my wounds, they're real and so am I!" (When John wrote this, there were many Gnostics and Docetists who said that Jesus only appeared to die on the Cross, or that Jesus was a spiritual illusion of sorts that only "seemed" human. The truth was, Jesus was fully human, went through an agonizing death, and was now standing before them alive and talking!
Why do we need Resurrection? Bottom line: to take away our fear of death completely. God will raise us up to new life. And we no longer have to act out of the fear of our death, especially doing things that take the precious gift of life from others. And we don't have to have the last word, because the Risen Jesus speaks that word.
Problem is, the world doesn't like what the Resurrection offers or Jesus' words beyond the grave. We hate to be doormats for the evil-doing of others. We think it is better to strike first, with overwhelming force, against those who harm us. Just like Jesus didn't.
Sure, we live in hope that our deceased loved ones live with God. We really do! But that is about as far as it goes. As far as living in the real world is concerned, we can do quite nicely without the Resurrection, even while over and over again professing our belief in it. Christians have gotten alone fine without a living belief in the Resurrection. How?
Focus on the Cross. God sent Jesus to die for our sins. Try to be a good person, and when you sin, believe in Jesus' saving death, and God will forgive you and you will go to heaven when you die. Don't really need the Resurrection. Jesus accomplished our salvation when he died on the Cross.
This has worked for Christians for centuries. The Resurrection does very little for us, the living. It's just an add-on: Great for Jesus (happy for Him) and great for Uncle Ben and Aunt Betty, they were such a nice, good people. That's about it. What's wrong with that? My salvation was accomplished on the old, rugged Cross wasn't it?
What's wrong with this picture is that the Resurrection is precisely for the living! It is for the salvation of the whole world. The concern is never, like we've most often thought, about my "personal" salvation. When Jesus says: The one who believes in me, even though he/she die, will live. The word "believes" is very important. It is much more than a sincere mental act, but a radical embracing of Jesus' risen life and teaching that conquers our fear of death and all the negatives that flow from that fear, especially our lashing out at others who threaten us.
Who needs the Resurrection? We do, and the whole world, that every single day acts and makes judgments out of fear and insecurity. All belief systems, all religions, keep death in the picture and all the things necessary to keep death all bay for the greatest number of people possible (usually the strongest and wealthiest).
The Good News of the Gospel is that the Resurrection of Jesus can conquer our fear of death. Forgiveness is the sign of Resurrection. Resurrection faith helps the living get along with each other, take care of each other, and care for God's Creation for the use and enjoyment of all. It's not at all about "getting to Heaven." Resurrection is about living in a new way in love and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation now, not when we die. We can live this way with the Holy Spirit's help. The saints we revere (St. Alban, our Patron) lived in Resurrection faith, and we can too!
The Holy Eucharist, the Presence of the Risen, nourishes the Resurrection life in us, allowing us to live free from the fear of death and live courageously loving all our brothers and sisters with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar.
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