Christ is risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Let’s stop for a minute and think about how we feel when we say those words.
Whatever else we bring to the Easter table, these words have a clear joy about them.
They are celebration. And at the same time, a cheer of optimism. After the dark
contemplation of Lent, they suggest that the time for quiet whispers is over. That we are
free to shout -- these words feel like spring. As if the sun has suddenly come out after a
And yet, our gospel asks us to linger another moment in the shadow of that winter, on
the burial day of Jesus. Jesus has been taken down from the cross and laid to rest in a
tomb. The followers – the women who stood by him until the end – have gone to check
on him, to prepare for the next stage of their funeral ritual. And they discover him gone.
Mary runs to tell the disciples, who also come to check it out. And yes, they agree,
Jesus has disappeared. It all has a bit of a surreal, almost comedic sensibility to it. It’s
also more than a little depressing.
So how do we reconcile this with our feeling of joy and relief at Easter, on this morning?
Our music is joyful. The snow is melting, the days are lengthening. It feels as if
everyone is waking up. There is the promise of better times in the wind, a chance to
look forward. Do we really need to go there – back to the tomb?
Actually, we do.
The Easter story is complicated: perhaps more so than most other events in the Bible, it
asks us, as Christians, to believe in something truly miraculous. The resurrection of
Jesus Christ. And that may not be easy, especially these days. But how we interpret the
Easter story, how we reach our own personal truth of the events that day, how it
translates into our faith narratives, is not the most important part of the story. We can
argue about the details; about what happened when and who was there – this is good
practice. The gospel sends us forth as seekers of truth. But the lesson of Easter is that
there is also power to be found in that which is unknowable. There can be purpose in
what we can’t explain, strength in uncertainty.
Easter is one of those times. Easter is one of those perplexing events that make no
sense, that seem unreal, that feel miraculous. And that’s just the point: it feels
miraculous. Easter is a day for feeling our faith just as we might lift our faces to the sun
or smell an Easter lily. It is the day when we bask, even if for a moment, in the comfort
that the world is turning, and things are taken care of. That God has got it handled.
Easter is a breather. Savour it.
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
But hold on, there is still the business of the tomb, and Mary and the disciples running
back and forth, as if they aren’t sure what to do next. Easter wasn’t much of a breather
for them, travelling from grief to shock to joy, when they finally realize what’s happened,
when Jesus appears to them and explains. It all sounds exhausting.
But let’s call it the Easter small print. If we sit here feeling the joy of the morning, it
should be like people getting fuelled up for what’s to come next. That feeling of joy has
to go somewhere. For Mary and the disciples, the path was soon set. They didn’t hide
away and grieve over the death of Jesus. They didn’t party for weeks over his
resurrection. They were fired up to do what came next.
There is a reason why we stall for so long in the shadow of Lent. Ideally, we ask
ourselves some big questions: What do we stand for? How are we living? What are the
priorities we are setting? Are we on the right path? Those answers don’t come
overnight; they take thought and contemplation. And chances are we never really reach
satisfactory answers. Chances are those questions just lead to new questions.
But then Easter comes along. Easter is the moment when God says: enough. You have
gone through it – the march to Jerusalem with the awareness of what was going to
happen, or for us, as modern Christians, perhaps, you have reached the understanding
that some parts of life aren’t easily fixed, and some priorities aren’t easily changed.
Maybe you had – during Lent or at another time – a Good Friday moment, when
everything went horribly wrong, and when you really hit rock bottom. This, then, is your
Easter, too: the moment when God says: Enough. Enough contemplation. Enough
pondering. Enough stewing. Now you will lift your head and look around at the spring
that’s coming. You will experience the resurrection. You will hear the Alleluia.
Because ultimately, the story of Easter is about a group of people lifted out of despair,
given the gift of a miracle, told to rejoice in the love of God and one another, and then
sent out. After a time of looking inward, we are now called to look outward. To act upon
the parts in us that are hypocritical – that side of ourselves that recites the words of the
gospel and then acts in a completely opposite way. To choose not to be bystanders. To
look up and act – in the name of the gospel.
It is impossible to be an effective messenger of the gospel without being thoughtful.
Faith without questions, without debate, without intellectual challenge is an empty
vessel. But Easter is the day when we free ourselves up to feel. It is like a divine energy
Because the message of Easter should be the most moving one of our faith lives: God
loved us so much that Jesus walked among us, and lived with us, and bravely taught
us, knowing the danger that this meant, knowing the price that he would pay. And the
people who knew Jesus, who had been taught by him, who had walked with him, who
had followed him and even failed him, were, nonetheless, strong enough to rise out of
shame and grief and loss to carry on his teachings so that we might be sitting here
today, listening to the Easter story. However you tell it, it’s a story that proves the value
of human life and the power of the human spirit, and the role of divine mystery weaving
through it all. What Easter teaches is that we all have value. We all may be powerful.
That’s the joy of Easter day, the optimism of the resurrection. It’s not that it happened to
me, or it happened to you. Easter solidifies our collective responsibility to one another. It
articulates our duty to tend to and care for the gospel as if it were a living thing, a seed
that we fling as far as we can. But because of Easter we are freed from the bitterness of
sacrifices that are made out of guilt. Because of Easter, our duty is not a burden but an
Feel the joy of this Easter day. Feel the optimism of a new beginning. Feel the fresh
start of the Resurrection. Then look up and act – in the name of the gospel. Christ is
risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.