“Christ is risen, alleluia! He is risen indeed, alleluia!”
Today, we begin a fifty-day celebration of Jesus’ resurrection – the Queen of Feasts. Seven short weeks that will carry us from an empty tomb to the rushing mighty wind of Pentecost. This is the heart of our life together as Christians. It is what gives meaning to everything we do. The Church’s life, its work, its mission, and its proclamation is wrapped up in this one event.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tells us,
“Easter comes out ringing in terms that we all hear if we seek to hear it, that the soul of man is immortal. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have fit testimony that this earthly life is not the end, that death is just something of a turn in the road, that life moves down a continual moving river, and that death is just a little turn in the river, that this earthly life is merely an embryonic prelude to a new awakening, that death is not a period which ends this great sentence of life but a comma that punctuates it to loftier significance. That is what it says. That is the meaning of Easter. That is the question that Easter answers — that death is not the end.”[i]
The word of our Lord’s Resurrection is always a new word for us and to us. Wherever we are in our own story, we need the liberating pronouncement of forgiveness and resurrection again and again. The ancient word that Jesus has been raised from the dead is something we need to hear anew. The darkness of Good Friday, and the silence at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, indicate to us a beginning, a space that is dedicated to be filled with the light of Christ. We look to the Paschal Candle as the beacon that both draws us and sends us on our way rejoicing.
The Resurrection of Jesus introduces a new day, a new creation, a turn in the story — but the remembrance of all that has brought us to this place is still with us. As we adjust to the glorious flow of God’s acts, we realize that we still live in two worlds, and that there are many around us to whom the story has not yet been revealed in its fullness.
In this morning’s Psalm we sing, “On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24). Our faith teaches us that on this day, the power of death was finally and eternally conquered. This means that we can stand next to an open grave ready to receive our loved one’s remains and not go stark raving mad. It also means that we can look our own mortality in the eye and not give in to hopelessness and despair.
This is the Good News we proclaim. The resurrection is the driving force behind the Church’s life and work.
There is always work to be done, good news to be shared, again and again. The Church today proclaims the new — that is also our legacy—and seeks for yet more fruitful ways to integrate this “ending” into the life of a world that desperately seeks resolution.
“You broke the reign of death, O Lord, and you have made life shine forth again, alleluia!”
[i] Martin Luther King, Jr., in a sermon, “Questions That Easter Answers,” at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama (4/21/1957).