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Easter Time

2013-03-28 13:28

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Rising to the occasion

When you stroll through a cemetery, looking at gravestones, many are headlined with R.I.P. – rest in peace. When we celebrate Easter we honour that God the Father did not write R.I.P. over the tomb of Jesus. The resurrection is God’s laughter in the tomb, his protest at the brutality his son suffered, his refusal to leave Jesus dead. In response, Jesus rises to the occasion.

 When we celebrate Easter we hold holy the memory of God’s great act in raising Jesus from the dead. But a question raises itself: is our faith in the resurrection limited to remembering Jesus’ resurrection and hoping for our own on the last day? What happens between times? What about today?

 When we look at our world today we have to close our eyes and ears not to see and hear how suffering and violence continue to disfigure so many people. There are many people who can feel their wounds. What does the resurrection of Jesus say to all this, today? The challenge of Easter today is to understand the history of human suffering in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. This means that we have to take God’s part in protesting against the violence and the suffering that are accepted so readily as inevitable. As Christians we have to make our protest against death in the midst of life.

Death is not just a fate that we meet at the end of life. We see death all around us in the midst of life. This point was made movingly by the German theologian Jürgen Moltmann in an Easter sermon when he said:

Death is an evil power now, in life’s very midst. It is the economic death of the person we allow to starve; the political death of the people who are oppressed; the social death of the handicapped; the noisy death that strikes through bombs and torture, and the soundless death of the apathetic soul.

To accept this litany of death as inevitable is to empty the resurrection of its power for today. A resurrection faith faces the cross and protests against the finality of that violence. It educates us to see as God sees; to act as so many of God’s chosen do act today when with enormous courage they refuse to genuflect to the powers of darkness that use suffering and death as their tools to keep power.

The resurrection of Jesus is a proclamation that this outcast from Galilee is the beloved of God who cannot be held in the keep of death because someone else takes action. Jesus did not raise himself; he was raised by God. The truth that God raised Jesus from the dead gives hope and help to all those who want that miracle repeated in the midst of life. They believe that God’s work continues – not least because they believe Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life.” 

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