Sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter, 2:00pm service for the Atlantic Ministry of the Deafadmin | 22 April 2012
“Christ is risen from the dead”
The Resurrection changes everything. But only if we will be changed, only if we are open to its truth and meaning. But what kind of change? The Christian religion is the religion of the hope of transformation, the hope that we can be something more than our dead and deadly selves. And all because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It changes how we look upon our selves, how we look upon our humanity and how we look upon our world, and, certainly, it changes how we look upon death.
But the change that is the Resurrection requires death. Only so can death be changed. The death that is required is not only our physical death – none of us get out of this alive, after all – but more importantly, it requires our dying to our selves. The Christian religion is, in so many ways, the counter to the culture of self-fulfillment and entitlement. It is the religion of love and sacrifice, the love that is sacrifice without which there can be no resurrection, no life. The paradox of change, here, is that we can only live if we are dead, dead to the illusions about ourselves, dead to the deceits and mistakes which are the sad and sorry tale about ourselves, dead to what the Church simply calls sin.
To be dead to ourselves is to be alive to God. The accounts of the Resurrection show us the transformation of the understanding, the transformation of the understanding that changes lives, that sets lives in motion. In a way, it is very simple. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb in the early morning. What she seeks is not there. She tells Peter and “that other disciple” and they both run to the sepulchre. “That other disciple” runs faster and looks in but does not enter. Simon Peter comes and enters in and is followed by “that other disciple”, who then sees and believes. What do they behold? Simply the empty tomb and the discarded burying clothes, described in terms of exactly where they were found.
What is this all about? It is about the dawning awareness of the truth of the Resurrection. It is about a radical change in outlook and understanding. Does this mean that the Resurrection is all metaphor? That nothing really happened?
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the unlooked-for thing, the unthinkable now become thinkable, and yet the accounts of the Resurrection have this remarkably measured, restrained and even understated form to them. As if they want to suggest the dawning awareness of a profound and profoundly life-changing idea. The power of these stories lies in the way they are captive to the idea with which they are trying to come to terms. A sensational event, one which quite literally puts the world on a whole new footing, on the foundation of grace, the story is not told in a sensational manner. It is as if the truth itself is enough. It is as if the truth of the idea of the reality of the Resurrection speaks for itself.
There is a change in us that comes about through the encounter with the various witnesses to the Resurrection: the empty tomb, the angel’s testimony, the report of Mary Magdalene, the report of Simon Peter and John, and, then, the risen Christ himself who runs out to tell us about his Resurrection, inserting himself into our conversations and into our viewpoint, and above all, opening the Scriptures to teach us about the necessity of his Resurrection. These lead to wonderful transformations as Mary and then the other disciples come to a realization of the understanding, as they die to their own preconceptions and enter into the idea of the Resurrection revealed to them by the risen Christ.
What changes? Simply how we see our humanity. Simply how we see the natural world. The Resurrection is the strongest possible affirmation of our human individuality, and the strongest possible affirmation of the material and physical world. It proclaims the redemption of the material and the physical by virtue of the Resurrection of the body. The body is not left out of the equation. We are more but not less than our bodily selves. It may not be possible to say a whole lot more than that but that should be enough. There is the transformation not only of our minds but also of our bodies, “a sea-change into something rich and strange”.
Christ’s Resurrection signals a new creation. God makes something out of nothing, this time out of the greater nothingness of sin and folly, creating out of the mess of our destructive tendencies and actions something wonderful, the hope of our redeemed humanity. Christ’s Resurrection, to be sure, is a mystery, a mystery which we can never exhaust and never reduce to our preconceptions. Its power challenges our preconceptions.
The Resurrection is about the grace of Christ that makes it possible for us to live for God and so for one another, about the grace that makes it possible for us to be in the world but not of the world, about the grace that liberates us from the fatalistic doctrines of determinism, about the grace that frees us from the tyranny of despair and hopelessness. The Resurrection signals our highest freedom. We are never more truly ourselves than when we live for God and for one another. Such is the power of the Resurrection.
But it requires a change in heart, a change in outlook, a change in mind. The Gospels show us exactly what was showed to them. They show us, too, the dawning awareness of the truth of the Resurrection. And all because “Christ is risen from the dead.”
“Christ is risen from the dead”
Fr. David Curry
AMD Easter II, 2012