Sermon for Easter Dayadmin | 16 April 2017
“Turn unto the Lord your God”
The words of the Prophet Joel provided the critical matrix through which to ponder the mystery of the Passion in Holy Week. They equally carry us into the mystery of the Resurrection at Easter. Why? Because neither the Passion nor the Resurrection can be thought about without each other. The accounts of the Passion can only be written and can only be considered because of the Resurrection. Easter, in a way, signals the great turning of God to us. Only so can there be our turning to him.
The Resurrection is radical new life. The turning is about the hope of transformation, a change in outlook and understanding, a change from death to life. Easter signals the triumph of life over death, of light over darkness, of good over evil. And that is all God in his eternal turning and all God in his turning to us. Christ goes into darkness of death and death is changed for evermore. “For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” And this changes everything for us. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above”.
We are no longer to be defined by the dust of death and by our turning to the ground and to the emptiness of ourselves. We are turned to the Risen Christ and find in him the new and radical truth of our humanity. We are turned to God and only then are we alive. Death is swallowed up in life, the Life that has overcome death, which is to say that everything is not nothingness. Nihilism is the philosophy of nothingness, the sense of meaninglessness and the absence of purpose, the philosophy of despair and disappointment. The Resurrection of Christ counters the nihilisms of our world and day. It is all about the turning, the circling around and around of God to God in our humanity and our humanity in God.
We turn to the grave, like Mary Magdalene, seeking a corpse, a dead body, only to find “the stone taken away from the sepulchre”. The empty tomb marks the beginning of a change. She turns and runs to Peter and John with the report that “they have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” She assumes however that he is dead. It is merely a question of where the body is. Yet she has been set in motion to the other disciples who in turn run to the sepulchre and find it empty. It marks the beginning of a resurrection of the understanding, a new understanding about our humanity.
The tomb becomes the womb of new life. Death is changed from being something grimly terminal into something transitional. Everything begins to be seen in a new light. That is already the workings of the Resurrection in us. It means a new way of thinking what it means to be human. We find the truth of our humanity in God. In giving himself to us in Christ, God gives us to ourselves as living beings. What does that mean? It means that in living for God and for one another we discover ourselves. “You have died”, Paul tells us, “and your life is hid with Christ in God.” This changes our outlook. It counters the deadly fatalisms and empty nihilisms of our culture and our souls. The Resurrection is the life of God for us and in us. Only as alive to God are we alive at all.
The Resurrection accounts go hand in hand with the accounts of the Passion. They open us out to a new and radical understanding of human individuality. Our bodies and our deaths are not nothing but neither are they everything. This means that the Resurrection as borne out of the Passion is the fullness of redemption, the fullest possible gathering up of the broken fragments of our lives. But only through the brokenness. Our hearts are broken for only so can we be made whole, “new, tender, quick.” Such is the radical new life of the Resurrection. We are alive with Christ in God.
How? By our turning to the Life that is God, constantly turning and turning to him who has turned to us for in that turning is our life. Our liturgy is all about the turning, the circling around and around and into the mystery of God in Christ. It involves the whole of our being because what it means to be an individual is found in our communion with God and with one another. Our life is embodied and our liturgy is the fullest expression of our embodied living being because we are being returned to a principle, to God in whom we live and move and have our being. Redire ad principia, a kind of circling.
We who are dead in our sorrows and griefs turn to death only to confront the greater mystery of life. God is life. We turn to the Risen Christ, “to Christ I look, on Christ I call,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it. For in him we see the real truth and dignity of our common humanity. Christ’s resurrection is “A heart’s-clarion!” that sends “Away grief’s gasping,’ joyless days”, and extinguishes “dejection” and despair. Why? Because
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is,’ since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd,’ patch, matchwood,
Is immortal diamond.
Such is the turning of God to us in Christ who turns us into something “new, tender, quick,” alive in the Risen Christ. Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!
“Turn unto the Lord your God”
Fr. David Curry