The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day
5 April 2015
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Since Palm Sunday I have been talking about the subversive nature of the Gospel. I have been talking about how God decisively entered into time and space, became one with our humanity, taught, preached, healed, and reconciled. I have been emphasising the way in which God in Christ created a new vision of community in which all are truly welcome, a community of tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, a community where the dominant values are now love and vulnerability rather than power and control. I have been talking about how Jesus shows us a new model of power, one based in true authority, which comes from authenticity, one that values the very things secular rulers, secular power finds weak.
In Holy Week we saw Jesus upend the symbols of the rulers of this world and invert society’s notion of who and what matters. He rode into Jerusalem like a king in a triumphal procession, and yet that procession lead to pain, suffering, and death. At his farewell banquet he instituted a new way to enact community at the Last Supper when he gave us the meal in which he would be present with us always and commanded us to love one another as he loves us. Throughout his ministry, through his Passion, and from the Cross, Jesus insisted that community, who belonged, who was included, meant everyone, especially the messy, the imperfect, those on the margins, those whom respectable society castigates as “sinners” but who are simply regular human beings like you and me trying to live in and through the complications and complexities of life. He showed us the power of vulnerability and love as he hung from that cross, suffered terribly, but still offered love back to a world that showed him something less. Even from the Cross he insisted that love was and is the way forward, that vulnerability is power and that true authority is something that flows from God’s own willingness to enter fully into our flesh, into our condition, into our complexity.
And yet, on Good Friday it seemed like death did have the final word, that all of these counter-cultural actions were just shots across the bow of leaders soaked in worldly power, in the riches and trappings of privilege and of empire. Indeed, most of those who witnessed Jesus’ Passion first hand probably did not see what happened as a victory, as a definitive statement that a new vision, a new way of understanding what really matters. We, however, we who know the whole story can take a different view. This morning, we can enter fully into the victory of that new vision, into the victory of Love over death. Today we say definitively that the worst that the world, that the powers of this world had to throw at Jesus, at God incarnate, could not long stand in the face of Divine Love. Love endures death, breaks free from death, defeats death.
Today we affirm that everything Jesus said and did, especially in that last week, mattered, that none of it was in vain. It was not for show. In those days Jesus took on the symbols of power—that procession, that meal, that crown and robe—and showed us what a real king looks and sounds like. We affirm that all he suffered, all he offered to his friends and to the world, were not consumed by the death on that cross. We affirm that Love, shown forth in reconciliation and healing and inclusion, demonstrated in vulnerability, is where real power lies.
We can affirm this because today we see and know and feel that Jesus performed the ultimate inversion by defeating the death he suffered. He transcended the torture and punishment he endured and his real death, not through some superhuman super power, but because Love, the very Love of God ensured that death did not have the last word. That the very Love of God returned him to us transfigured, more than himself, embodying the victory of vulnerability, the victory of Love over death, the victory of Love over sin.
This past week we saw very clearly the nature of the sin that Love defeated. The authorities who saw Jesus as dangerous and subversive because of how he acted, with whom he associated, and what he taught, acted as secular power usually acts when threatened and sought to neutralise the threat. In doing so they turned away from love and sinned. Sin, the greatest sin, the original sin, is when we seek to put ourselves in God's place, or worse, what we think God’s place is. When we try to be perfect, to wall ourselves off and make ourselves invulnerable, when we try to control others because we think we know better, or because it is in our own narrow self interest, we are enacting secular society’s vision of what power is and how a powerful person behaves. And when we act this way we are sinning, we are, in fact, mired in original sin. This is what the authorities did to Jesus and he responded by refusing to play by their rules.
Jesus in his passion and death and then supremely in his resurrection inaugurates an age in which there is another way. Jesus shows us that we can turn from this sin. He shows us that we can defeat this sin by moving ourselves and our lives in the direction of Love, reorienting ourselves to lives in which we make ourselves vulnerable to others, are open to giving to others and receiving from them. Jesus shows us that real power lies in the free offering of Love to a world that is not even sure it wants it, but yet needs it desperately.
Jesus shows us a way forward that is hard because even though we know that sin and death have been ultimately defeated by Love, we also know that God is still working this all out. We also know that the powers of the world still believe that their way, the way of power and control, of violence and oppression and self-interest, is still the best way to achieve their ends. We know, too, that in many places and in many ways the Church remains complicit in these systems. This Easter morning, we need to be strengthened, to be encouraged, to be assured that what we have seen this past week, that what we have seen in Jesus’ vulnerable self-offering in Love to the world remains the way forward, remains the alternative vision that will ultimately be victorious. Jesus chose to make himself supremely vulnerable and offered himself to death on the cross to show us that Love beats sin and death every time. In the Resurrection this Easter morning Jesus shows us that Love always triumphs and has the last word, that Love is more powerful than sin and death and that God is prepared at all times and in all places to bring forth new life, to bring Love out of situations of sin, pain, and death. Love can always enter in and change us and we have the power, the freedom to respond. God knows we will make bad choices, but we always have the power and freedom to keep working to make those better choices, use our freedom for Love’s ends, and know that Love always has the power to make something new.
God turned the desolation of the cross into a new thing, a new thing in which death and the powers of the world no longer have the upper hand. Today we affirm that God in Christ broke free from death and inaugurates the new age in which we can choose to be in relationship with Love itself and enter into lives perfecting our humanity, living into our imperfections, our vulnerability, accepting them and still working hard as members of the community of tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners to show forth God’s love, divine Love into the world.
Andrew C. Blume✠
Good Friday, 3 April 2015
© 2015 Andrew Charles Blume