I am going to start today with a quote from the Orthosphere blog. Kristor writes in Credo Resurrexit
So I have heard about – let’s see – about 114 Easter sermons. Never once, in any of those homilies, was the fact of the Resurrection ever directly addressed. They generally spoke instead about God’s love, and his power – working in us, of course – to make things in the world all nice and fair, and to heal broken relationships. At most, preachers refer to the Resurrection as the context for their message of hope for renewed worldly life, as if it were a literary device or a metaphor. They never grapple with it directly.*
This has always amazed me. On Easter morning, preachers have their best opportunity of the year, after Christmas, to tackle head on one of the biggest stumbling blocks to faith, before a large audience of unbelievers, or proto-believers, or quasi-believers, or wannabe-but-don’t-know-how-believers, or those who have fallen away from the faith but remember their homeland with nostalgic affection, and would like to return if they could see a way to do so. It is, i.e., a fantastic opportunity for evangelization – not to swell the attendance rolls, but to save souls. Yet they all seem to shy away from the main thing that Easter is about: a dead man come to life again. To a typical modern, the story of the Resurrection looks like – well, it looks like sheer nonsense, crazy talk about an impossibility. And that apparent insanity at the heart of Christianity makes the whole religion incredible, empty, vain, as St. Paul knew (1 Corinthians 15:17). Credence in the Resurrection is crucial to conversion; without it, there is no such thing.
Well, this is not the conversation I had when driving. Son one noted quite correctly that the resurrection is the central fact of Christendom. And I alluded (you do not quote or look up the Bible when driving in the Caitlins) to the first half of today’s passage. For without the resurrection we are all dead in our sins, and the task we face is not living for a purpose but finding a comforting delusion.
For if Christ lived on, we also will live on. The resurrection is more than that of Christ.
12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ – whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death
We cannot allow this to become a metaphor. If we do that, we are functionally pagans, talking abour renewal in spring (or not: Spring is October not April where I live). We cannot ignore it and talk about doing good. Again, there is nothing wrong in doing good — but Christianity has to be more than Buddhism or Stoicism.
This is the role not necessarily of the teacher or carer. What is called Pastoral care, which is around comfort, caring (and discipline). It is the role of the prophet. To look clearly at our society, say what is wrong, and preach the words of God, again, and again.
For the prophets — From Moses to Zechariah to John the Baptizer — had but one message: turn from this path and return to the LORD and his ways. That message never dates. That message is as needed today as it was when Paul spoke on this earth.
For here, Kristor is correct. In the liturgical churches, the biggest attendance is as Easter and Christmas, and the biggest change to preach the gospel is then. It is a chance for the leaders of the church to get the message into the media — Ratzinger‘s homily is reported. (This is not so in my theological patch — Easter is in Autumn and the start of the school holidays Dunedin empties, and we combine two congregations to one)
So I am going to finish with a quote for Rowan Williams, who like Ratzinger, did his duty this Easter, and preached the Gospel.
Easter makes a claim not just about a potentially illuminating set of human activities but about an event in history and its relation to the action of God. Very simply, in the words of this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that ‘God raised Jesus to life.’ ”
Any understanding of the significance of the resurrection which fell short of this truth would be to misunderstand it:
“We are not told that Jesus ‘survived death’; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people; we are not told that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something – that is, that this bit of the human record, the things that Peter and John and Mary Magdalene witnessed on Easter morning, is a moment when … we see through to the ultimate energy behind and within all things. When the universe began, prompted by the will and act of God and maintained in being at every moment by the same will and action, God made it to be a universe in which on a particular Sunday morning in AD33 this will and action would come through the fabric of things and open up an unprecedented possibility – for Jesus and for all of us with him: the possibility of a human life together in which the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit makes possible a degree of reconciled love between us that could not have been imagined … for the Christian, the basic fact is that this compelling vision is there only because God raised Jesus”
Today is the first day of work after Easter. Let is go and live as we ought, and say what we ought.