31 March 2024
Today is one of the year’s most significant celebrations, and it moves us into perhaps the most significant season. Once again the Easter season reminds us that Christ’s life is inextinguishable, and invites us to know the reality of resurrection every day. If we can avoid the “curse” of familiarity, this celebration can lead us ever deeper into God’s life and transform us into life-carriers that bring life to others and to our world.
May Christ’s life capture us and transform us a little more this year.
Acts 10:34-43: Peter preaches about the way God does not show favouritism, but welcomes and saves all, reflecting on his witness to the resurrection of Jesus, and the forgiveness that is available to all who believe in Christ.
OR Isaiah 25:6-9: God will create a feast for all people, will swallow up death, and will wipe away all tears. All people will celebrate that God has saved them.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: A psalm of celebration and thanksgiving for God’s salvation, affirming that the psalmist will not die, but will live, and rejoicing that the rejected stone has become the main foundation stone.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11: The message that was preached by all of the apostles, and in which the believers believed was that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again, as witnessed by hundreds of disciples.
OR Acts 10:34-43 (See Above)
John 20:1-18: Mary Magdalene finds the tomb with stone rolled away and tells Peter and the other disciples. Then Peter and the disciple Jesus loved go and investigate and find the tomb empty. After they have left, Mary encounters Jesus and returns to the disciples to tell them what she has seen.
OR Mark 16:1-8: The two Mary’s and Salome go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, but they find the stone rolled away and a young man in a white robe tells them that Jesus is risen, and instructs them to go and tell the disciples. The women leave the tomb afraid.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The focus of Easter Sunday this year is, of course, on the resurrection, but this year, the supporting readings all offer a tantalising glimpse of the inclusivity of God’s Reign as it was expressed through Jesus. The message that comes through is that the resurrection brings life and salvation not just to the Jews, or even the disciples, but to all people. The Acts reading is taken from Peter’s sermon to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house and celebrates God’s inclusive love and life, and the Isaiah prophecy proclaims that God’s salvation, and the feast that accompanies it, is for all people. The Psalm takes the celebration of God’s life and salvation to a personal level, but acknowledges that God’s rescue came even when the psalmist required God’s discipline. In a similar way, Paul reflects on how Christ appeared to him even though he was persecuting the followers of Jesus. The Gospels tell the story of the empty tomb – the moment of resurrection that made life available to all of the people that are mentioned in the other readings. Both Gospels show the inclusive grace of God in a reality that would have been shocking for the first believers – the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, and it was they who were given the responsibility of sharing the news with the men. The essential message of this significant day in the Lectionary is this – God has given life to all people, and it is in this inclusive resurrection community that we find and enjoy God’s life. This is not just an individualist, escapist Gospel, but an invitation for the entire cosmos to enjoy the gift of resurrection together.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: One of the great fallacies of human history is the persistent belief that some groups or individuals can find life and liberation alone, or at the expense of others. However, the last century has demonstrated how mistaken this way of living is. We have seen how closely connected we are, and we have experienced how the emphasis on our separation from one another and from our world has brought great suffering and conflict on us and others. The challenge of the resurrection is for us to realise that God has brought life to us all, and that life cannot be extinguished by our foolishness or even by death. Further, the life that God offers is neither for only some people, nor is it only for some other reality after we die. Rather, God’s life can and should be known and enjoyed now, but can only really be experienced together. While it can be tempting to think about the resurrection only in metaphysical terms, a whole new world of possibilities opens up when we see how resurrection permeates everything. When we start to live as resurrection people, we recognise that we participate in resurrection in every moment that we bring life to others, whether through caring for our environment, working to alleviate poverty, serving those in need, learning to understand other cultures and people, or living more simply and peacefully in order to foster justice and equality in our world. Resurrection, then, is a reality that we are called to live – as Paul demonstrates in his life and teaching. We do not just receive resurrection life, but we become carriers of that life to the world – if only we can believe in and embrace its power.
LOCAL APPLICATION: In churches around the world the resurrection will be the focus of our worship, but for many of us, the celebration will simply be a remembrance of a miraculous event from the past, with perhaps a mention of our hope of a life beyond death. But, if this is all the resurrection is, it actually has little value for us now – or for anyone else. But, if our celebration can connect us with the living reality of resurrection life now, everything changes. In our homes and families, we can live knowing that there is always hope and life, even after times of grief or conflict. In our churches and communities we can gather knowing that God’s life is found together, and that we are able to bring life to one another through the grace, love, care and compassion we show one another. When we allow the resurrection to become a reality by which we live, and not just an idea that we remember, our mission changes from just trying to “get people into heaven” to bringing life to others in whatever way we can – big or small. When our lives become oriented around the resurrection we cannot help but move away from just telling people about Jesus, to seeking to embody the life, the grace and the all-inclusive compassion of Jesus in our own lives. The resurrection, then, is not just an evacuation plan for us as individuals. It’s the basic principle by which the entire cosmos is ordered, and in which we participate when we share Christ’s life in every way, and at every opportunity.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
If The Tomb Cannot Hold You
You Told Us This Would Happen
How Are We To Respond
Christ The Lord Is Risen Today
The Day Of Resurrection
We Shall Go Out With Hope Of Resurrection
Come, People Of The Risen King
On The Darkest Day Of All
Come, See The Son
Once Again (Link to YouTube video)
A Liturgy for Easter Sunday
He Is Risen
Die And Be Raised