21 April 2019 – Easter Day – 5.30am – The Liturgy of Easter Day – Revd Jonny Scott
Resurrection: What is its meaning?
It’s good news. But for who?
For Jesus. Obviously. He’s got to be pleased with it all.
His friends. No doubt. Having witnessed a traumatic defeat; suddenly everything is transformed to victory. A bit like Spurs on Wednesday night after that VAR review in the 94th minute!
But it’s also – somehow – Good News for His followers today (for you and me) and again, somehow, for the world, even those who never walked the earth with Jesus, even those who have never even heard about the Good News.
Why is that? What is that? What is the meaning of resurrection?
Well, it is not just about this Easter morning. Resurrection doesn’t stand alone, it is nothing without Good Friday. We cannot have one without the other – together they are resurrection.
Because if we only have Good Friday, again and again, we end up with a horrendous theology. One that insists we are all nothing but worthless sinners and only ‘perfect Jesus’ could take the punishment that we all deserve. The church has made a lot of noise about ‘substitutional atonement’ since it was first dreamed up in the 11th Century. But I think we’ve done enough harm with that insufficient explanation, and it’s time to move on.
Or – if we fail to hold the tension of Good Friday and Easter together, we end up with a very cynical politics. One that says: Oh, life is horrible isn’t it, suffering is such a shame, but it’s OK, it will all be OK once we get to the other side – God will sort everything out in heaven, whatever that might mean.
No. Neither of these are healthy or helpful places to begin our theology.
When we hold Good Friday and Easter properly together, we see that what God did was a most incredible reversal. God Said ‘no’ to the powers and authorities that murdered Jesus on Jesus of that Friday, and he said ‘yes’ to the power of life and hope. God’s great reversal. What humanity intended for Evil, God transformed into Good. He responded to injustice with mercy. To suffering with compassion. To fear with courage.
This Easter morning Gods great clean-up of the world began and will not be completed without us. We are part of the unfolding the Resurrection story – we are called to participate in the greatest reversal of power since the dawn of time.
And our role is two-fold. Both personal and Political. It cannot be either/or. That first Easter-day God’s resurrection was both personal and political, just as it must be today.
So first the personal. Something in us has to die, before it can be reborn. This is written right through the scriptures; for Mark it is ‘The Way’, that we deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. For Luke this is something we are called to do on a daily basis. For Paul it is the path of transformation whereby we are crucified with Christ, so that it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. They all got it. The life-long journey of personal transformation as modelled on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is the Ego that has to do the dying, not the body. The ego. That small bit mighty part of our self which is either all consumed with self-pity, or all consumed with self-aggrandisement; until we are ready to let it go, to transcend it’s control over us, and allow it to slip away into a quiet death. Thomas Merton called it the false-self, which, when we have allowed it to die, makes way for the true-self to rise within. The true-self is liberated from guilt and shame and pride. The true self is what we see in Jesus Christ.
Just listen to the baptismal promises that you make again in just a moment around the font, and hear how we are called to participate in the personal transformation of resurrection.
But that is not the whole story of resurrection. Jesus didn’t risk his life for personal transformation. Any sage can do that. Jesus engages with the politics and that’s what got him lynched.
Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Kingdom – that which is concerned with the way power is distributed and the way justice and peace are maintained. Jesus was deeply political, and God’s resurrection of Jesus was deeply political too.
Again, if we keep our focus solely on the cross, if we keep crucifying Christ day-in day-out to satisfy the misplaced guilt for sin that misguided theologians have bombarded us with, if we do that, we never let a word get out of Jesus’ mouth. We miss everything he came to say and do.
Jesus brought his message first to misfit Shepherds.
Jesus healed and shared meals with the outcasts
Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount for the poor, the persecuted and the bereaved.
Jesus mocked the Empire by riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey.
Jesus turned the Temple tables, to drive away the extortionists.
Jesus confronted the powers and authorities of his day at his Trial.
Jesus died on an imperial cross.
This was the passion of Jesus. This is what he was passionate about. Politics. Power. Privilege. Pure and simple.
If all Jesus had to do to ‘save us from our sin’, was to suffer and die, then I can think of a thousand grisly deaths he could have suffered. But not a cross. The cross was the last and the loudest political statement that Jesus could have made. The Roman cross was required, because only from its Imperial heights could Jesus fully confront the powers and authorities of the world.
At Easter, God says yes to Jesus and his passion for the kingdom. God says no to the authorities of this world. God vindicates Jesus.
Personal transformation and political transformation. Resurrection is nothing less than this.
But you cannot chose. You cannot say that you’re all for the personal stuff, but I’d rather leave the politics alone. Nor can you sweat blood to bring about the Kingdom of God, but be unreformed in your personal life. The two are bound together in the fullness of resurrection.
Look at Bonhoeffer, who’s personal character of courageous faith allowed him to engage with plots to over-throw the Third Reich. Look at Martin Luther King, whose deep conviction in the Love of God, led to him to confront the mightiest nation on earth in a non-violent revolution that still echoes to this day.
We cannot be either or. We are called to be both and. From one to the other flows freedom, compassion and courage. When we allow our souls to be filled with these, they cannot BUT overflow out into the world as we seek to engage with resurrection and build the Kingdom of God on earth.
And that is why, these last few weeks, we have met and prayed and studied and worshiped with this tent in our midst. God bless the children of our Youth Group for giving us this gift. Refugees and migrants are right now in camps, in boats, in detention centres, and they need our compassion and our help. Right now, there are people with evil in their hearts who are taunting and beating and denying these refugees, and they need to be confronted and healed. Right now in our town, there are Syrian families who have rebuilt their lives, and they need our friendship and love.
So it is time to open our tomb. Time to commit to a new way of being. It is time to participate in the resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of ourselves and work for the resurrection of the world.
And we have to do this together.
So would the servers please get themselves ready.
Would you have your candles out ready to be lit.
And when we are all ready, I will lead a procession down the nave, and we will all gather outside the Easter tomb, singing Bless the Lord as we go.