Alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia!
On Easter Sunday my wife and I celebrated the resurrection of our LORD in Norwich Cathedral. The place was absolutely packed. I know we must never forget that it only takes two or three to be gathered together to worship in the presence of God, but it always feels special to be among a great number worshipping God in word, music and sacrament. It was truly inspiring and uplifting.
The Easter Sunday liturgy celebrates the resurrection of Jesus on the third day: a specific resurrection on a specific day, yet with eternal consequences. We also look forward to that great day when the dead shall all be raised to new life – the resurrection of the dead (of which Christ is the first fruits) – again, specific resurrection. However, there is another more general sense in which we can talk about resurrection. The Bishop of Norwich talked about this in his sermon on Sunday (but in case you think this is pure plagiarism let me assure you I was thinking of this area for this blog post anyway!).
This resurrection is the sort that is needed in our lives every single day. Some might call it “conversion”, “transformation”, “repentance”, “letting God in”, “committing to Christ”, “being born again” or a whole host of other things, but the word resurrection will do nicely enough. What I mean by this is the act of letting go of old ways of being (dying, bearing your cross, being crucified in Christ), and allowing new growth to spring forth in its place (being born to new life, being resurrected, living in the risen Christ).
Unfortunately, the latter does not come without the former. One of my favourite hymns is “Take up thy Cross, the Saviour said”, and the penultimate verse expresses this sentiment beautifully:
Take up thy cross and follow Christ,
Nor think til death to lay it down;
For only those who bear the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.
It is such an upside down way of thinking, but it is absolutely central to Jesus’ teaching throughout his earthly ministry – dying so that we might live, losing our lives so that we could find true life, giving up all we have to find the Kingdom of God. The well-known metaphor Jesus uses in John’s gospel is that of a grain of wheat, which if it does not fall to earth and “die” remains a single grain of wheat; but if it falls to earth and dies bears much fruit. This is the offer, and challenge, that Christ extends to all who would follow Him.
This sort of resurrection is urgently needed: in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities and churches. Many may feel that the seeds have been planted, they have fallen to the earth and been swallowed up, yet no green shoots have been seen. Others will feel that all they have seen is death: of projects, of plans, of friends, of friendships; and now they anxiously, urgently, and desperately await the resurrection. But where is it?
We may not know the time, we may not know the hour of its coming, but we do know that the tomb is open, Christ is not there, HE IS RISEN and that in the end Love wins (thank you Rob Bell!)! The desperately awaited Resurrection may look nothing like we expect it to, so if it is possible we must expect (and welcome) the unexpected, the unusual, the unorthodox. The risen Christ was not instantly recognisable to those who encountered Him. He bore the scars of His passion, but in His glory he was somehow changed, somehow unrecognisable. In the same way, resurrection in our own lives will surprise us – we will bear the scars of our own trials yet be somehow changed, somehow unrecognisable. CHRIST IS RISEN. ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.