Christ is Risen
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Here we are, at the great feast of Easter. We survived Lent. And some of us are probably better off and even healthier for it. We survived Holy Week and Good Friday. It is party time!! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!
But I wonder what we are celebrating? What does Easter mean for us?
I have said over the last few weeks that it is only relatively recently that Christians have understood the cross as the necessary sacrifice needed to appease a holy and righteous God separated from us by our sin. This sin is moral failure, and this moral sin meant that we could no longer be in God’s presence in heaven. In this understanding, God needed a sacrifice in payment for that sin so that we might be forgiven and so that the bridge between us and God might be restored. In this understanding Jesus rose from the dead to shatter the power of death and to lead us to life with God in heaven once we die.
But that is not what Christians believed for over the first thousand years, nor is it what many Christians believe today. There are other ways of understanding what we are celebrating. In these understandings we have always been loved by God, and forgiven. We are made in the image of the merciful and generous God described as love. Our sin is that we have forgotten who we are, forgotten we are people made in God’s image, held in God’s love. We have separated ourselves from God, and allowed other things to come between us and God, things that blind us to God’s loving presence in our world. We keep painting pictures of God as judge, as one who needs to be appeased. Jesus did not die to appease God, but to break the powers that bind us and blind us. We might call these powers Satan. When Jesus is nailed to the cross, so too are all those things that bind and blind us: our small understanding of God and God’s generosity and mercy; our false ideologies that supplant God’s grace with political, economic, social, or church theory; our selfishness; our sense of entitlement; our hopes and dreams that are all about us and leave God in the corner; our passions which allow us to treat others not as people made in God’s image but as objects. All these and so much more place Jesus on the cross, and all go with Christ to the cross. And all seem to win. We forget who we are. Our sin seems to defeat God.
But God is never defeated by our actions. God is never limited by what we do or think. God’s love always wins. Grace wins, mercy wins. And all those powers and ideologies, hopes and aspirations that went with Christ to the cross are shown to be meaningless. In the cross and resurrection God invites us to remember who we are, and to begin life again, now, in that knowledge. This is eternal life. And it comes from the knowledge we are made in the image of Divine Love.
The resurrection invites us to rethink our world, our land, our lives. It invites us to start again with God, and God’s profound, life giving, never earned but freely given love. What would the world look like if it was built on God’s goodness and peace? If we treated all people as made in the image of God. If societies were structured in a way that each person was seen as important as any other, because all are important to God. What would our economies look like if they were seen to serve the common good – not people serving the economy?
The resurrection reminds us of the presence of God in all people and all creation. Through the crucifixion and resurrection we are declared icons of God’s love. And we are invited to open our eyes, our hearts, our beings to this love. May you be embraced this Easter by the God who is the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love between.