Sunday, April 16, 2017

Why the celebration of Easter? The Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

The title of this message was posed to me by my doctor during a minor operation this past Monday.  The doctor knew me as a pastor and minister of the gospel so the question wasn’t unexpected or out of the ordinary.  It reminded me that questions can offer moments of profound clarity as an embodiment of grace for the one who asks the question and the one providing the response.  My response to her question was that I celebrate Easter because it commemorates the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that whatever hope there is in my life I live in Jesus Christ. She said she had asked because she was beginning to teach her children about Easter and the reason why it is so important. She said she had been raised in a Christian family but now she wanted to pass on what she had learned as a child.  I don’t know about you but conversations can bring back some serious memories, reminding me of the song, “Back down Memory Lane” by Minnie Riperton, and my mother and father living out the lyrics of, You’ll Understand It Better by and by” when I didn’t want to go to Sunday School. The older I get the more I appreciate the teachings of my parents.

The conversation with my doctor called me to reflect on the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Good News and the meaning it has for the church.  Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a means for us, as followers of Jesus Christ to reaffirm our love, our faith and our trust in the living Christ. We celebrate the resurrection because its message is that through the risen Christ you and I are no longer bound to sin and death, that through the risen Christ we have overcome the world.  It is also a reminder that the Church, you and me, are called to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the good news with our lives. 

The resurrection is sure, giving courage to the faithful as they stand against and eventually overcome unjust and burdensome systems, structures and their so-called skinny budgets, which concede nothing without a whole lot of prayer and serious political strategies, while at the same time, seeking to deny the good news of Jesus Christ in favor of powerful corporate interests. In the face of this moral crisis where ignorance is stubbornly lifted high, truth seemingly banished and closed mindedness and polarization the order of the day the resurrection offers new life, new hope, and God’s abundant love. This is nourishment for a life, longing, fighting and struggling to transform an unjust circumstance or situation. The resurrection presents the steadfast, faithful, immovable and those weary with a revolutionary hope as it speaks to the stones of injustice such as racism, voter suppression, poverty, ever increasing medical costs, and homelessness, to name a few, being rolled away from a life precious in the sight of God.  

Mindful of the Apostle Paul, and his Damascus Road experience with Christ in Acts 9, and his many trials and tribulations for the sake of the gospel in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 and his compelling arguments regarding the resurrection in First Corinthians 15: 1-2 and 12-20-22, 30-32 the Apostle Paul’s experience of the good news, of the risen Christ, became that prophetic fire which compelled him in his love and justice for God’s people resulting in Epistles or letters which form much of New Testament scripture and upwards of 20 churches.  What we have in the Apostle Paul is a man sold out to Jesus Christ.  He moves in Christ alone recognizing that the risen Christ illuminates a new covenant grounded in God’s tenacious and everlasting love which held Paul without waiver.  My impression based on the text is that Paul had apprehended the risen Christ and sought to proclaim the risen Christ he encountered on the Damascus Road. Similar to the prophet Jeremiah in 20:9, there was a fire shut up in Paul’s bones which had to be unleashed for the glory of God. 

My oldest and dearest friend, mentor and colleague recently said, regarding Paul, “You cannot receive the risen Christ and not do something, you’ve got to move.” It’s like fire in your pants.  In other words, there are implications for the one who encounters the resurrection of Christ.  The implications of the resurrection are a matter of awakening to God’s deep and everlasting love for all people, to awaken to the plight of our sisters and brothers and the greater community, to awaken to the many lie’s which seek to deny our humanity, to awaken to the fact that we are blessed and highly favored, to awaken to the reality that social and cultural change will not occur without active participation including resistance, to awaken to those systemic structural economic barriers which maintain wealth and privilege for fewer and fewer of God’s people.  

In Rev. Dr. William Barber’s book, “The Third Reconstruction, “How a Moral Movement is overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” In the chapter on “Learning to Stand Together” he reflects on the words of Stanley Hauerwas, “The first task of the church is to be the church. Only if the church is the church can people see another way is possible. Without this alternative witness, we are tempted to think that the way things are is simply the way things have to be.”
The Church is called to once again to apprehend the resurrection not just as a celebration but a call to live out the resurrection each day to reimagine a more just, whole and equitable society where all people are received as God’s own.