Easter has come, and last Sunday ministers and congregations around the world performed an ancient call and response:
Pastor: “He is risen!”
Congregants: “He is risen indeed.”
This liturgical element likely paired with a number of familiar and celebratory hymns: Christ the Lord is Risen Today, We Welcome Glad Easter, and Low In The Grave He Lay or, if your church is singing praise choruses, It All Because of Jesus, Like a Lion, or Because He Lives.
Familiar and celebratory patterns of worship, against a backdrop of other familiar human patterns. Patterns of violence. Patterns of economic injustice and oppression. Patterns of prejudice of every variety. Patterns of earthly empires killing for their own gain. Patterns of genocide.
Year after year we go through patterns of Easter worship, which stand in stark relief to patterns of a sinful and fallen world. We Christians are often so complicit with and engrained in the patterns of the world, I wonder if Easter’s meaning is diluted.
Of course, the meaning of Easter can never be diluted, for Christ is risen indeed. All the joyful pomp and circumstance for one Sunday a year — declaring God’s victory over sin and death — and in the middle of the night bombs drop.
All the people come out of the woodwork for one day to see and be seen, and maybe acknowledge God for a day, and at the same time, we still don’t pray for our enemies, much less love them.
All the sermon illustrations thoughtfully crafted, and greeting teams ready for guest-filled sanctuaries, and in the same week, school shootings, racial tension, a paying customer dragged off a plane against his will.
Does Easter mean anything at all? Are our patterns of worship too familiar? Too comforting? Too rote?
Perhaps we could stand to be shaken by the collar a bit, or jarred from our slumber. He. Is. Risen.
In Christ there is victory over sin. Victory over death. Victory over empire. Victory over warped and stale religion. Victory over injustice. Victory over evil.
What if the church lived Easter, instead of celebrating it once a year? We are, after all, an Easter people.
I have always been astounded by Paul’s writing to the Romans, “The Spirit of the God who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you” (Romans 8:11).
The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me. In you. With the number of Christians in the world (or those who claim the name) it’s a wonder that things like war and genocide still exist.
What does Christ’s power in the church mean? We give lip service to it. We pray for more of it. Maybe if you’re like me, you feel overwhelmed by the idea. I’m enough of a mystic and enough of a textualist that I believe if God’s Spirit lives in and through me, then Paul wasn’t exaggerating at all.
Remarkably, Jesus, who had the total power of God within, showed restraint in giving himself up to the violent mob. He could have opened the ground and swallowed them all (Numbers 16), or brought any number of fateful endings to those who mocked, scourged and crucified him. Yet he showed restraint, giving himself up.
Not only was he the perfect Lamb, he was a scapegoat for the sins of the people. What if resurrection didn’t just mean victory over sin, death, empire, bad religion, injustice and evil?
Could resurrection also mean victory over scapegoating others when we are to blame?
What if this Easter season, Christians everywhere stopped scapegoating others and actually dealt with the sin in their lives and in their communities head on? Perhaps the Kingdom of God would begin to reign a little more.
What if instead of scapegoating others, we owned our own complicity in the violence of the world? What if instead of blaming a politician or a “them” group of people, we admitted our own guilt in the injustices of humanity, however small?
If we call ourselves his disciples, taking the Resurrection seriously is of first importance. Resurrection living calls us to be confronted with the reality of the living Christ, in all of his holiness, with all of his teachings. What if when we say, “He is risen indeed!” instead of only celebrating, we admit that we need to hear the message of Easter anew. The same power that raised him from the dead is in you. What are you going to do about it?