Easter Day (Year A, 24 April 2011)

Trust the resurrection

Readings
Colossians 3.1-4
Matthew 28.1-10

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and a Jew, who was interned in the Dachau concentration camp during the Second World War. In his most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he tells about some of his fellow prisoners at the end of the war. They had been held captive so long that when they were released,

they walked out into the sunlight, blinked nervously and then silently walked back into the familiar darkness of the prisons, to which they had been accustomed for such a long time.

Sometimes, it seems the light is just too bright.

Listen to this claim that Diana Butler Bass will make in her next book:

The point isn’t that you believe in the resurrection. Any fool can believe in a resurrection from the dead. The point is that you trust in the resurrection. And that’s much, much harder to do.

I understand her words in this way: Sometimes, the sun/Sonlight is so bright that we may accept the ‘fact’ of the resurrection, but we don’t trust in the resurrection. In other words, we don’t trust that God doesn’t let death have the last word. God has determined that life comes out of death. The future is open. The last word is life.

That’s hard to believe sometimes. In Matthew’s story of Jesus, everything has finished. There’s no hope left. Jesus had been tried in a kangaroo court, flooded, mocked and made to carry his cross as far as he could. Then nails fastened him to the cross and he was hoisted in the air and left to die. Slowly. Painfully.

He called out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and breathed his last.

Death had had the last word—or so it seemed. How could anyone possibly trust in a resurrection? The disciples didn’t. They were beaten men.

But in Matthew’s story, even the earth cannot contain Jesus. We’ve had enough news about earthquakes this year, but Matthew tells of the earth writhing in pain rather than keep the Son of God inside it. Matthew is saying that the resurrection is a cosmic event, not something that can be hidden.

Something brand-new is happening, something literally earth-shattering. Life is gaining the victory over death.

It’s not an easy victory. It’s not won cheaply. It takes the death of Jesus, who freely gives himself for our sakes. It may take us to die to attitudes and ways of seeing the world that have been dear to us. But God has the last word, and that word is LIFE.

We live on the far side of Easter. In fact, it seems so long ago that it might feel like ancient history. But it’s not. Jesus is alive today. Jesus is alive within everyone who turns to him. Despite that, we can succumb to despair. It’s quite possible. But Easter proclaims a message that is ever new and ever life-changing: Christ is risen! The future is open, and we can be freed from the constraints of the past! Sometimes we just don’t know what a resurrection will look like in our situation—what would life be like without anxiety, without fear?

‘Resurrection’ may not be what we expected, but it is where we will find true life, a new life, a life of hope. ‘Resurrection’ means we have that open future, a future which God gives us. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we get what we expected. We may not get what we wished for, but we will receive what God has for us.

No wonder we fail to step out of our prison cell and into the light. No wonder we retreat into the familiar darkness. We can be consoled by the ‘fact’ of the resurrection. But we are being invited to trust in resurrection in the difficulties and trials of life. We are invited to hope and to look for new life even where everything seems hopeless.

It’s not an easy victory. But Jesus has won it for us, and he is with us for ever through his word; he is with us for ever through the meal we shall soon share, and he is with us for ever through his wonderful people. Amen.

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