4/5/15 – RESURRECTION INDEED – by Lynn Naeckel +

EASTER B

Isaiah 25:6-9

Acts 10:34-43

Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

[The Lord is risen indeed,
Alleluia!]

For over 2000 years this has been the greeting that Christians share with one another on Easter. I’ve attended churches where they not only use this greeting in the liturgy, but where everyone greets one another this way on this special day.

For 2000 years – isn’t it amazing? I’m not sure about the translations that have occurred during that time, but it strikes me as highly significant that this is stated in the present tense: Christ is risen, not Christ has risen. Use of the present tense always makes things more immediate, but it also conveys the sense of something happening now, so that Christ is always risen. This is not just something that happened once in the past. Let me try to explain what I mean by that.

If you look closely at the reading we heard from Isaiah today, you will find a definition of salvation. First Isaiah paints a picture of a great feast on the mountain. Note that unlike most religions of the time, God feeds his people, much like he did during the Exodus, not the other way around. We don’t bring food offerings to God; rather, God feeds us.

Isaiah promises that God will destroy the shroud hanging over all nations, meaning all people, not just the Jews, but everyone, everywhere. God will swallow up death forever, wipe away the tears of the people, and remove their disgrace. “Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” The promise to remove their disgrace means to me a promise of forgiveness, a promise of grace, a promise of transformation. And the feast is clearly a celebration, a party, and an image of rich and joyful life.

In the reading from Acts we are reminded that one of the most astonishing things Jesus did after the resurrection was to eat and drink with people, as he had done so often in life. The image of people gathered around the table with food and wine is not just an image that forms the basis of our communion ritual, but also acts as a metaphor for Christian life. That is life abundant, life lived in community, and life lived in peace and good will, not to mention life filled with laughter and good times together.

So, I have come to think of the death and resurrection of Jesus as a metaphor for transformation – from old life to new life, not only applicable to the time of our own death, but more importantly to our present life. Christ IS risen. We can also rise to new life in this life.

Think of people you know who have survived cancer or other life-threatening situations. Think of those who have conquered addiction. Think of those who have endured the death of a child or other loved ones or those who have endured a divorce and come through the valley of the shadow of death to a new life. It’s still their life, probably not perfect, but their perspective and maybe their response to it is forever changed.

This helps to explain our ritual of communion. Critics have said that we worship death, but that is not accurate. Death is part of life and even metaphorically it is always part of resurrection. New life always requires letting go of something or someone in our old life. This may be difficult and/or painful, but it is necessary for new life to bloom and grow.

So every week we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus in our celebration of the Eucharist. It should remind us each week of Isaiah’s promise of salvation in a great feast. It should remind us of the saving of the Jews from Pharaoh. It pointedly reminds us of Jesus’s death and resurrection.

What it also promises us is the ever-present possibility of new life in the present, no matter what our circumstances. Christ IS risen, and we may become Easter people too. We can live resurrected lives here and now. We can choose to forgive, we can cultivate peace, we can look at everyone who crosses our path as a brother or sister, we can choose to serve others, and we can give more dinner parties!

On Thursday night Sam preached, “The question at the Eucharist is not ‘Is Jesus present?’ The question is, ‘Are we present?’”

I think that when we are present, we can offer ourselves to God – and face it, that’s a far cry from offering a perfect animal. Instead we offer ourselves in all our brokenness.

When we come to the table fully present, we can offer up our petty grudges our mistakes, our quarrels, our jealousy, our failure, and our doubts – whatever gets in the way of living life to the fullest. And then we leave them there on the table and go forth renewed, forgiven, resurrected.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

[The Lord is risen indeed,
Alleluia!]

AMEN

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