March 31, 2013  — Easter Sunday

Rev. David Boyd

 

One of the traditional seven last words of Christ, which we observed on Good Friday at St. Saviour's Anglican Church, is "it is finished." This comes from John's Gospel.

While this "it is finished" is open to interpretation, it might have meant that Jesus was near death. It might have been a mistranslation and meant something else. It might have meant that his mission and ministry was finished. Jesus Christ Superstar gives this impression, that Jesus' life as a traveling preacher was over.

But whatever John may have meant with respect to Jesus' life, it was clearly not finished. It was just the beginning. By the "it," I mean the presence of Jesus, the presence of life, the essence of love—clearly, this was just the beginning. The resurrection marked the beginning of something new. Maybe something old had died and it was finished, but something new was beginning and we are part of this story of beginning!

The women who ran to the tomb as recorded in Luke's gospel were asked, "Why do you seek the living among the dead." This question gives rise to the impression that something new had begun or that Jesus' life was continuing, but in a new way.

The women who ran to the tomb expected to find a dead body, which they had yet to anoint. They expected to find the tomb sealed and to find the means to open the tomb so that they could deal with Jesus' body in the traditional manner. They were surprised to find the tomb open, to find the tomb empty, to find two strangers asking them strange questions. They expected to find death and yet were confronted with life. And so began a new chapter in their lives and in the lives of the other followers of Jesus. They were looking for death and yet life had sprung up before them. They were perhaps in the "it is finished" mode when in fact, it had just begun. The resurrection was just the beginning.

There are lots of ways of thinking about the resurrection, but one of the meaningful ways for me is to think of it symbolically. I die to my old self and rise with Christ as a new creation. This isn't just a once only kind of thing; this is something that occurs at many moments in life. For me, this is the essence of the Christian Way; we die to the old self, the self that is troubled, fearful, cynical and we rise to the new self that is the self infused with the Spirit of Christ and the love of God. Resurrection means that we live more fully into our humanity where we are created in the image AND likeness of God. The divine spark of God is illuminated again and again through the resurrection. Resurrection is just the beginning.

Paul knocked off his horse is a resurrection story. Peter realizing that all foods are given by God for all to eat is a resurrection story. Nelson Mandela emerging after 25 years in prison with a passion for life and forgiveness is a resurrection story. Julia Esquivel has written poetically of the promise and certainty of spring even in the midst of the worst of Guatemala's repression; this is a resurrection story. Esquivel wrote these words in a poem called "Resurrection":

I am in love with life,
the sun, the howling of mountain winds,
the storm, the clap of thunder,
the songbirds' joyful singing,
the rabbits' delight
the barking dogs,
and the promenade of the snails
after the rain.
I am in love with life.

The resurrection story lives when we can come together in support of transgendered people and stand against bigotry and fear mongering. The resurrection story lives as we give thanks for this unprecedented time of peace, and it continues to live where we work together to educate young women and men, provide shelter and clean water for communities, work to build bridges across different communities, nations, beliefs, and creeds. The resurrection story lives where we who live with mental illness find support and understanding. The resurrection story lives where we all find love, acceptance and hope.

For that is the beauty of the resurrection; it doesn't necessarily demand that we believe a certain doctrine. It does demand that we embrace life, that we stop seeking the living among the dead, that we die to our old selves and live fully and wondrously sharing our zest for life.

When the women in Luke's gospel went back to the rest of Jesus' followers, they didn't believe them. They thought it was an "idle tale." In fact the Greek is stronger; they thought that the women were delirious. Except Peter. Peter ran to the tomb and found it just as the women had described. In a resurrection moment, he dared to think the unthinkable: this is just the beginning.

I see that they are re-releasing the movie, Jurassic Park, in 3D. That might be kind of fun. I mention this because Dr. Malcolm, the chaotician, says more than once, "life finds a way." If history is any teacher, it is that life finds a way. Even in the worst of circumstances, life finds a way. That's a resurrection story, life finding its way to create life.

So, we stand with the women and those early followers who experienced the resurrection of Jesus. We make resurrection our story because it is a celebration of life. Into the experience of our human existence God dares to create life again and again. Jesus is raised to life again and again where we experience hope and new possibilities for peace, when forgiveness is offered and love embraced. Where communities come together rather divide, life is created and resurrection lives. I want to be part of life. I want to die to my old self and embrace the wondrous gift of life that God offers. The resurrection is just the beginning!

Amen.