Ladies hear news of the resurrection. Getty Pictures.
At the entrance to Jerusalem’s Church of All Nations, subsequent to the Garden of Gethsemane, there is a sign warning just about every visitor: NO EXPLANATIONS INSIDE THE CHURCH.
This was intended to discourage talkative tour guides from disturbing the church’s prayerful ambience with shouted lectures, but it has constantly struck me as extremely very good tips for preachers on Easter Sunday.
Confronted by a space complete of folks who invest most of their time in secular social methods of pondering, exactly where the dead keep dead and God—if there is one—does not intervene in the all-natural order, preachers are tempted to mount a defense of the resurrection inside what is plausible to the contemporary thoughts. In undertaking so, they tame a hazardous mystery into a manageable—and rather harmless—assumption. They also waste a worthwhile chance to bring the assembly into confrontation with the transformative presence of the living Christ.
There is practically nothing incorrect with addressing people’s doubts, or asking yourself what information may possibly lie behind what Rowan Williams calls the “painfully untidy stories” of the Easter narratives. But that is perform for a different day. Easter Sunday is for proclamation, not explanation. It is a time to meet the One particular who adjustments almost everything.
The central query of Easter is not “What occurred to Jesus way back then?” but rather “Where is Jesus now—for us?” Or even much more strikingly, as theologian Gareth Jones asks, “When is Jesus? When is Jesus for us?” Easter becomes not a matter of our questioning the resurrection but of permitting the resurrection to query us. Who are we now, and what ought to we develop into, in the light of the risen Christ?
Preaching on Easter Sunday, I do not want to convince so a great deal as to invite— to invite the mixed crowd of believers, seekers, and doubters to embrace the Easter practical experience and consent to its transformative effects. In order to connect the risenness of Jesus with the risenness of us and all creation, there are two basic themes: Easter is now! And, resurrection has consequences!
Given that it only happens as soon as a year, Easter Sunday is often mistaken for a commemorative anniversary of a previous occasion. In reality, the earliest churches treated the paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection as the timeless (or time-complete) topic of just about every eucharistic liturgy. The establishment of an annual observance of Easter Day was a later improvement.
The resurrection, even though breaking into history on a distinct temporal occasion, is not the home of the previous. As God’s future displaying itself in our present, it belongs to all occasions and seasons. Jesus is alive, nevertheless displaying up as a transfiguring presence in a globe fraught with absences. Jesus is not more than, and his story is not more than. It will only be completed in the divinization of the cosmos, when God is in all and all are in God.
Easter is not a thing we don’t forget. It is a thing we reside and breathe.
Resurrection has consequences. The resurrection is much more than an thought we speak about or think propositionally. It is a thing we develop into, a thing we “prove” in the living of our stories. Rowan Williams describes it this way:
the believer’s life is a testimony to the risen-ness of Jesus: he or she demonstrates that Jesus is not dead by living a life in which Jesus is the by no means-failing supply of affirmation, challenge, enrichment and enlargement—a pattern, a dance, intelligible as a pattern only when its pivot and heart develop into manifest. The believer shows Jesus as the center of his or her life.
In Orthodox iconography of the resurrection, Jesus is by no means by himself. He is constantly depicted taking the dead by the hand and pulling them out of their personal tombs. Christ’s hand snatching us from death is a vivid image, and George Herbert, a 17th-century poet-priest, employs it artfully in “Easter”:
Sing his praise
Devoid of delayes,
Who requires thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise . . .
But the items that are killing us exert a potent gravity. We sag beneath the weight of our despair, we resist the hand that pulls us upward. Nonetheless, Christ persists. “Arise, sad heart,” says Herbert in “The Dawning”:
if thou dost not withstand,
Christ’s resurrection thine may possibly be
Do not by hanging down break from the hand
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee.
Do not by hanging down break from Christ’s hand. Christ came to save us from our least selves. That is the gift—and the challenge—of the resurrection, and it applies to our widespread life as nicely as to our private selves. The 1st disciples, so scattered and shamed by the events of the Passion, created this completely clear when their broken and bewildered neighborhood was restored to life. And so it is for all of us who adhere to.
Resurrection is about the healing and restoration of wounded and severed relationships: relationships involving God and humanity, involving human persons and, in the end, amongst all the components of creation. An Orthodox theologian, Patriarch Athenagoras, puts the case in the widest doable terms: “The Resurrection is not the resuscitation of a physique it is the starting of the transfiguration of the globe.”
That is what I strive to preach on Sunday. Of course, we do not handle what folks take away from the Easter celebration. But we can hope that the faithful will be inspired and empowered, and that “outsiders” may possibly be intrigued—and even fed—by spending time with a resurrection neighborhood alive with the Spirit.
The key activity of preachers and evangelists on Easter Sunday is not to recite or argue the proof for the resurrection but to support their communities develop into that proof. May perhaps the entire globe a single day see and know a church which has been shocked into bliss—and has by no means recovered!
A version of this write-up seems in the print edition beneath the title “Don’t clarify it.”