Homily of 19th April 2019
Easter Sunday 2019 – Colossians 3:1-4
I greet you this Easter Sunday morning with the words of Paul in our first reading today, “Brothers and Sisters, you have been raised with Christ.
Easter is less about congratulating Jesus on his resurrection and more about Jesus congratulating us who have been raised. I would like to bring to this Easter homily a few insights from Richard Rohr’s new book, The Universal Christ, which might help us gain a different view of resurrection than the one we ordinarily bring to our celebration of Easter. Incidentally, this book I am referring to was 11th on the New York Times’ best seller list last week. Rohr claims that this way of looking at the resurrected Christ has always been part of our Christian tradition but not emphasized.
We are invited to enlarge our view of resurrection from a one time miracle in the life of Jesus that asks for assent and belief, to a pattern of creation. Resurrection is more than just a belief in a miracle or the private victory of one man to prove that he was God. Resurrection can be seen as a process rather than an instance.
Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:13 “If there is no resurrection form death, Christ himself cannot have been raised.” The reason we can trust Jesus resurrection is that we can already see resurrection happening everywhere else. I want to take you back to those words at the end of Matthew’s account of the Passion which we heard on Palm Sunday. Here we have an account of Jesus’ resurrection being more than a private resurrection when we hear,
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs
were opened, and the bodies of many saints
who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming
forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they
entered the holy city and appeared to many.
This is the closest thing we have to an immediate description of resurrection. The Eastern Church has preserved this universal way of looking at resurrection more than the West. It is comforting to know that both East and West were one for the first century of the Church. In their book, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision, John Dominic Crossan and Sara Sexton Crossan demonstrate this convincingly through art.
When you study or pray before Eastern Orthodox ions of the resurrection, you see something quite different from Western depictions. Eastern icons picture the risen Christ coming out of the tomb pulling souls out of Hades, usually with Adam and Eve in hand and myriads of others. Most Western Christian paintings of the resurrection show a man stepping out of a tomb with a white banner in his hand.
Simply put, if death is not possible for Christ, it is not possible for anything that “shares in divine nature.” Resurrection is about the whole of creation, it is about history, it is about every human who has ever been created, sinned, suffered, died, every animal that lived and died, every element that has changed from solid to liquid, over great expanses of time. It is about you and me. It is about everything for those who have learned to hear and see. If Jesus has been raised, the great resurrection of the human race has begun. As we find ourselves living out the resurrection of Jesus it is not a question of choosing the Easter or Western way of viewing it but holding within us both ways of seeing the resurrection.
But all the insights about the resurrection do not necessarily change my behavior. Why isn’t my life different after Easter? Why am I stuck in the same place? Resurrection takes time. It is something we grow into. It’s a process. It is a way of being and a life to be lived. We evolve into resurrected people though our relationships and the circumstances of our lives, especially suffering. Every day we are stepping into the resurrected life. It is not always easy and some days it is pretty hard. But the endurance of our own love and suffering are the quickest way into a change of life.
Maybe we need to let go of the fact of the empty tomb and start claiming the story of the resurrection. There is a difference between facts and story. Facts are one dimensional, stories are multidimensional. Facts inform the mind, stories touch the heart. Facts transmit information, stories transform lives. A fact is static, like a snapshot of a particular moment in time. A story is dynamic, like a movie that takes us across time.
The empty tomb is a fact. Resurrection is a story. Maybe we need to begin to understand resurrection as the movie of our life instead of a snapshot of Christ’s life. The fact of the empty tomb is not the story of the resurrection. The facts of Jesus’ life are not the story of Jesus. The facts of your life and my life are not the story of our life. The facts are just the starting point for the story of resurrection. To often we take the facts as the entire story.