The Apostle Paul said that if Christ had not been raised, then our faith is in vain. So what is resurrection faith? (Listen.)
Time after time after time it comes to this: Violence. Destruction. Despair. Death. This summer, Australia burned; yet the Victorian Government is logging state forests again. COVID-19 rampages the earth; countries are digging mass graves. Men murder their own wives and children, and are sympathetically described in the media. Powerful religious types support oppressive governments and corporations. Pell has his conviction quashed on a technicality. Millions die from tuberculosis and air pollution every year; vulnerable people are trafficked into slavery; and the world turns a blind eye. Violence, destruction, despair and death: they are never very far away.
They never were. Time after time after time, when all seemed hopeless, when all seemed helpless, God brought forth life. In the beginning, all was chaos; yet God hovered over the chaos and spoke life into being, and saw that it was good. And this began a pattern that persisted through slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon, cruelty and injustice at home. Again and again and again, when all seemed hopeless, when all seemed helpless, when the people were living in darkness and the shadow of death, God brought forth life, and saw that it was good.
Into this story entered Jesus: the Word of Life. He opened the eyes of the blind; he gave voice to those who could not speak. He touched the untouchable, forgave the unforgivable, befriended the despicable. He preached against economic, political and religious violence, and called people to a different way. And so he brought life where there had been a living death.
When the powers were exclusive, he threw a picnic for everyone. When the powers made impossible rules, he healed on the Sabbath. When the powers demanded punishment, he scribbled in dirt and offered forgiveness. When the powers held all authority, he commissioned ordinary men and women to do his work. When the powers sought a scapegoat, he offered up himself and guaranteed life and liberation for all.
And so of course the powers of death killed him. Yet they did not know him: for even in the grave, even in death, God brought life! And this, this is what resurrection faith is all about. Over the waters of chaos; in the face of violence; in the depths of oppression; in the desert of despair; even in the grave: God’s life emerges; God’s love prevails. Hills leap like wallabies! Rivers laugh, forests clap, men dance, women sing: all creation celebrates as God’s life triumphs over death and darkness again and again and again.
This, then, is resurrection faith:
- To hold onto the hope that, no matter how bleak things get, God will always bring life.
- To insist that God’s life will prevail through suffering, death and beyond.
- To recognise that the voiceless and the powerless are often the ones to announce God’s newness, God’s life.
- To entrust ourselves to the way of forgiveness, generosity, humility, love, hospitality, kindness, and community, no matter what befalls us.
- To rest assured that God’s faith in us is bigger than our doubts and our fears.
This Easter dawns particularly strange, dark, and solemn: but resurrection faith demands we respond with joy. We may not be able to gather in the flesh, we may be anxious and afraid: but let’s find new ways to share the good news. And when, at unexpected times and in surprising people, we encounter the Risen Christ, let us trust him, knowing that in God’s time all will be well, and all will be well, and, in this life or the next, we will eat together at the table again.
For creation, liberation, communion, restoration: these are all ours, when we trust and follow Jesus through the horrors of the world, right into God’s own life.
So let us die to all the ways we let fear, doubt and accusation shrivel and diminish us. Let us die to all the ways we restrict, constrict, and deny life in all its fullness. Let us die to all the times we think this, or this, or this, is hopeless and God cannot prevail.
Yes, let us die to sin, and let us rise with him: fully alive, wildly flourishing, extravagantly celebrating, with Jesus Christ, our Lord! For Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. And here. Amen. Ω
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A reflection on Matthew 28:1-10 given to Sanctuary, 12 April 2020 (Palm Sunday) © Alison Sampson, 2020. Photo credit: Unsplash.
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