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Alleluia! Christ is Risen

I wonder what that means for us today and why it matters. I don’t think we can understand what Easter Sunday really means, if we separate it from this past week. Without Holy Week we risk coming to Easter and asking, “Risen from what?” We risk believing it is only about Jesus’ resurrection and not our own. And what good is it to us if Jesus has been raised but we have not? On Good Friday, our sins joined the sins of the whole of humankind.

 Every year during the Easter season we wrestle with the same thorny question; did Jesus really return in bodily life after he was crucified, was the tomb literally empty? I would also like to suggest that it is not enough that the tomb is empty. It is not enough to proclaim, Christ is risen! It is not enough to believe in the resurrection. ‘The resurrection of Jesus is not a magic wand that makes the world perfect’ (Archbishop Justin 2022). At some point we have to move from the events of the resurrection to experiencing the resurrection.

Experiencing resurrected life begins with recognising the risen Christ among us. That is the gift of Easter and it is also the difficulty and challenge. In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes a claim about Jesus’ resurrection that feels SO incredible true to me; ‘In Christ shall all be made alive’. I can’t speak for Paul, but I can say that Christ’s resurrection is at the heart of my faith and the foundation of my hope! Without the empty tomb, and without Jesus historic bodily return to life, we have no foundation for hope – something we SO need in these days of evil in Europe and elsewhere. Injustice is endemic; humanity, although beautiful, is broken beyond description. We need the empty tomb and the resurrection – evil and sin DEFEATED once and for all time!  If ever we needed to know that sin and evil has been defeated, it is now. Daily we have seen atrocities coming out of the Ukraine, Gaza, Israel and other parts of the world – maybe it has caused us to ask – where is God in this situation? 

In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Good Friday message last year, Justin Welby said, ‘Good Friday is the darkest and most difficult day in the Christian story. But it’s also the day that tells us something SO important; no matter what we are going through, God is with us!’ The empty tomb is our answer. Yes we struggle with doubts but so too did the first witnesses to the empty tomb. Try to place yourself in Mary Magdalene’s shoes. She was at the foot of the cross when Jesus died. Many of the other disciples had deserted him; only a few remained. The body was prepared hurriedly for burial before the Sabbath. When the Sabbath was over, she went to the tomb to finish the formal anointing of the body.

So often we find ourselves, metaphorically speaking, in Mary’s shoes. We are frightened, we are bewildered, we struggle to comprehend what has happened and what is happening, we are devastated by the events occurring around us and across the world. We might feel as if we have no hope, no future and no reason to keep going. When we find ourselves in that position, all we need is to hear the Good Shepherd calling us by name, and suddenly the world looks so different. Like Mary, nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. The voice of the Risen Jesus speaking to us has the power of transformation. Resurrection means that in pain we can find hope, in desolation we can find consolation because He is risen. Death has been defeated. You cannot take Christ out of Christianity; the very heart of Christianity is the message of Jesus’ resurrection. We are people of the risen Lord – Easter people!  

The Revd Cathie Aldis-Saunders

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