I often think that, in practice and in belief, we do not place the Resurrection at the heart of our Christian faith. Or if we do, it is a scaled-down version of what this extraordinary event and all-embracing reality actually means for our lives, our Church and our world. There is no doubt that without the Resurrection there would be no Christian faith and no Church. It transformed everything for the first disciples and continues to do so for us and our world.
From the earliest Christian times the basic message has been kerygma described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, ‘For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve’. Ever since that early creedal statement, the Church has been seeking to understand, live and share all that it implies.
Of course, Christ’s death and resurrection are inextricably linked and need to be seen as an organic whole. But often we focus, in our liturgy, hymnody, and religious art, far more on Christ’s suffering and death than on the implications of how all this is totally transformed by his Resurrection – and in doing so our Christian faith and our lives become unbalanced.
The theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, captures something of the total change of perspective and being that the Resurrection means, ‘Believing in the Resurrection does not just mean assenting to a dogma and noting a historical fact. It means participating in this creative act of God . . . Faith in the Resurrection is itself an energy which strengthens and raises people up . . . The proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection is . . . the liberation of human beings and the whole sighing creation from the powers of annihilation and death’.
So what would our Church and our lives look like if we truly took this into the heart of all that we do?
Firstly, we are called to be people of unquenchable hope (1 Peter 1:3-9). No matter how grim a situation might seem, the core Christian belief is that God is always at work, and that God’s self-giving love is the deepest and most transforming Reality. As Christians we are called to open our lives to that transforming power.
Secondly, we are called to be people of mission, with a deep desire to share the story of God’s love in Christ, and all that it means. That sharing of God’s love needs to be done in word and deed. It matters both what we say (when we give account of the faith we hold – 1 Peter 3:15), and what we do (when we seek to live the way of God’s love – Ephesians 4:1).
And thirdly, we are called to be a Eucharistic people – who consciously and deliberately remember the transforming power of God’s love in the regular celebration of the Eucharist – with all that means for our lives.
This Eastertide may we all learn ever more deeply what it means to be a Resurrection people.