Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection March 27, 2016
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
The masterful German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, writes this truth: “Christian faith … is faith in the resurrection.“ Our Christian faith, in other words, depends on the veracity of Jesus’ resurrection. If the resurrection did not happen, then there is no Christian faith.
Easter shines as the brightest Christian feast, eclipsing even Christmas. It is the one day of the year we should happily run to church to worship with our fellow disciples. It is the one day a year when we should find it hard to contain our joy.
The earliest Biblical account of the resurrection comes to us from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians - written some dozen or so years before the first gospel was written (Mark’s Gospel - written around the year 70).
Here is what Paul proclaims: “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 (Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James (the brother of Jesus - not one of the 12), then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1st Corinthians 15: 3-8)
The death of Jesus on the cross was a profound humiliation to the first disciples. How could such a good man have been executed in such a terrible way? And let us make no mistake: crucifixion was a horrific method of execution. Not only was extreme pain and suffering involved, those crucified were stripped naked - to add further to their humiliation. Jesus died naked and mostly alone on the cross.
But that was not the end of things! As the poet and theologian John Shea writes:
A Prayer to Mary at the Cross
the dead rain falls
and the earth grows cold
and your son no longer
swallows the sky.
But a song of hope
must be struck upon the strings
about fallen sparrows and counted hairs,
The painful prayer of that widow with her mite,
the prophetic fierceness of the sun,
the fire of the desert stars
under which rings the adamantine NO of Jesus to the promises of the Prince (of this world)
and the everlasting echo in your womb -
Fear not: God stirs!
Fear not: God stirs! This is our Good Friday hope and our Easter Sunday surprise! This is a core Christian belief: God will, in the end, make everything new. And a further core Christian belief: what happened to Jesus on that first Easter morning will happen to each of us who are his disciples!
We, too, will be raised from death to life. We, too, will be awakened to the fullness of resurrected life. We, too, as happened to Jesus on that first Easter morning, will be reunited body and soul. We will spend most of the enormous expanse of eternity with a resurrected body, enjoying a completed and fully healed creation.
As our brother Paul assures us in his Letter to the Colossians: “He himself (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead … (Colossians 1: 17-18) While Christ is the firstborn, many will be reborn like he was. We will become like the Risen Christ!
But not only we disciples - but also the earth (and all creation) will be involved in this resurrection process. As Paul proclaims in Romans: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)
Easter is the day when everything began to be healed. And that process of healing, unleashed on Easter morning, is continuing. It cannot be stopped! Again from Moltmann: “The raising of Christ from the dead means that the general raising of the dead has begun … the raising of Christ means that the destructive power of death, which is anti-God, is driven out of creation. Death is ‘destroyed’ (see 1st Corinthians 15:26), and in the new creation there will be no more death.” What incredible news!