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Sermon for Easter

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, NS

AD 2002


“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!


Some things seem too beautiful to be true.  Some things seem too good to be true.  Some things seem too true to be true.  The Resurrection is more so - at once beautiful and good and true, but also more beautiful than beautiful, more good than good, more true than true.  This is a day of superlatives when everything is more.  “This is the day which the Lord hath made / let us rejoice and be glad in it”; a day surpassing all our days, a day suffusing all our days with joy, come what may, a day supplying more joy than joy.


How is this day so much and more?  Because it is more than what we looked for, more than what we expected, both then and now.  It is still and always more.  We come to the tomb seeking the body of Jesus who was crucified.  Our souls in such a seeking become themselves tombs.  But, behold, his tomb is empty; “he is not here”, even more, “he is risen”!  This unlooked-for reality marks a new beginning, a radical beginning, and one upon which we may ever return.  But what about ourselves?  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of the God”.   Get your noses out of the muck. 


We cannot see the hands of God the Father, those same hands into which Christ Crucified commends his spirit, but “he who has seen the Son has seen the Father”.  On this day, we see those hands in the Risen Christ.  They are the hands which embraced us in the fellowship of friends, “Take, eat, This is my body”, our betrayal of his friendship notwithstanding.  They are the hands which embraced the cross, the hands which are marred by the wounds of our betrayals.  But those same hands are something more in Christ’s witness to his own Resurrection.  They are the hands with wounds made glorious, more beautiful than beautiful.  There is in this a greater good than perhaps we realise, a greater truth than, perhaps, we see.


There is more to the joy of this superlative day than simply the shift from sorrow to joy, more than a mere change in mood.  We have enough of those; our lives are lives of change and decay, of good times and bad, of happy times and sad, of sickness and health, in short, our lives have death in them.   There is the constant to and fro of our seeking this and that.  We look for this and that, it seems, for the right things perhaps but in the wrong way, or the wrong things in the right way.  We scoff and snort at miracles as the stuff of an unenlightened past and yet we expect and look for no end of miracles, in part to distract us from the miseries of the present. 


We want and look for an economic miracle; we want and pray for a medical miracle; we want and demand a political miracle, a social miracle, a personal miracle.  And yet in all these things we look to a future in flight from the past by denying the reality of suffering and death.  We expect and look for everything except the something more of Christ’s Resurrection, the miracle of all life itself accomplished exactly through the suffering and death of the Son of God.


The Resurrection is that something more, a something more which is made known so as to be lived.  It becomes the life of the Church, now and always.  No Resurrection.  No Church.  No reason to get up in the morning.  “Let us eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”.  Such is the ancient wisdom of despair.  The end of the story is that there is no story, no purpose, no meaning.  Our lives are but a meaningless struggle in the meaninglessness of life itself.  But the Resurrection is something more.  It proclaims purpose and manifests meaning even in the face of the seeming meaninglessness of our empty world and day.  The story of the Resurrection is given to be our story; even more, it is given to be our life.


The Resurrection marks the measure of this holy time and forms the pattern of holy lives.  It is not an afterthought, a happy ending tacked on to an otherwise gruesome and rather unedifying morality tale.  No.  The Resurrection is the heart and soul of our Christian faith, the very substance of our Christian lives, the constant centre of our Christian liturgy - our lives in prayer and praise, not just now in the festival of Easter but throughout all the moments of our lives in faith.


Even in Holy Week, even in the intensity of Christ’s Passion, we journeyed in the knowledge already of his Resurrection, for we cannot pretend that we do not know that the Resurrection is the fruit of the passion.  Yet that knowledge brought no sweetness to the sight of the Crucified; if anything, it made it more bitter, at best, bittersweet.  The Resurrection gives greater poignancy to the passion.  The joy in our sorrow makes our sorrow more sorrowful, not less.  And so now, the remembrance of the passion deepens the joy of the Resurrection.  The sorrow in our joy makes our joy more joyful not less. 


The past of prophecy, the past of experience, the reality of sin and folly, the fact of suffering and death are not forgotten nor denied.  Instead, they are gathered up into the hands of the Risen Christ, “Behold, my hands....a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have ...  It is I myself”, he says.  The Crucified Christ, Risen and glorified is something more, not less, than the past of passion and death.  His life is made manifest in his body, “risen no more to die”.  The Resurrection makes the body adequate to the soul.  It is the radical condition of our individuality, but only as in the one who is truly and infinitely unique, Jesus Christ, risen and glorified.  It means that his life must be made known in his body the Church.  His Risen Life is the meaning of the Church.  For what is the life of the Church except the life of the Resurrection?


He is risen for us.  His tomb is empty because he would be here, here in his body, the Church, here in Word proclaimed and Sacraments celebrated.  His death and life become the pattern of our life, our life in him and with him.  The Resurrection is radical new life, not by way of the avoidance of death but through the passage of death making death no longer death but the way and means to endless life, even through the will to nothingness which is the self-willed death and folly of our souls.  The Resurrection is the condition of our life with Christ and in Christ but only because He is risen.  This is indeed something more - something more beautiful, something more good, something more true.


But how do we come to know this which we did not think to look for, which we did not even expect?  By its being made known to us.  How is it made known to us?  By the reality of the idea of the Resurrection made known to us by the witness of the Resurrection.  There are the three witnesses of the Resurrection.  First, there is the eloquent, silent witness of the empty tomb.  But that is not enough for the certainty of our faith, for doubts may arise.  They have, perhaps “taken my Lord away”, stolen the body.  All such possibilities of doubt belong to the story, by the way. 


The second witness follows upon the first.  It is the witness of the Angels, those everlasting messengers of all and every great goodness.  “He is risen.  He is not here”.  Surely that will convince us.  Yet Satan himself was an angel, a tempter and a deceiver and so beyond these two witnesses we must have a third, the Risen Lord himself.  He makes himself known to all sorts and kinds, to women and to men, to the disciples and to crowds; in short, to all humanity representatively, as it were.  And the witness of the Resurrection sets in motion the witness to the Resurrection, the witness of the Church.


It is from Christ himself that we have the greater certainty of our faith in the Resurrection.  He makes himself known to us in his risen body - more beautiful than beautiful, more good than good, more true than true.  For the Risen Lord is more beautiful than Adam - read “mankind” - before the Fall in the garden of Paradise.  His Resurrection is more good than the Creation he himself called very good.  His Resurrection is more true than his truth proclaimed in Law and Prophecy.  His Resurrection is indeed more beautiful than beautiful because the ugliness of sin has been transformed into the beauty of his risen body. 


It is more good than good because the evil of death has been transformed into the way of risen life.  It is more true than true because the lies of our betrayals have been transformed into the threefold witness of the Church to the witness of the Resurrection: the Word in the earth, the stone tomb is empty; the Word from heaven, the angels’ message; and finally and wonderfully, the Word made flesh, risen and glorified, uniting heaven and earth, the Word spoken and present, heard and visible, known and sensed, more beautiful than beautiful.


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is that something more, more beautiful than beautiful, more good than good, more true than true.  He is Risen.  He is our life.  Let us rise up into the life of Christ’s Resurrection.  Our life is in the hands of the Father. 


“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!