Christ has risen! Easter Sunday

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Christ is risen!
Easter Sunday

Christ is risen! This is the great declaration of the Church this night. It is a proclamation of supreme significance. It is the declaration of Christianity. It is the boldest of declarations. Death is no longer a shadowy unknown. Death is revealed as the path to the fullness of life.

In ancient times death was always shrouded in uncertainty. One entered the gloomy nether world. The Jewish people spoke of Sheol – a form of existence, but not one marked by light and glory. The great world religions speak of being finally subsumed into the impersonal divine, or caught in a seemingly endless reincarnation finalised into a merging with a cosmic reality. There is no personal existence and no experience of the glory of a loving God.

The nature of existence after death has always been marked by uncertainty. Christianity alone makes a bold and clear proclamation. There is life after death and that life is a life of glory, of complete happiness, beyond what the human mind can comprehend.

St Paul captures it so strikingly: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Cor 2:9)

St John likewise captures the Christian confidence in what awaits us: “Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is”. (I Jn 3:2)

The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the great revelation of the Christian faith. It is a declaration that each person is intended for a transformation – a transfiguring of earthly life into a new glorified existence. We will be raised to glory. We have a personal existence after death which is to be achieved by entering into the presence of Almighty God. We shall see God as He really is, as St John says. God shares the splendour of his eternal life with us. Heaven is our destiny. Eternal joy awaits us!

Christ is risen!

The Lord, speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper, said that he will come to take us to where he is going. His Resurrection is the promise of our resurrection.

Earlier in the Gospel Jesus declared, “He who believes in me has eternal life”. This is the glorious hope of all Christians. We live in this expectation. Our life on earth is framed by this awareness. All that happens to us – good or bad – has to be given an eternal perspective. Even if this life fails to offer all that we might hope for or expect, there is an eternal beatitude that awaits us. Thus, the Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, and “Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted”. This life is not expected necessarily to offer the happiness we hope for. Human life is marked by tragedy and grief. When happiness comes, it is a blessing. But it may not come. Sadness may mark our lives. Tragedy may strike. Sickness may be our lot. We all know the sometime harsh experience that life is.

We can take a moment to be aware of the terrible atrocity as gunmen entered the university in Kenya. The young people were asked whether they were Muslim, to declare that they were Christian led to their immediate execution. A terrifying moment of truth for them. To declare one’s faith meant martyrdom. On Holy Thursday they aligned themselves with their Master who though innocent died on the cross. And theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

But the darkness will not prevail in the end. Light will conquer the darkness as our liturgy proclaimed this evening. This horrible darkness will not prevail. Christ’s Resurrection is the triumph of truth, goodness and freedom over those powers that destroy.

Thus we gathered in the dark around a fire to begin this Easter liturgy. The paschal candle – “Christ our Light” – was carried solemnly into the Church. As we lit our candles the darkness decreased, but with the proclamation of the Gloria, the fullness of light filled the Church. As we proclaimed Christ risen, the light of this declaration shines in our hearts. Faith in the risen Lord fills our souls with light. Though the darkness may encroach – through evil or sin or sadness – we know the light will prevail. Christ has conquered!

At the conclusion of Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, St Paul said, “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, not any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible is Christ Jesus”. Nothing can separate us from God. The powers of darkness, the shadows of suffering, the pain of tragedy, cannot overcome the triumph of love in Christ. The Christian can face all sorts of trials and disappointments even martyrdom with confidence in the victory of Christ.

Now across the world Christians suffer for their faith, as they have done over two millennia. Evil and hatred will not have the last word.

St Paul reminds us of the significance of our Christian Baptism. He says, “When we are baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death”. Baptism is a dying – it is a dying to a life lived for this world alone; it is a dying to a life lived for ourselves alone – an ego centred existence; it is a dying to evil, sin and the works of darkness. In Baptism we turn from such a life that is doomed to death and we choose the path to life. We choose to live for Christ. We choose to live united to Christ. We choose to live in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

In our baptismal faith, we rise to a new life in Christ. We know that by living our life now in union with Jesus Christ at the moment of our death he will reach out to us and raise us up to union with Him in His Father’s Kingdom.

On this Easter night, let us claim this Christian way of life, knowing it to be the path to the fullness of life – we want to live in Christ and for Christ. We choose life and salvation!
Christ in risen. Alleluia.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 4 April 2015