I received a piece of mail a few days ago—it had printed on the top of it: “The Secret to a Happy Easter”. I eagerly opened the mail, hoping to share with you the secret, but the message inside came from what will remain an unnamed supermarket! Your Easter Ham is in the oven.
So much for the secret of a Happy Easter. The supermarket can’t give what it does not have! Ad campaigns aside, Easter remains the center of Christianity and, at the same time, is the most difficult to understand.
The resurrection of Jesus is ultimately a mystery. A who- done- it on a cosmic scale. The New Testament provides us with some facts—when it happened—we know this with some precision—around the year 30. Where it happened—we know this—in Jerusalem outside the city walls. Why it happened—we believe we know this—because a young Jewish man upset the religious and political leadership of his time. How it happened—this we don’t know. There were no eye witnesses to the resurrection. No one saw it happen and it defies our ability to understand it.
I’m not as concerned about us understanding the resurrection. We can spend a lifetime reading about it, finding the facts, sifting through historical, scientific and any logical means available to us. But the sad fact is that if we spend a lifetime reading about the resurrection, we shall never live it.
St Paul was a man who knew how to live the resurrection. In his first letter to the Corinthians he writes this: “Three things abide, faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” I want to use these three words as aids to help us live the resurrection.
First, living the resurrection means living in faith. Our faith is rooted in the past—in the event which no one saw with their own eyes, but to which they witnessed and lived their lives. Those early disciples didn’t explain the resurrection—they proclaimed it by word, by deed and by the manner of life that they lived. Faith for us says that God’s power raised Jesus from the dead—ushering in a new relationship between humankind and God.
But a caution is in order: don’t make the common mistake of confusing faith in God with faith in the strength of your own faith. This is a common trap. Christians are men and women whose faith is in the power of God, not the power of their own belief.
Second: Living the resurrection means living in hope. The words sprinkled throughout our celebration bespeaks human hope—victory, healing, new creation. But Christian hope is not the belief that everything will turn out just right. The history of our lives doesn’t always have hope. Sometimes everything is not fine—and sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s getting better.
Christian hope is the hope that stares at the suffering Jesus on a cross, it is a sharing in the grief of his death. Christian hope takes us through all of these tragedies and pains to reveal the reality of the resurrection to us. Living in hope means, that God cares about us and God loves us and is with us through whatever happens to us in life.
Third, living the resurrection means living in love. Paul says faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. It is the greatest because love is the most difficult to do correctly.
Living the resurrection by living in love means that we live in community –we live as a group of people in this place—and it means risks, hurts, conflicts as well as joys. Living in love is our calling—a calling to each one of us to be signs of genuine unselfishness, signs of reconciliation and healing. Living in love means to be symbols of celebration and joy—because God has taken the initiative and brought about a new relationship with us—a new relationship through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.
These three abide: faith, hope and love. Living the resurrection means living all of these things. Faith requires our attentiveness; hope requires our imagination, love requires our very soul.
I’m thankful to God for this night: thankful that you are here; even thankful that I can’t now or ever explain to you or to myself the mystery of the resurrection; thankful to be a part of this service—singing, a common meal, sight, sound, touch, and loving—that’s what the resurrection is about. We are living the resurrection as we experience and participate in this Eucharist celebration.
The secret to a Happy Easter does not lie in the aisles of a supermarket, but rather in the faith, hope and love which radiates out of our individual lives,
And our life in this community,
And as we live the resurrection together.