Easter Sunday — The Resurrection
A Dialogue Sermon
Preacher 1 — Can anyone tell us why we are here today? [We are looking for ‘resurrection’ and ‘witnesses’, might need to offer some clues.]
When the right answer is given, continue with … Yes, Jesus’ resurrection has brought us here. You could say that there is no other reason for us being here. [pause] But that isn’t enough! It’s not just about Jesus, nor only about something that happened 2000 years ago. It’s about us! Jesus expects us to start with ourselves, remember the man with a plank in his eye …
Julian [with plank in his eye!] — Here, Preacher, let me get that tiny little speck out of your eye …
Preacher 1 — Or ‘love your neighbour, as you love yourself’, or ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ Don’t move away from yourself too quickly, don’t think too much about other people, or even Jesus, without thinking about yourself first! It’s worth repeating, don’t think about something that happened 2000 years ago, if that’s what we’re thinking about then we have lost it. It is about us, it is about now, it’s about me, and you [point at each other] and what is going on inside us.
Julian — Look at Easter in our society — it’s all about chocolate, eggs and chicks. I was stunned when I was looking for an Easter image using Google, the internet ‘proves’, with endless search results, that chocolate and eggs are at the heart of Easter! The only thing that can change that is — what do you [congregation] think (and I’ve given you a clue already)? [Yes, it’s: you/us!]
Preacher 1 — So, Christ’s resurrection is about our resurrection … And the Apostle Paul helpfully explains this, even if he describes it a little mysteriously:
So if you have been raised with Christ,
seek the things that are above, where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God
Set your minds on things that are above,
not on things that are on earth, for you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is your life is revealed,
then you also will be revealed with him in glory. (Colossians 3.1–4)
Julian — Yes, the resurrection has put us in a different place. I’m struck by the word ‘hidden’ though we don’t have time to explore it.
Preacher 1 — So can you say a little more about the sort of things we should be setting our minds on?
Julian — Resurrection is a new creation. We don’t have any problem with Jesus being resurrected, though we may have different ideas about what happened, but, again, this is about us — we are resurrected, we are a new creation. Paul says this in another of his letters — check it out after the service on Bible Gateway. Paul is telling us that we are like Jesus — another difficult thought — that we should be looking in Jesus’ direction and thinking about him/like him. And what Jesus did, said and thought, though Paul doesn’t tell us — we have to look in the Gospels — is pretty much all about how we relate to each other. That’s what makes the Resurrection — the Christian Message — worthwhile and full of impact. The Resurrection is God’s seal of approval of that way of living.
Preacher 1 — Yet we don’t have direct experience of Christ’s resurrection and we haven’t experienced our own, either, do we?
Julian — except we are already there, we are already in it, the Resurrection has happened to us already!
Preacher 1 — What exactly are you saying there?
Julian — Well let’s find out and ask people what it means — How has the Resurrection happened in your life?
[Responses from congregation …]
Preacher 1 — But don’t forget, Paul also wants to say that we have died! There is no life without death, as Jesus says in his famous saying about the grain of wheat in John 12. So Easter and Resurrection is about death and life, of course, as we have been reading in the Gospel stories, but not just the death and life of Jesus, our own too. The death that we have experienced, if you can imagine it, has made us more alive than ever.
Julian — So what is this death?!
Preacher 1 — Paul definitely isn’t speaking literally, it’s another of his common expressions. But I think you have a story about it.
Julian — Yes, when I was baptised as a teenager, my minister seemed very excited! He gave the example of Khrushchev at the United Nations, taking his shoe off, banging it on the table and saying, ‘We will bury you!’ He was rather confrontational! The minister was, of course, illustrating the ideas of the Apostle Paul who elsewhere talks about us being buried in baptism and then raised to new life. The death he talks about is of putting things aside, of transformation. We should be aiming to live as transformed people, like Jesus. Personally, I wouldn’t wear a WWJD bracelet or, as some Americans do, ask which SUV or gun Jesus would buy! But it’s an important thought — how can we live out being like Jesus, that’s what Resurrection and being followers of Jesus is all about.
Preacher 1 — But Paul also highlights some tensions doesn’t he, the pull between these different ideas, which we experience each Sunday during Lent and especially as we move from Good Friday to Easter Sunday?
And I’m going to answer my own question. We are in an in-between state, though we have reached the end of Lent and experienced, again, Christ’s resurrected life and our own new birth, we are still waiting. We wait for Christ, while also knowing and meeting him, we wait for him for all of our lives, until the end of our lives.
Julian — And we don’t know how long that journey will be or what will happen do we? I think of one of my friends who died a few years ago on Easter Sunday, so of course I remember each year. I remember praying for him and our group of friends as we gathered round his hospital bed, sharing in both life and death together. We knew that it was the last time that most of us would see him, each of us had time on our own saying goodbye to him. Yet, although he has gone now, he is still with us in many ways, he still features in our circle when we meet up.
Preacher 1 — There is paradox here in our thinking as Christians, things have happened and not happened, there is death and life, even if not literal. We say we are in the kingdom of God, but still pray, ‘Your Kingdom come’. This is the tension of being a believer, a follower of God — living in two worlds, two realities and trying to make sense of the pull of each, the now and not yet. But rooted in, or fixed at two ends, ourselves and Jesus. Do we feel that tension when we are together, how do we meet, live and worship with each other, or with others when we are outside the church?
Julian — So here’s my last lot of questions as we finish our reflections: Who am I? What am I? Who are you? How should I be, do, live? And who is Jesus, what does he want for me and for you? Some good questions for Easter and every day.
Preacher 1 — And that is the message of Resurrection. Whatever happened that first Easter morning it transformed our thinking, our world, with big questions and answers. Christian thinking is about rebirth or reawakening in many forms, about spiritual and moral transformation. That is the really good news of Easter and that is what we have to live by, what we have to share.
Written by Julian Bond, with input from my friend ‘Preacher 1’, and preached in a Methodist Church on Easter Sunday 2017.