Readings for Easter Sunday 8 April 2007 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

For the Lectionary and other reflections, check out Easter Textweek

Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15:19-26; John 20:1-18

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Easter – we’ve got there, and Easter, like Christmas is filled with symbols and stories, with rituals and with remembrances. Easter, like Christmas provides us with a narrative of paradoxical birth: at Christmas we’re presented with the birth of a child from a virgin’s womb; at Easter we’re presented with a birth of a dead man from an empty tomb. The mystery or the unseen secrets of these two events, these stories, have been explored and encountered by the church for over two thousand years and yet each and every year they appear again, calling us to encounter them anew. Is the mystery of Easter, the Passion of Christ, an event to be realised, or perhaps is it a process that is in the process of being realised?

We began this service on Maundy Thursday, washing each other’s feet, serving and being served in community. What was that symbolic action all about? Because it was that symbolic action that started the activity of Easter; it began our being here today, serving and being served in community. Good Friday then invited us to ask questions: who is being crucified? Who is being laid in the tomb?

In preparation for Easter, I checked out a website - a stunning picture of Jesus in the corner. The website is ‘goodfriday.com’ and if you click on one of the options which is ‘Christ’ at goodfriday.com, it goes to another page - this being the page - containing a list of options and this is how it begins: We couldn't find any results for: Christ. Try these instead. The ‘these instead’: Financial Consolidation, Credit Repair, Bankruptcy, Debt Solutions, Diabetes, Viagra, Cosmetic Surgery, Weight Loss; Satellite TV Systems, DVD Duplication, Cable TV, Online casinos, sports betting, Blackjack, Texas Holdem, Home Refinancing, Air Purifiers, Home Loans, Interior Design, Business connections, Conference Calls, Business Forms, Point Of Sale Systems, Projectors, Digital Cameras, Mobile Phones, PDAs, Televisions, Copiers, Home Theater Systems, Web Hosting, Dedicated Servers, High Speed Access, Computer Security, Computer Training, SPAM Filter, Laptop Computers, Cruise Vacations, Family Vacations, Car Rentals, Travel Insurance, Honeymoons, Online School, Technical Schools, Business Schools, Tutoring, Legal Incorporating, Divorce, Law School, Private Investigators, Personal Injury Lawyers. Goodfriday.com!

We could not find any results for Christ, try these instead! Initially I thought, it’s bizarre, it’s an absolute joke, and yet it holds an amazing truth. The life of Christ is not the heroic story of Jesus of Nazareth: rather it is through this one, through Jesus of Nazareth, through the story, that the divine life is being revealed to all. Good Friday and Easter Day – and not the movies in which Jesus plays the lead role - Good Friday and Easter become our story. ‘We could not find any results for Christ, try these instead.’ And the ‘these instead’ is us; it is our story. Today we celebrate and acknowledge that that story continues.

As I said to the kids earlier, if you could choose an Easter symbol, would you choose the cross or the egg? It’s a tricky one, until you’re really confronted with it. Most would, most people in church would always say the cross, it appears to be the right answer, but when you actually are confronted with it, this is your choice, would you choose the cross – gosh, I haven’t even got the patience to unwrap this – the cross or the egg? If it’s going to take any longer to get the tin foil off this egg, I’m going to choose the cross. (I’ve got three of these, this could take ages.)

It’s quite understandable that the cross became the church’s symbol, after all the egg was already a pagan symbol and the church, as the church always seems to do, had to create a division, had to differentiate itself. Thank God we haven’t lost the symbol of the egg, for the egg takes us beyond the cross and it invites us again to ask questions: what is birthed, what is being birthed this day? Not this day being Sunday, not this day being Easter Day, but this day being this time in your life: what is being birthed; what has left the tomb empty? What has left the tomb empty?

In reflecting on Easter this year, I found two things have been helpful and yet quite unexpected. Easter, without doubt is a socio-political event, it is potentially life-creating, it is certainly a life-changing process. Much of the church, much of our culture, doesn’t even recognise that, but sees it as a religious event located in history, and much of the church has therefore adopted a cult-like worship of Jesus, making him the point of the story: it becomes his story, not our story. But let’s look at another example of religious activity: quite often when we do comparisons, it’ll shed some light on the activity that we engage in. Here in Australia, coinciding with Lent, the new AFL season kicks off. The AFL and the Christian church have much in common. Once a week thousands head off to the temple, they head off to follow their adored players, week-by-week the colours change and different saints are venerated. The experience at the temple creates, even if just for a while, a sense of community, an experience of unity, and at the same time, a cause for division. There follows endless theological debate, for there is always the possibility of a future promise, a goal. There are tears of jubilation, disappointment and celebration. Once a week, thousands head off to watch the game.

To understand the Easter mystery and to encounter the power of Easter, we have to appreciate that it is not a spectator sport. Maundy Thursday gave us that symbolically – serving and being served in community. We’re actually called to play the game, to live the life of Easter, not to watch it.

The second unexpected helpful reflection was a one-liner I found in a book. The title of the book is Christ, Krishna and You. ‘There is a very simple truth that we are forever as a culture complicit in denying: like Christ on Good Friday, we are not going to survive. You will not survive.’ That simple truth can be the Palm Sunday of our life. It gives us great freedom to embrace the truth that we are not going to survive – I will not survive, you will not survive. As we embrace that truth, it frees us from accumulating treasures on earth as we invest ourselves in creation, taking a bit part in the eternal and the universal story of divine unfolding.

Today and every day we are given the cross and we are given the egg. Receive both, for in our dying we will find life, and in our living we give thanks for all that is revealed in Christ: ‘Greater things you will do.’

The Lord be with you.

Peter Humphris