Christ is Risen... He is risen indeed!
Did you hear the news today? Jesus, the One crucified on the cross, is risen! Do you believe it? Have you told anyone about it? Jesus' resurrection is unreasonable and awe-inspiring. It was no more reasonable more than 2,000 years ago than it is today. Rise from the dead? How? And why wasn't there any warning? There was. The prophets, and Jesus himself, repeatedly foretold this death and resurrection. At least three times, we are told, Jesus predicted His impending death.
On Easter Sunday the church tells the story of the empty tomb and the charge by the messenger to “go and tell.” For the next several weeks Christians tell and retell stories of Jesus’ first followers who encountered Him against all hope. Amidst their doubt, fear, and longing, suddenly He was present -risen from the dead, and encountering them in a locked room, by the lakeshore, on the road to Emmaus.
The church combines these resurrection stories with stories from Acts of the Apostles: the efforts of the first Christian communities to spread the gospel through the world. The early church celebrated these weeks after Easter. They instructed newly baptized Christians during this time, and encouraged them to explore, in their new community, the joyful mystery of the encounter of the risen Christ with their lives. As we celebrate, we learn again to recognize the risen Jesus where He is to be found: in our midst, in our stories, in the breaking of the bread - and as we faithfully bear witness to the reality of Christ’s presence to the world.
Jesus said: "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised" (Matthew 20:18-19).
Yet the witnesses at Jesus' tomb were surprised. The Gospel of Mark tells us that "terror and amazement" seized them. They were so afraid they said nothing to anyone - at first. But when they began sharing the good news of God's love for both Jews and gentiles, the Holy Spirit moved among them (Acts 10).
Likewise today, the Easter story of God's love for all should be shared. We too are disciples of Jesus, growing in Christ's image and our relationship with God. The Easter story inspires and asserts God's unfathomable love for us: Jesus broke the powers of sin and death, canceled our debt of sin and opened the way to new life through God's grace.
We need that good news, and so does our world. Economic turbulence, warfare and injustices run rampant today. We live in "catastrophic, catatonic, catalytic" times. Our world yearns for new movement. Evil, though not always acknowledged, is among us. But the Easter story reminds us how Jesus embodied God's redeeming love for all.
Like those first witnesses at Jesus' grave, how often are we afraid, unwilling or not invited to share our stories? Created in God's image, we each have a piece of God's story. As we welcome each other into this unfolding story, we empower each other. Storytelling, at its core, is an act of hospitality. And we have an amazing story to tell: Jesus no longer lives among us but within us.
We continue sharing today. "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it," says Psalm 118:24.
And what a reason for gladness and joy: The Lord is risen! Now let us share this good news with the world.
I AM; BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED ME! ~ with much thanksgiving, Stafford