Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Hallelujah! “We are a resurrection people and Hallelujah is our song”. One of the things we do come Easter, after a long and sober Lent, is we break out the hymns with Hallelujah in them! Hallelujah comes from the Hebrew and means God be praised! It is an expression of adoration and worship, of joyful celebration. It is sometimes a chorus of great and glorious certainty and sometimes, as Leonard Cohen reminded us, a broken Hallelujah that is uttered in desperate hope rather than absolute certainty.
But however we find ourselves this day – full of certainty, or curiosity, or confusion - we gather to celebrate and to explore and to affirm the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Every year we need to grapple with what does resurrection mean – back then and right now in our lives, in our time, in our world? At the centre of the church’s teaching and practice is the experience and proclamation of resurrection. Jesus was born, lived and died and then was alive again.
The disciples and witnesses of the time struggled to describe their experience – he was alive again but was different. He was physical – he allowed them to place their hands in his wounds and he ate with them – but he was different – don’t embrace me yet I have not ascended. He was Jesus but some could not recognise him at first. Whatever actually happened in biological terms their experience was that the teacher who had been dead was alive with them in a way that shocked them, convinced them and then empowered them to create a new world, a new faith.
But resurrection is not simple reversal. Jesus did not resume his earthly life. Having been raised from the dead Jesus was alive again in a new way and in a new realm. Resurrection is not just being un-dead, it is being alive anew. So what on earth does that mean for us? What does that mean for those of us of earth and on earth? What does resurrection mean for us?
Firstly I would want to suggest that because the divine became human and in resurrection returned to the divine realm that we are invited into an intimate relationship with God in a way not previously possible. Because Jesus became one of us and experienced life and death and new life then we have a way of being in relationship with God that is easier, more direct and available to us through the generosity of God rather than our goodness and effort. Being in relationship will almost certainly challenge and change our behaviour but it is our desire to be in relationship not morality that brings us into this resurrection life with Christ. God, in Jesus, became one of us at Christmas and became a new and living way for us to return to God at Easter.
Secondly, related to this, that Jesus resurrected was not constrained by the particularities of being human. That is, he was no longer only Jesus of Nazareth limited to being in one place at one time but he was now the cosmic Christ available to all across time and space, even us at this time, on this particular day so far and so long after these events. Jesus Christ resurrected belongs to the whole universe in a new and unlimited way. No longer is there a chosen people but a whole world so loved that he is now present to all at all times. As a resurrection people we cannot imagine ourselves more or less important than anyone else, only valued in our uniqueness.
And thirdly that resurrection is renewal, restoration, recreation in its broadest sense. Just before Jesus died he responded to some Greeks who asked him what his impending death meant and he said “that unless a grain of wheat shall die it remains but one grain, but if it dies it becomes many grains.” We see in many physical cycles in creation this life, death and new life pattern. And the new life is not identical to the old – seasons change and over time species themselves change. Life, death and new life. And Jesus was suggesting that it is the same in the spiritual life – the big pattern of our particular birth, our long life, our physical death and our continuous eternal life.
And it is also true in the thousand small deaths and renewals that we must go through to grow into our true selves. Resurrection means transformation. Giving ourselves over to the annual, weekly, seasonal pattern of life, death and renewal we grow into the people God would have us be. We become a resurrection people: a people of rejoicing, a people of hope, a people of journey and becoming.
So let us rejoice in the enormity of the gift of this day, the day of resurrection. And let us receive the gift of resurrection into our selves day by day growing in our desire and capacity to see the invitation to new life in the many guises it takes – in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the new generations of our families and neighbours, the seasons of rain and regrowth, chance meetings with old friends and as yet strangers, work that has meaning, and rest that revives and re-imagines life.
Let us proclaim and enact hope in the situations that we find ourselves in and to the world of which we are a part. This is not always easy given the very real struggle and suffering that most of us experience at some time or another and that some experience most of the time. Let us be a people of compassion and integrity in the world as it is and a people who make real the hope of the kingdom of God on earth.
And let us be a people of journey and becoming, living into the fullness of love without constraint, life without fear or hate, and life without end. Let us be a people who sing Hallelujah even as we travel.
Come Risen Lord Jesus Christ, come.
You may wish to read what I wrote last Easter.