Today is a very special day for Christians throughout the world. I can say that because our sisters and brothers of the Orthodox tradition are also celebrating Easter today as their calendar and ours coincide.
If Christians are freed from sin because of Jesus’ obedience to and sacrifice on the Cross, then the next great surprise is that we will all be resurrected as Jesus was. The Apostle Paul tells us that the last act of the renewed life in God will be the abolition of death but before that those who believe will have been raised.
Both Jews and Christians believed in the bodily resurrection from the dead but only Christians had the clear evidence which is recounted to the crowd by St. Peter—that Jesus was put to death but God raised him on the third day and that he lived with his core believers and ate and drank with them.
The third day is important because Jewish belief at the time was that the spirit of the dead stayed in proximity to the body for three days before departing to Sheol—the place of departed spirits. Instead of an end to his earthly ministry with his death, Jesus is alive and teaches his followers even more.
Like today’s world, the Roman world exhibited vast disparity between the well-to-do and everyone else. For those at the bottom of the social and vocational ladder, life was extremely hard and so the promise of everlasting life with God living in a resurrection body was very compelling. The early Christians were a resurrection people.
Easter—the Feast of the Resurrection—is an annual reminder that the promise of resurrection is a central precept of our faith; that life can be made new.
That new life in Christ will be/is symbolized at the 11 am service by the baptism of Conor Michael Geary. Our theology says that in the baptism experience we relive the experience of Jesus—buried with Christ in baptism and raised to new life as he has been raised.
What then are the implications for us? We might focus on the fact that the economy seems to be getting better and that we have sweeping health care reform and that the price of gasoline will climb in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend, or that there are just three months more or less to this school year or that New York State is broke and the budget is late—again.
But that would be a very shallow view, for Jesus calls us to live as his body, doing the good works which are the fruit of right living, the right living which has been guaranteed by Jesus’ death and his resurrection to new life. We are called to live in a community of faith joined as Conor will be through baptism and belief.
It is said that America is becoming socially separated by all the electronic social media. They forget that America of two generations ago had pen pals who never met in person. Instead we are connected and texting even to our sibling or friend in the next room.
But Christianity requires more. It means moving out of our comfort zone at home and into face to face community. How many Americans will go through a week without shaking hands with another person and yet we do it every Sunday at the passing of the Peace of Christ? How many will like the sense of security that being in the company of believers provides? These are questions which might result in a renewed commitment to worship and work together.
Or we can be like those men who when the women returned from the Tomb with the incredible news that Jesus had risen turned their backs on this promised offer or like Peter who after viewing the empty tomb went home. Whose loss was it? What will be our loss if we see Easter as a singular event without implications for our daily lives.
Those implications each of us must discover for ourselves but we can do it best with a little help from our friends in this or another faith community.