In this evening’s first reading we hear Isaiah prophesying ‘Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.’ There is a hope that this life is not all that there is, that there is something beyond, something greater. It is a basic human desire to believe that this life is not all that there is. And we believe it at an innate level, so powerful is our need so to do.
And yet, in Christ’s rising from the dead we know that death is not the end, that our hope, our destiny, our final destination is to be with God, to behold the Glory of God for ever, to be surrounded with his Love. Such a gift is free, and offered to all, young or old, rich or poor, through faith and baptism, for such is the grace of God, the reckless generosity that embraces a world with Love, that shows it its hands and side so that they may see what Love looks like. These are the lengths to which God goes to reconcile the world to himself: to heal our wounds, to be our peace and our joy.
It is strange that much of the world when faced with the story of the Resurrection would reply something along the lines of ‘And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.’ A former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Hollaway has even written that Christ did not actually rise from the dead, but such was the love his disciples had for him that he lived on in their hearts. This is clearly utter rubbish. The disciple go from being scared and stuck in an upper room to missionaries, evangelists, spreading the Good News around the world, regardless of the cost, even of sacrificing their own lives to bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, and that he rose again, on this day for us, that God loves us and tells us to love Him and to love one another. It is a simple and effective message which people still want to hear, even if others do not.
We should, I suspect, be a little careful about all the talk of persecution in this country: Christianity is not about what jewellery you wear, but what you believe and how you live your life. What is perhaps far more worrying is that more and more (due to the efforts of a liberal-controlled media) we as Christians are portrayed as odd, as extreme, as obsessed by gender, sex and sexuality, an irrelevance to the modern world. Your religion, they say, is a private matter – please do not bother us with it, we’ll come to church as and when we feel like it, possibly Christmas and Easter if you’re lucky, but as for believing anything, well we’re far too grown up for your fairy-story nonsense.
This may be something of a caricature, but it is a true one, and one which applies to the majority of the inhabitants of this village, of this county, of this country and indeed the Western world. It saddens me that such a mindset should have become prevalent of late, and that when we, as Christians, try to do something about it, we are told that we are all hypocrites, that we do not practise what we preach. There is some truth in this – we are sinners, but the heart of our faith and the Gospel is forgiveness – no matter how many times we mess things up, we are forgiven. It is this reckless generosity of spirit which people find hard – to believe that they too can be forgiven, by a loving God, and by their fellow Christians. That we can, despite our manifold shortcomings we can be a people of love, and forgiveness, and reconciliation. That God’s Grace will in the end not abolish our nature, but perfect it, that being fed by Christ, with Christ: so that we too may become what He is. That faced with the sad emptiness of the world, and its selfishness, its greed, we can be filled with joy, and life, and hope. That like the first apostles we too can spread the Gospel: that the world may believe.
It’s a tall order, perhaps, but one which God promises us. That is what the reality of the Resurrection is all about, it’s either nothing, in which case we are the most pitiable of deluded fools – idiots who are more to be pitied than blamed, or it is the single most important thing in the world. It should affect all of us, every part of our life, every minute of every day, all that we do, all that we say, all that we are. This may not fit in with a reserved English mentality, we think we’re supposed to be polite and not force our views on others. But this simply will not do. We are, after all, dealing with people’s souls, their eternal salvation, it’s a serious matter. And what we offer people is entirely free, can change their lives for the better, and make life worth living.
So let us be filled with the joy of the Resurrection this Easter, let us share that joy with others, may it fill our lives and those of whom we meet with the joy and love of God, who has triumphed and who offers us all new life in Him, that all that we do, all that we are, all that we say or think may give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, dominion and power, now and forever.