Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Easter Message and Christian Hope

In a recent Easter message, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, recounts a story of Christians "confessing before the rulers of this world the great Name of [God's] only Son" (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 381):

Ninety years ago, following the Russian Famine in 1922 around 33 million people were in danger of starvation in Soviet Russia. A story is told that Nikolai Bukharin, head of the Communist International, was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address a vast anti-God rally. For an hour he abused and ridiculed the helplessness of the Christian faith and all its convictions, until it seemed as if the whole structure of belief was in ruins. Questions were invited.

A priest of the Russian Orthodox Church rose. He faced the people and gave them the ancient Easter greeting, CHRISTOS ANESTĒ EK NEKRŌN, “Christ is risen from the dead”. Instantly the whole vast assembly rose to its feet, and the reply came back like a crash of breakers against the cliff, "He is risen indeed".

Nikolai Bukharin's mistake, and the mistake of many people, then and now, is to treat the Christian faith like an ideology. Looking for Jesus Christ among the dead.

But the truth of Easter is not to be found in the grave of past experience, of pre-conceived expectations, it’s in the joy and constant surprises of new life, which Jesus brings us.

What a powerful reminder that the Easter message is so much more than sunny weather, pretty new clothes, colored eggs, and chocolate bunnies. On the contrary, it's a message of hope with real-world ramifications. And it has the power to change lives and inspire courage and heroism in the face of suffering and tyranny.

To paraphrase N. T. Wright, Jesus Christ risen from the dead robs bullies and tyrants of their last weapon: death. And for that very reason, the resurrection entails a political message that puts bullies and tyrants on notice that their days are numbered. Christ raised from the dead reveals that God's new creation is dawning. God's kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven. Justice will be done. Peace will prevail. Eternal life will swallow up death forever. And so we who share the victory of Jesus Christ's resurrection by virtue of our baptisms need never trade in hope for fear.

For Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death.
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

"In God whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not be afraid, for what can flesh do to me?" (Psalm 56:4)

1 comment:

Tony Hunt said...

Sentamu for Cantaur!