One of the reasons that I love the Easter Vigil is that it is so visceral. We start in darkness, symbolic and actual. And we end in light. You can read about it. You can imagine it. But there is nothing like experiencing the transformation from darkness into light. It is not gradual. It is not evolutionary. It is sudden and complete. And we shout: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” We don’t say, “We think he’s going to rise pretty soon.” We don’t say, “OK, now he is beginning to rise.” We don’t say, “Well, he is in the process of rising.” No. We say, “He is risen!” Because he is. And it changes everything.
Other things in life may be slow. They may be gradual, cautious. But we are bold to say: “Christ is risen!” because it is the core of our belief. It is the reason for our being. We are not a social club. We are not a cultural and ethnic preservation society. We are not a social agency. We are a people of the resurrection. Everything that we do, everything that we are is based on being a people of the cross and a people of the resurrection.
There are people who want resurrection without the cross, life without all the pain. Some aspects of our society encourage that—Easter as a spring festival in flowers and bunnies and chicks and eggs, and a nice dinner, and lots of chocolate. This may be fun, even traditional. And there’s nothing wrong with it. It just has nothing to do with Jesus living and dying for the sake of the world.
There are people who go for the cross but can’t accept the resurrection. They see the injustice and cruelty in the world and work so hard to make a difference that they cannot see that the story doesn’t end at Golgotha. It moves on to the empty tomb, the risen Christ, the astounded followers. Jesus worked with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. And he died a brutal and unjust death. He uttered in human agony: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But that isn’t the end of the story.
Resurrection is the new beginning that redefines everything. It redefines the suffering, it redefines the hope. It redefines death, and it redefines life. As people of the resurrection we are free to meet the future boldly. How else could we do it, if we believe in the resurrection?
As people of the resurrection, we are let loose to serve the world, especially the poor and those in need. Jesus lived and died for us and for them. And Jesus was resurrected for us and for them. So, of course we serve.
As people of the resurrection we continually deepen faith and witness, in our own lives, and in the ones with whom we share the good news. It’s not a secret. And it changes everything!
As people of the resurrection we promote unity, striving to bring together people broken and estranged by sin, people who no longer have to hold onto ancient hostilities.
As people of the resurrection we work to strengthen our congregations, so that they might effectively continue to proclaim the good news of the resurrection in word and deed.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA