Death is Conquered

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!!  The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Yes, today is the day that we proclaim that even in a pandemic, even when things are not at all as we would want them to be, the truth remains: God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die for us; and rising triumphantly from the grave, trampling down death by death, breaking the curse of our disobedience, and conquering the enemy, he opened the path for us to share in his eternal life.

…And this pandemic certainly has a way of putting things in perspective.

Yes, we’re getting tired of being cooped up.  Yes, we miss the pool, and the library, and the rink.  Yes, we miss dropping in on our neighbours.  Yes, we can’t wait for school to open again (and, if you’re trying to work from home with young kids, yes, we have a new appreciation for our teachers!).

Yes, some of us here today are anxious – those with weakened bodies who would suffer greatly if someone not following the rules brought this invisible enemy to your home.

Yes, some of us here today are grieving – and the pain of grief is real – as plans we had made: vacations, parties, dinner with grandparents and grandkids; and bigger plans like weddings, baby showers, and even funerals are cancelled, as we are confronted in a harsh way with the reality that so much, so much, is beyond our control.

Yet, the pandemic has a way of putting things in perspective. 

Sure, Easter is a time for turkey dinners with family.  Sure, it’s a time to buy flowers and send cards and celebrate eating a month’s worth of chocolate in a single morning.  Sure, it’s a time to celebrate the hope of new life and new beginnings.

But, at a time like this, the message of Easter becomes so much more focused: there is light shining in the darkness; and though the darkness is vast, though the light at times is hidden from view, we know that the darkness cannot and will not overcome the light, that light that enlightens all of us, whether or not we’re able to realize it, as times like these remind us all too well that, in spite of our plans, we’re not all powerful; we’re created.  We’re part of God’s grand design, and every day, every breath is a gift: as we’re reminded that we’re powerless even to plan our next vacation, let alone chart our own path for the future.

It’s about Relationship

You see, we were created for relationship.

We believe, our faith handed down from generation to generation tells us that, from before time began, the love – the life – of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was so great, so overflowing, that God called into being everything that is, He Created you and me, so that we could share in the eternal life of their relationship. 

That’s why we’re here.  That’s why we’re all here – because God wants to share his overflowing life with us in relationship with Him.

But, in that relationship, we children were unwilling to acknowledge the wisdom of our Father.  For us, even one simple rule made for our protection was too much for us.  From the beginning, we wanted to pretend that we’re the masters of our own destiny – that we’re the ones in control, that we’re the ones who make the plans and chart our own course.

…and it’s times like these that remind us just how little control we have.

But the Good News is that, while this world continues to ripple with the consequences of that disobedience, and every selfish, greedy, and prideful action since, Easter isn’t about flowers, chocolate, and bunnies.  Easter isn’t about hoping that we can try harder and maybe do better with a fresh start. 

Easter isn’t even about thinking fondly about an empty tomb in a far away place long ago.

Of course God, the source of life, rose from the dead.  That’s the easy part.  How could the source of life not rise?

No, the Good News of Easter is that God’s desire, God’s Will to share his unending life with his creation is so great that He would come as one of us to fix that one, ultimate reminder that we’re not in control: Death.  Death is that final proof that we’re not in charge.

But God wants to share his life with us so much that He was willingly swallowed by the jaws of death.  But as the grave closed around him, as darkness closed in as it would on any man, the source of life was revealed, the unquenchable light of life shone forth and broke the system.  The gates fell down, the chains fell off, and all those who died saw that death isn’t in control either.  As the Light of Life stood in the grave, there was a new option, a new path that we couldn’t forge by themselves: if we wanted, we could let those chains fall and follow God Himself on the path to life.

And, to do so, there was only one condition: we have to acknowledge that we were made to be in relationship with God.  We have to acknowledge, in the face of consequences beyond our control, in the face of consequences because of the actions of others, in the face of death itself, that He’s God, and we’re not; that God’s the Father, and if we share in Christ’s death by baptism, and follow with lives of repentance on that new path, then we will be sons and daughters, living in relationship, realizing that everything we have, all our strength and health, all that we work for, is dependant on his goodness toward us, and seeing that even the darkness of the grave is not a threat, but is the means through which our relationship with our Father is restored.

Even in dark times like this, because of this day we can stare the darkness in the face, and we can boldly proclaim the truth:

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Death took a body, and met God face to face.
Death took earth, and encountered Heaven.

Christ is risen, and Hell is overthrown!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.[1]

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

[1] Adapted from the Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

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