. . . I laughed as I said those words about 45 years ago, down the road from here in a student’s room at Jesus College. The reason I’d said them was in answer to the question “were there any Christians at your school?” – “yes”, I’d said “just some crazy fifth form girls who went around telling people that . . . Jesus is alive today”.
But as I was the only one laughing in that group, the penny dropped rather loudly that the supposedly intelligent undergraduates I was drinking coffee amongst all believed it to be true. I guess that ensured that I did make the effort to find out for myself the truth of the astonishing claim those girls at my school were sharing.
If Easter didn’t really happen and Jesus isn’t alive today in 2018, then there’s no Christian faith, but then there’d be no New Testament either- because it’s difficult to write a gospel when there’s no good news. The Sabbath-changing event which shifted worship for Christians from Saturday to Sunday is so revolutionary that it changes everything else as well. If no resurrection, then no All Saints’ Faringdon or any church at all for that matter ancient or modern, here or anywhere.
As a former Bishop of mine Tom Wright has said, ‘the only possible explanation for the rise of Christianity and for its taking the shape it did was that Jesus of Nazareth, three days after being very thoroughly dead (Roman executioners were professional killers) was found by his followers to be very thoroughly and very bodily alive again. His tomb was empty… and his followers really did see, touch and share food with Jesus as a real, bodily presence. Had they not, they would have concluded that an empty tomb meant that the grave had been robbed. The combination of empty tomb and definite, solid appearances is far and away the best explanation for everything that happened subsequently.
John Updike insists on this realness of Jesus’ resurrection in his Seven Stanzas at Easter – here are four of them:.
Make no mistake
if he rose at all
it was as his body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the
molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as his Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as his flesh: ours.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity
of earlier ages;
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slowgrinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
Just as Jesus’ resurrection is real, so is our cause for joy and celebration (however we’re actually feeling inside just now). The Easter season prompts us to let it run for all 365 days of any year.
So let’s not soft pedal the reality which urges us to fulfil our church’s aim to ‘connect people with (the living, risen and present with us) Jesus, sharing his love in our everyday lives’.
Wishing you joy for the Easter season, which never ends,
Yours in Christ,