Surprised by the Resurrection

Beloved in Christ,

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Now what?

In the Book of Acts Saint Luke gives us some insight into what happened after Jesus rose from the dead that Sunday morning: “After his suffering he presented himself alive to [the disciples] by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God,” (Acts 1:3). Saint Paul says much the same in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

After forty days he ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Then, ten days after that on the day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. Thus, the Easter season is fifty days long, from Easter Sunday through to Pentecost.

A prominent bishop in The Episcopal Church (USA) caused a bit of a stir when in her Easter Sunday sermon she proclaimed from the pulpit “that resurrection is a process, not an event.” Well, she is both right and wrong. 

She is wrong in that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was most certainly a historical event. About 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ came forth from a tomb outside Jerusalem and spent the next forty days with his disciples and many others. They were more than “convinced” by the event of his resurrection. So the scriptures and the church profess.

But there is also a sense in which she is correct. The totally unique event of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is not simply a historical event. At least not in the same sense that the assassination of JFK is a historical event. That is, an event that is locked in the past and that we do not have access to in the present.

No, along with The Rev. Fleming Rutledge we must say that the resurrection of Jesus is a trans-historical event. That is to say, a historical event that is not simply a “thing of the past.” A relic. An artefact of some bygone era. No, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a “thing of the past” but it is also a thing of the present and of the future as well. 

As such it is an event that we very much have access to via the scriptures, the Eucharist, the prayers of the church, and a living faith. That is to say, it is very much possible to know the risen and living Jesus and to enjoy friendship with him today. Really. And this is the sense in which the totally unique resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a “process.” It is a process in the sense that you and I are “processed” by it. It is a process in the sense that Jesus is transforming you and I and the whole world (nay, cosmos!) by his resurrection life. Even today. Even despite how it might appear. This reality is no less true despite what our carnal eyes presently behold!

Well, I’ve said far more than I set out to say. Moreover, I’ll have to ask you to forgive my preaching. What are you going to do? I am a preacher after all! So I’ll just leave it at that. Christ is risen and living and he wants to transform you by the power of his resurrection! And he will. Alleluia!

Yours in Christ,

JRT+

ps – Our Easter bible study begins on Tuesday evening. We’ll be exploring the themes of resurrection, heaven, and the mission of the church. All are welcome! Please join us! MORE INFO HERE.

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