I’m the son of a pastor. Easter was always a big day in our family. In fact, my most iconic memory of Easter is my father booming as loud as he possibly could at the end of the service each Easter Sunday, “Christ is risen!”
It’s a little weird not to go to church this Easter morning. (Our church in Podgorica always has evening services.) So, I had to take my Easter morning a bit differently than I am used to today.
I spent some time reading Scripture. I pulled out my own little book of liturgy. Reading the responses in my head doesn’t have quite the same power as in a congregation when everyone affirms the same hope, same faith using the same words. But it fed my soul nonetheless.
My team is gathering in less than an hour to celebrate together in the afternoon. I’m roasting some vegetables for that right now actually. But I had some time in the morning. I wanted to use it well.
I’m an occasional listener to the NPR show on faith and spirituality, On Being. The host, Krista Tippett, typically interviews a compelling figure on matters of faith, spirituality, public engagement, science, etc. I don’t always agree with what is said on the show, but I always find it interesting, and I always learn something from listening.
Today, I listened to her interview of Congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis. The entire conversation is quite compelling. He spoke of how his faith and hope deeply influenced his life even and especially his involvement in the civil rights movement. He spoke about the vision of community and reconciliation that the movement believed would one day arrive. Around the 8-minute mark in the program, he said something incredibly profound.
You have to have this sense of faith that what you’re moving toward is already done . . . Live as if you are already there.
So what does this have to do with Easter? Everything!
That kind of language is almost Pauline. Now, Lewis didn’t say directly that they drew such language and thought patterns from Scripture and theology, but I’m not reading between the lines too much here. He spoke about how Scripture and faith were formative for him and for many within the movement.
When Jesus rose from the dead on that Sunday morning almost 2000 years ago, the New Creation began. Death was defeated. The power of sin was sapped. The place for which we now long – the place of hope fulfilled of justice complete of reconciliation – already exists.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2: 4-7 (NIV)
Paul doesn’t say that God will seat you in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. He says that it’s already done. That’s the point of Easter. Hope is alive. Hope is real.
If I really believe that, it will change the way I engage in this world. What is there to fear if the victory in its entirety has already been won? It’s true we don’t see that victory in its fullness before our eyes, but we can trust because of the resurrection that it’s true. That’s what allows a man like John Lewis to be beaten and spat upon and not to retaliate, not even to grab hold of bitterness. Lewis said that this refusal of bitterness allows for what he called redemptive suffering.
If God can make the most deplorable act in human history – the brutal crucifixion of an innocent man – into good news, then He can redeem anything including my own suffering, brokenness, and sin. He can and will redeem all of creation.
My father was right to shout. There is no greater news than this: Christ is risen!