Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 8 April 2012
Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!” Every day is God’s and a new opportunity to celebrate life, but there is something special about Easter Sunday. Easter is at the heart of the Christian faith, it provides the lens through which we make sense of suffering and sorrow, gives us our reason for hope, tells us who we are, and gives us something of inestimable worth to offer to others. It is the upside-down day where life is found in the place of death, joy in the time of mourning. The rejected One is exalted. Life and love have the final word.
There are a number of sermons recorded in the book of Acts which give us the message proclaimed by the Early Church in a nutshell. Here Peter is proclaiming the Good News to Cornelius who, along with his household, was among the earliest Gentile ‘outsiders’ to be included in the people of God. Jesus’ life and his good works embodied God in the midst of God’s people. The Powers That Be tried to stamp out that life but God raised Jesus from the dead and gave to Christ’s followers the awesome task of proclaiming forgiveness, a restored relationship with God, to anyone who accepted God’s gift in Christ.
Paul reminds us that Easter was not just back then, it is here now. Christ’s death and resurrection in some mysterious way is our own death and resurrection. The Easter story isn’t just Jesus doing something on our behalf – it is a dying and rising to life in which we participate. I can’t say I quite understand it, but I love the image of our life being hidden with Christ in God. It is a reality which has not yet been made visible, but in the eternity of God I am curled up in the divine embrace, part of the divine life. The little deaths we experience now hurt deeply but they do not need to be feared, because the big death to which they point has already been experienced by Christ and transformed by resurrection. If we watch and listen closely, we may catch glimpses of that life in our present lived experience.
That is the power of the image of the empty tomb – it reminds us that where death should be we find the door open to new possibilities. Death does not have the final word. Violence cannot destroy life and love. Even if we do not yet understand what it is that we see, we can, like the beloved disciple, believe.