Easter 5, 2013, Risen Poem
The poem “Because he is risen”, part of which we started the service with, sums up the heart of the Christian faith in four words. It’s written by Gerard Kelly who is a church leader in Holland. And what he’s saying is that the rising of Christ from the dead changes everything completely and utterly and always.
We’re still in the Easter season. Today is the fifth Sunday of Easter. The Easter garden still welcomes us as we arrive in church and our service draws our eye again and again to Easter- Alleluia. Christ is Risen we proclaim. Easter is not gone and forgotten, even though the chocolate might have been eaten. In the Church’s year we are still living in the Easter season, and that ongoing joy, the fact that Easter is the start of something rather than the end of something, points us to the truth that we always live in the Easter season: because Christ is risen, every morning is a reminder of God’s love for us and of his triumph over the grave. Because Christ is risen.
I want to share a few reflections on the Resurrection. I’ll read one of the four verses of Kelly’s poem, and then we’ll reflect on it in more detail.
1. “Because he is risen spring is possible in all the cold hard places gripped by winter.” Which is to say that Christ’s rising from the tomb is like the end of an ice age, like arrested development becoming free, like the natural process of growth and climbing to the light which was cut off by our human weakness and our human greed, being begun once more by God’s action.
Streams flow again, birds sing again, lungs fill again, laughter rings again, because he is risen. Things are as they were made and meant to be.
We are restored to life, restored to God.
And we, pilgrims, must get on with living our lives in the light of Christ, must get on, in this new spring which is the death of winter, with journeying on into the future God has prepared for us. Things once frozen are growing once more.
Like the revelation to Peter which said that all of creation is good, that God’s love is enough, more than ritual purity and more than stringent religious tradition. Being a Christian, Peter learns, is not about religious code but about living relationship. “God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Like the new reality of peace and justice in the former Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland, and the hope of justice in every land, even in the darkest corners of darkened cells far from the light. Even there is the hope that things can change, the hope that spring will come. Because he is risen.
2. “Because he is risen, this frail and fragile body will not be the final word on my condition.” Because he is risen, I know that death is defeated, destroyed, down-cast, dead. Because he is risen, I know that I will rise with him. Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered. The end of my pilgrimage, the destination of my journey, the end of all my travelling is not death and desolation but the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city, the place where all things are made new in Christ Jesus. Because he is risen, I know that nothing will be lost, that nothing is wasted or lost, that everything has value, everything can be redeemed. I’m not in a rush to get to heaven. But I believe that I will in the end. Because he is risen.
3. “Because he is risen, hunger will go begging in the streets…”
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you also should love one another. You need to picture the scene to really get this, you need the context. Maundy Thursday. Jesus and his disciples come to an Upper Room. The air in the room is heavy with threat and foreboding and Jesus is different, subdued, thoughtful. He gets up from his seat and he kneels in front of each of them in turn, and he takes their dirty feet and rests then between his folded legs and he washes them clean.
Then two things happen- Judas, whose feet Jesus has just washed, leaves to betray him to the authorities. He will come back with armed men and identify Jesus to them with a kiss of peace. And Jesus says, while he knows that soldiers all over the city are putting on armour and sharpening their swords to come for him, while he knows that the wood of the cross is being planed, while he knows that the plans of his enemies are coming to fruition, while all of this is taking place, he says this: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.’
This is his whole response, his whole defence, his whole message, his whole life.
What can one man speaking of love to eleven followers possibly do against the might of an Empire and the hatred of the powerful he has embarrassed? What defence is love against whips, against nails, against mockery and scorn and nakedness and destruction? For crucifixion is not just about killing someone, it’s about absolute destruction.
You have love being spoken in a small room to a small group of the voiceless: and you have crucify being shouted by all of humanity in an ornate courtyard. And you know that only one will stand at the end. Love one another, says a lone voice. Crucify, shout we all. And on Easter Day the only word heard, after all of the other voices have fallen silent, is Love. A new commandment. Because he is risen.
4. “Because he is risen a fire burns in my bones, and my eyes see possibilities, and my heart hears hope like a whisper on the wind and the song that rises within me will not be silenced.”
And the question for us today is this: does it?
Because he is risen, do all of these things follow, flow, begin? Do I feel like a pilgrim, open to new adventures, open to new possibilities? Do I feel that God will never let me go, in life or in death, do I live as if that were true? Do I dream of a church which is as confident in its mission and service as it is in its worship? Do I love as I have been loved by Christ?
And more. Do we live as Christ’s redeemed people? Do we forgive others for the hurts they have done to us? Do we try to think of others, to reach out to them, to touch them, to show them that they are not alone? Do we live as people who read their whole lives against the backdrop of Christ’s life and victory, as if God is with us and will never let us go?
Does a fire burn in your bones? Do you see possibility? Does your heart hear hope? Does a sing rise within you? And is that song hope?
There comes a moment when words must cease and actions must speak instead. We can speak every word there is, I can preach sermons from now until the ending of time, but if we don’t do it as well, if we don’t live love, if we don’t look like people who’ve been set free by the love of God, if we aren’t like dried-up river beds which were blessed with spring rain, if we aren’t alive, if we aren’t life-giving, then those words are ash in our mouths. We need to live like what we are, which is nothing less than children of God, part of a world God has loved into wholeness and beauty and life.
“Because he is risen a fire burns in my bones, and my eyes see possibilities, and my heart hears hope like a whisper on the wind and the song that rises within me will not be silenced.” May it be so for us. Amen.
We pray now for God’s world, that it may be transformed into what it already is, that rain will fall on a parched land, that dawn will come on people who feel lost in night, and we pray for those known to us who long for God’s healing, who long to be touched by love.