Today is Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian year.
Christians of all varieties celebrate the empty tomb. As the earliest witnesses said, “He is risen.”
Part of the worship practices of some branches of Christianity acknowledge that the Easter resurrection is a mystery. It defies human understanding, and it is an article of faith.
God, holy and gracious, in infinite love made us for God’s self and when we had fallen into sin and became subject to evil and death, in God’s mercy, sent Jesus Christ, God’s only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to God. He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to God’s will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.
It is no accident that the church fathers chose this time of the year to fix the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Spring is sprung! The flowers are showing, the leaves are budding. New life is everywhere around us.
Here in our corner of the world, the hills are still green and the mustard and California poppies are enjoying the sun. Doves are distracting us when we appear to be too close to their nests and their soon to be new ones.
The new life that Christians believe Christ experienced has resulted in new life for them also. However one sees the resurrection, it is the one thing that Christians say has changed their lives. God has suffered with us through the events of Holy Week even unto death. Now God shows us new life in Him.
The Gospel, according to John, recounts that Mary Magdalene first discovered the empty tomb, then at the end of the account she says, “I have seen the Lord.” John has three people in this scene: Peter, the disciple, Mary Magdalene and the other disciple “whom Jesus loved” – three witnesses, not just two who, according to Jewish tradition of the time, were needed to establish the truth.
These three told the story and on and on to us. Now we tell the story of the resurrection and of new life to all we encounter. Yes, it’s a mystery that defies human understanding, and it’s also a mystery that has changed countless lives and reshaped human society.
The story is the same one that is recounted in all Holy Scripture. God is with us. God knows us, and God changes us and our human nature.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
The Rev. Perry W. Polk is the associate rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Fairfield. He can be reached at [email protected]