This is a sermon for Easter day. It reflects on the resurrection in light of the creation narrative in the beginning chapters of Genesis.
In the beginning, a spark. A word. Light in the darkness, and speech in the silence.
It’s a day to celebrate beginnings, and new beginnings; creation, and re-creation, because these are very deeply connected realities.
If you were here on Friday, as we remembered Christ’s death, I talked about how this death – the death of God himself, willingly chosen for our sake – could absorb the catastrophic potential, and break the cycle, of all human destructiveness and evil.
And that’s good; wonderful; liberating. But in itself it’s not enough.
What I mean is, you can’t just come along and remove from human lives and human hearts all the power of destruction and corruption, and thinks that solves the problem; because what you’d be left with would be only partial and incomplete. Sin is so very much a part of our nature, so deeply embedded in our minds and hearts, that it can’t be removed while still leaving us whole. It certainly wouldn’t be humanity as it was meant to be.
Think of it like this; you can pull all of the weeds out of an overgrown garden bed, but there’s a lot more to growing a lush and beautiful garden of fruits and flowers than that. You also have to pay attention to what you plant and how you cultivate it.
Or, to make another analogy, it’s like when a building is burning. It’s one thing to put out the fire, it’s another thing to restore the safety, functionality and beauty of the building.
What we need is not just a kind of forensic removal of sin, but to be created afresh; remade; “born again,” as Jesus so memorably put it.
So this explains why resurrection is so important. It’s not just that Jesus’ death dealt with our sin – although it did – but that his resurrection shows us that a fully restored humanity is possible, and what that looks like. With Jesus’ death we see our destructive fires put out; but it’s with resurrection that we see ourselves remade. In the resurrection of Jesus we see our own future and hope.
If Good Friday was about recognising that we are not what we should be, then Easter day is about God showing us what we should – and can – be.
Now I need to be careful not to speak about this as if everything is already resolved, because you and I both know that it isn’t. We live in a time of already-but-not-yet; Christ has already made it possible, but we haven’t yet reached the point where everything is fulfilled.
But while we’re not there yet, the resurrection shows us where we’re going. It shows us God’s freedom to be at work in the world, bringing life. It’s the same power and love which first created light in the darkness; which first created life in whatever primordial soup; which can bring life back to a dead body in a tomb.
The point for today is that even for all of us who have never literally encountered Jesus in the flesh, the work of God in Jesus can be real and make a difference. Because the resurrection shows us that it doesn’t matter what our life circumstances are, God has an open door into them, to bring light and life, to re-create and to make everything new (and better).
This is why our first reading (at the vigil) this morning was the story of creation; because it shows us the pattern for what is happening, mysterious, unseen, in the tomb. As life is restored, God the creator is still at work.
And this is why, for centuries, Eastern Christians have often pictured the resurrection not just in terms of Jesus rising from the tomb, but as Jesus breaking down the doors of a prison; the prison which held Adam and Eve and all humanity up until that point; but the prison which holds each of us, too.
Whether that prison is a sense of worthlessness because of the way you’ve been treated, or whether it’s one of crippling anxiety, or whether it’s one of chasing wealth or status in the world’s terms (something that keeps you caught up on the hamster wheel of corporate striving); whatever that is for you and for me, the resurrection shows us that even in that place, God has the freedom and the power to break in and create something new.
And so every place is has changed, at least in its potential. Not just Jesus but the whole cosmos is made new, as God’s freedom and power are made real for us. That’s what resurrection means, in all its glory. There is new light, new life, new hope. That God continues to create, bringing light to darkness and order to chaos.
And, crucially, bringing love and joy to human relationships. In the light of the resurrection, as we experience something of God’s re-creation of ourselves and our realities, we are inspired and equipped to live as God would have us live. To do what Jesus does and speak as Jesus speaks; to God, to one another, and to the world.
So here we are. In the beginning; the new beginning, where we can encounter God very intimately and personally as our creator, the one who brings fresh possibilities and hope into every moment. That’s something to hold onto, as we go home and to whatever the rest of the day and the week and the year hold for you.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!