St Stephen Lewisham

20th April 2003

This Joyful Eastertide

 

First of all let me wish you on behalf of Fr Kirk, Fr Riley, Anne and myself a most joyful Eastertide. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the well-known Easter Carol This Joyful Eastertide the chorus at the end of each verse says:

Had Christ that once was slain
Neíer burst his three-day prison
Our faith had been in vain
But now hath Christ arisen
.

On Tuesday Father Minchew reminded us that Death, together with Sin, has tended to become the great taboo subject in the secular world. You just donít mention it in polite conversation and, so far as possible, try and keep the whole thing out of sight, out of mind.

That may be regrettable, but at least itís understandable. Since the secular mind does not, and cannot, have any belief in life beyond the grave other than a certain wishful thinking that "everythingís going to be all right on the night" itís probably best to forget it.

Whatís much more disturbing is the tendency on the part of some Christians to try and banish the Resurrection into the same obscurity to which the secular world has consigned the matter of Death.

The organizers of Princess Dianaís funeral started the rot. Instead of any of the traditional readings from St Paulís First Letter to the Corinthians chapter fifteen which puts it all in a nutshell, they asked Tony Blair to read about Love from Corinthians 13: a beautiful passage, no doubt, but one which has little or nothing to do with Death, the Resurrection of the Body or the Life Everlasting.

Mind you, this isnít a new problem. Let me read what Saint Paul says in that same letter:

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people

My concern is not that some people believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first Easter Day and others disbelieve it. In this world there have been, and there always will be both believers and doubters. In a recent survey 47% of those asked said they believed it, 35% said they didnít and 15% ticked the "Donít Know" box. The real problem lies with those amongst the 47% who believe that itís true but behave as if doesnít really matter.

If, as St Paul says in another letter, The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus then it makes a critical difference as to whether we the Resurrection is true or not. If Christ has not been raised you are still in your sins. We are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. If we are telling a falsehood about the Resurrection then thereís not the slightest reason why anyone should listen to what we say about being truthful, loving one another, bearing one anotherís burdens or fulfilling the law of Christ. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

Again, writing to the Romans he says: But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

The ultimate test of our belief, whether in the end we come across to other people as true or false witnesses will depend not upon how often or how emphatically we profess with our lips that Jesu Christ rose from the dead, but on whether we show forth in our lives that we are in reality what we claim to be: the People of the Resurrection.

Had Christ that once was slain
Neíer burst his three-day prison
Our faith had been in vain
But now hath Christ arisen
.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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