Easter is not merely a story about the resuscitation of a dead body.
And it is also not simply a metaphor for new life. It is so much more.
Easter is a story about Creation.
God, who is the creator of the cosmos, the universe and all that is in
it, who creates and gives life and breath to each one of us, was up to
something 2,000 years ago…and still is.
We are all familiar with the creation story. As Genesis tells it, God
created the world in 6 days. Of course, the Hebrew word translated as
“days” can also be translated as “age” “ages”…which is an indefinite
period of time that can last a very, very long time. So, there were
several ages in which God was creating our world, the evolution of the
earth and the species that inhabit our planet. But Genesis says during the
seventh “day” or “age,” that God rested and consecrated the seventh day to
be “the Sabbath”…the day of rest.
The ancient Hebrews observed this day of rest on Saturday and did not
do any “work” on the Sabbath. This has been the tradition for millennia!
(I also highly recommend the discipline it to Christians!)
But that is one reason why Jesus caused such an incredible stir. When
God broke into our world and walked the earth, God did something very
unusual. You see, Jesus started “working” on the Sabbath, the day of rest,
the seventh day. In fact, Jesus did many forbidden things on the Sabbath:
he taught, he fed the hungry, he healed many people, he even encouraged
people to care for their animals on the Sabbath, all of which were
“illegal” acts on the day of rest.
The religious leaders of the time were outraged by this and challenged
him for breaking the Sabbath law on many occasions.
Jesus’ response was, “My Father is still working, and I also am
working." But this immediately raises a question: God is working? On the
Sabbath? What did Jesus mean by that?
In John 9:1-3 it says: “As Jesus walked along he saw a man blind from
birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his
parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor
his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be
revealed in him."
Again, God’s “works” are being revealed in this man’s life? God is,
apparently, still “working.”
The Rev. Dr. Paul Nuechterlein, a Lutheran pastor and theologian,
points out that, in fact, not only is God working: God is still creating!
Creation was not complete on the 6th day. No. Jesus’ ministry brings us
into the seventh age, the seventh day of creation: where God begins doing
a new work in creation. God, through Jesus, was continuing the work of
Remember what St. Paul says to the Romans: “I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory
about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for
the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to
futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to
decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We
know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of
the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of
our bodies. For in hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18-24).
God was not done with creation because creation had become subject to
sin and death. Ever since the Fall in the garden of Eden and the ensuing
sin, jealousy, and murder, there has been a rift between us and with all
of creation. We hinder the work of creation by our own destruction of it.
Every time we murder, do violence, scapegoat others, waste, destroy, and
hate….we work against the Creator and the creation.
Dr. Nuechterlein also notes that we begin to see hints that God’s work
of creation was not complete on the sixth day when we look at the cross
and Jesus’ words from it. Remember that Jesus says from the cross right
before he dies, “It is finished!” Another way to render this phrase is to
say, “It is accomplished” or “It is fulfilled!” The tense used, however,
is perfect passive: that gives the sense that while it is accomplished,
past tense, it is also occurring in the present. You see, the work of the
Creator, of creation itself, was and is being fulfilled through Jesus
Christ. God came to do what was necessary to complete creation by bringing
mercy and forgiveness into the world by laying the foundation of
reconciliation in Christ.
And so it is no coincidence that Easter occurs during springtime when
the entire creation is bursting forth with new life and when God’s
handiwork of re-creation is most evident. In Mark 4 Jesus tells us that
the kingdom of God is like the springtime seed that is buried in the
earth, and when it flowers, it brings forth new life that the birds of the
air will nest in under it’s protective branches and shadow. Jesus himself
refers to his own death and resurrection using a springtime image from
nature: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into
the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much
fruit.” Jesus is the grain who dies in the storm of Good Friday in order
to be raised in the spring light of Easter morning and bring new life to
all. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was the dawning of new life, not
just for him, but for the whole creation. As our reading in Acts 10 today
says, God is “Lord of all.” The word the author uses is “pas": it means
“everything," "all creation."
Listen again to the ancient words of the Exsultet:
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
creation around God's throne!
Rejoice, 0 earth, in shining
radiant in the brightness of our King.
We are a people called to new life, to springtime resurrections.
This Holy week during the Chrism Mass with the clergy of the Diocese of
Michigan, Bishop Gibbs reminded us that, according to the Book of Common
Prayer, our role as Christians, is not merely to be reconciled to one
another, but to reconcile the whole creation to God!!
So it is not just God who is busy creating and re-creating! The
resurrection calls us to action: We are called to be co-creators in the
work of reconciliation with God! Co-creation is made possible through the
reconciling work and love of the cross and the power of the resurrection.
We are called to die, as the flower dies in cold of November, in order to
be raised up to new life again in the spring of April.
Today we share in Jesus’ new life and look forward to the ultimate
fulfillment of creations’ reconciliation to God; the Kingdom of God here
and now. But in order for this to happen, we must seek to build up one
another and the whole creation with love, peace, joy, and faith. Our role
as co-creators and co-reconcilers to creation includes reaching out in
love to our enemies, the lowly, the great, strangers, friends, all God’s
creatures, and the earth and environment itself! This is our incredible
call! And we are empowered to do it through Christ, through the power of
We are a new people living in a new world of springtime magic. Jesus
Christ is risen! Alleluia!