It couldn’t be a more fantastic claim. A person brutally killed and buried, but on the third day, alive! And it gets even better. This central Christian story also claims that the resurrection of the person called Jesus of Nazareth almost 2000 years ago changes death and life for everyone and everything, even now. How’s that for fantastic.
As a pastor who has proclaimed this Good Friday to Easter, death and resurrection story for years, and joined in ritual actions, songs, and prayers in communion with others, I can tell you it doesn’t get any less fantastic. This Saturday evening we will gather with people from our neighbouring Anglican church for the Great Vigil of Easter. We start outside to light the new Easter fire and each carry the light that shines into the darkness. We share in presenting the great Bible stories of God’s saving acts throughout history. We pour a large quantity of water into the font to celebrate the waters of re-birth. And once again we hear the story of Jesus’ rising from death to life and with shouts and songs of Alleluia! gather around the table with everything needed for a feast and celebration of new life and hope for the world. And we will do so again in similar and different ways early Sunday morning on the mountain, and mid morning in festival worship. And it’s fantastic every time.
Each year one of four resurrection accounts in the Bible is prominent. They have significant similarities, but each has a unique perspective. This year the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes the “earth quaking” at Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is like the earth itself is broken open with Jesus in death, and once again breaks open the tomb to birth new life in Jesus. It’s seeing all creation and everyone and everything joined to death and resurrection. It’s fantastic.
Another unique perspective in Mathew’s telling of Jesus’ death and resurrection story is the claim that some fabricate a different story to explain away what is too fantastic and maybe too dangerous to believe. It acknowledges our human struggle to accept the possibility of what is beyond our reason and control in the face of life and death. The word fantastic has this double meaning – excellent, incredible, and imaginary, unlikely. Both have been and are used to describe this Good Friday and Easter, death and resurrection claim with some trusting and hoping in its fantastic promise and some finding it too fantastic to believe.
This difference is not abstract. It is a fantastic claim to stand at a grave side or around a hospice bed and trust that God can resurrect life out of death, in the present and beyond. Or as the earth is broken and dying in many tragic ways, to see realized God’s resurrection life for the earth and all its creatures. Or as war and violence strike many regions and people of the world, to hold out the promise of resurrection life in greater justice and peace for all. And in all of these and more, in poverty and homelessness, in mental health and addictions, in broken relationships between indigenous and non indigenous peoples, in diversity and racism, to join with others in common work to realize God’s resurrection hope that life can and will arise out of death, here and now and forever.
It’s a fantastic claim, God knows. Blessed Easter.
Rev. Lyle McKenzie is pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria and part-time chaplain in Multifaith Services at the University of Victoria.
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, April 15 2017