O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light; Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in tho the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
–Book of Common Prayer
Last week, NB and I took a little trip to a state wildlife area in Eastern Colorado to spend some time outdoors in the quiet of a prairie river bottom. Spring is only just beginning to make appearances here, and most of the landscape is brown with the death of last year’s grass. The primary sound of our wanderings was the crush of lost leaves under our feet. Mornings were brisk, but the sun slowly warmed the green that was beginning to peek through. Such settings readily bring to mind the annual cycles of life and death and, especially during Holy Week.
Life and death. It’s a phrase we use commonly and don’t think about too much. If we do, we generally follow that pattern–> from life to death, from spring green to fallen leaf, from youth to old age. While this is certainly one reality of our earthly life, our Christian hope runs in the opposite direction beginning with death to life. Easter is a celebration of life, but only after Christ’s suffering and death. Death initiates life. Unlike other religions and philosophies, Christianity embraces the death, not as an endless cycle to escape, but a necessary reality through which we know redemption and which was experienced most profoundly by God Himself.
I am not a systematic theologian so forgive me if the following lacks a full understanding of humanity’s need of atonement, but it seems to me, if God is truly the omnipotent ruler of the universe, he certainly could have made a declaration which wiped out sin and evil to reunite Himself to His beloved creation without a sacrificial death. But that was not the path He chose, so we need to believe that there is something important and transformative about suffering and death.
But what is all this talk about death when we are meditating on life? The life we celebrate in Easter is infinitely more powerful precisely because it takes death seriously. At Easter, God did not, like a fairy godmother, wave a magic wand over our world, but instead He turned the Enemy’s the most powerful weapon on Himself. His resurrection then flipped the darkness inside out–death brings life.
Our own faith journey is shaped by this Death to Life reality as well. Surrender to Christ means a kind of daily dying. To embrace the death and suffering of Christ is to know the power of his Resurrection life, not just for life eternal, but also to live full alive today, to be the person who He created us to be.
Let our gratitude for Easter life be deepened. Alleluia! HE is risen.
- Luke 24:26
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-26
- Philippians 3:7-11