“The Kingdom Which Has No End”

Scripture: Psalm 30; Revelation 21: 1-6

Christ is Risen!

So what?

I don’t that mean that in a sacrilegious way, but I think it’s an honest question.

Last week, we proclaimed in almost all of the different ways that we know how to in the church- through song, that Christ the Lord is Risen Today, through preaching, hearing a 1600 year old homily originally preached half a world away in ancient Greek, and through the sacrament of communion, where we proclaimed Jesus’ death and resurrection in bread and the fruit of the vine.

So, we have named it and proclaimed it.So what’s next? What are we to make of this epochal historical event?  What does it mean for us in both the immediate, and the ultimate scheme of things?

Over the past Lenten season, one of our overarching themes in exploring the United Church of Christ statement of faith has been that that how we consider the ultimate- be that in appearance of God, who Jesus Christ is, how the Holy Spirit works, or today, what the meaning of the resurrection is- has an impact on things that are immediate.

For a brief recap of what exactly we talked about- I know that I had to look them exactly what I said, and I preached the darn things.

We talked about how the focus on the non-biblical image of God as a white man was used in the past, and sometimes still, in the present, to justify harm to women and non-white people.

We considered that God is described in the bible in ways that emphasize his non- maleness and non-humanity and otherness from us.

We realized that in the midst of all of that difference, God is most concerned with the goings on in the human heart, and maybe, in the midst of our differences, we should be too.

A little later, we talked about Jesus Christ, as the Logos, present from the beginning with God, who we also recognize in the Old Testament as divine Wisdom, that which binds the universe together. 

We considered Jesus’ title of “Son of Man”, as both a marker of his humanity and his being a bridge between humanity and divinity.

We learned that calling Jesus the “Son of God” was a direct challenge to the Roman Emperor, who also considered himself Son of God, and that Jesus presented an alternative way of life and being, a new structure of order to the universe and society that advocated fraternity and equality, serving others before serving oneself in the service of a God who is Love.

After that, we talked about the Holy Spirit, present from the moment of creation, the wind from God that blew above the face of the deep in the first chapter of Genesis.

We considered our role as objects of the Holy Spirit’s power, that is to say, it is the Holy Spirit who acts upon us, and although we can ask for the Holy Spirit to visit us, like the wind, sometimes it stops and goes on its own, as it wills.

We realized that because of this, when we do feel those Holy Spirit moments, sometimes calming, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes agitating, to trust them and to do the same when we recognize it in others. 

So what then of Easter, the moment of moments, the Empty Tomb?

In one way, it feels like the end of our religious narrative.  The resurrection is at the end of each of the Gospels.  It’s the last we hear from three of the four Gospel writers- Mark, Matthew, and John.

Our homily last week from St. John Chrysostom made such grand pronouncements, that hell had been annihilated, that forgiveness had been raised from the grave, that everything else seems like such a well, disappointment.

It’s really hard, at least for me, to think about hell having being annihilated some two thousand years ago, especially when so many go through hell on earth.

For me, the resurrection is not the end of the story, but the beginning.

There’s been a lot of debate in mainline protestant churches- churches like ours, like Presbyterians and Episcopalians, whether or not the we should see the resurrection as a “real” historical event.

These folks, many of whom are my friends and colleagues, would say that it’s too supernatural, not provable, and flies in the face of modern science and medicine.  It’s absurd, they say. Instead, those folks say, the resurrection should be seen as a metaphorical event- one popular Unitarian formulation is that Jesus died a man, and rose as a church.

I disagree. Paul counsels us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, the fifteenth chapter, that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are to be pitied most of all.

I think he’s right.  Without the resurrection, Jesus is just one of many traveling rabbis and miracle workers. I believe in the resurrection for a number of reasons, and I had to move toward that point over the last few years. 

But I believe now that the resurrection serves as the lynchpin of the Christian faith, the clearest sign of Christ’s divinity, the reconciliation of heaven and earth. I do believe that. 

But that’s not the only reason. I also know that if I am to believe, truly believe, in the little resurrections, happening around and inside us, in the budding of new life in the face of death, both literal and metaphorical, I need to believe in the big resurrection.

For I also believe that the immediate needs to be grounded in the ultimate.

I know that in order for me to be able to hope eternally and immediately, for the embrace of God to always be there when I need it the most, I need to believe that the power of God is stronger than the power of death, not just in metaphor, but in reality.

I need to know that there is no place so low that I can go that the grace of God cannot bring me back from it into God’s embrace.

I need to believe that in the midst of catastrophic environmental degradation, with some estimates that 30-50% of all species on the Earth going extinct by the middle of the 21st century, that the Earth will be reconciled to God and be made whole.

I need to believe that in the midst of a season of interreligious violence, where the most radical and violent voices seem to be the ones being heard, that the reconciliation of all peoples is not only possible and worth working for, but also inevitable.

I need to believe in the resurrection so I can believe in the heavenly city that awaits us, as foretold in the book of Revelation.

That there will be a time when God will dwell with us, not just metaphorically, not just in our hearts, but in flesh and spirit. 

I need to believe that when the first things have past away, when all of creation has suffered death, that resurrection will happen. 

That God will wipe away our tears for mourning will not happen anymore, but in the meantime, while we still mourn, that we have a duty to wipe away tears and be present to those who do.

That the tree of life will stand next to the river that flows by the throne of God, and all the rulers of the world will do homage to God, serving not themselves, but the people, as the prophets commanded, ruling with equity, fairness, and mercy, knowing that Christ is Lord of the Earth.

And that until then, we have the right to demand leaders who will serve the people, who will lead with equity, fairness, and mercy.

That’s why I need to believe in the resurrection- not to pass a purity test of belief, but so that the rest of my faith, or possibly even my life, makes any bit of sense.

If we are to have a faith that transforms us, that asks us to do good works, to build a better world, as its fruits, it must be on a sure foundation. 

It must stand on a foundation of the resurrection faith of the apostles and the prophets, that sin is ultimately, but not necessarily immediately defeated, that the game is rigged, that Satan never had a chance, that God has already won, and that love is stronger than death.

And for me, that faith starts at the resurrection, and ends at the heavenly city. 

Thanks be to God for such a sure foundation.