Lesson 21: Christ is Risen

ResurrectionEvery Easter, we shout “Christ is risen!” to each other with great joy. Chances are, we have a pretty good idea of what we mean, even though we would have a difficult time putting it into words. Most attempts at theorizing sound like nonsense in the modern world. Where is the right hand of God to which he was raised? What kind of life enables him to appear and disappear, even go through closed doors? How has he conquered sin and death if they surely seem to be hanging around?

A good place to start is to remember that we are speaking about historical events. “Christ is risen” primarily means that Jesus of Nazareth, who truly died, now lives again among us. Again, that calls for explaining about what kind of life we are speaking. Nonetheless, I think we can make more sense by keeping it historical, at least as best and as long as we can.

A Lutheran theologian, Robert Jenson, counsels considering the difference between a living and a dead person. He suggests to be alive means you have a voice that changes those to whom you speak and a body that is available to those around you.

To shout, “Christ is risen” then means first that the man Jesus again speaks to us. Certainly the crucifixion was the attempt by the political, economic, and religious powers of this world to silence a person who speaks for God. The resurrection proclaims they failed and affirms that this man, Jesus, did speak and live perfectly as the Word of God. More than that, the resurrection claims he still speaks for God.

Jenson observes the Risen Lord speaks in a twofold manner. First, he speaks to the Church when the Gospel is proclaimed, the scriptures are read, the sermon is preached, the liturgy sung, and the Christian life discussed. Second, he speaks through the Church to the world.

Turning to Jenson’s second characteristic of a living person, we readily acknowledge the Risen Lord is among us as the Body of Christ available to the Church in the Eucharist. However, we could extend this bodily presence to the water of Baptism and the physical presence of other saints. And again, when we take this to another level, the Church is the Body of Christ available to the world in all sorts of loving actions.

I would go beyond Jenson to claim that Christ’s presence as voice and body is operative in everyday activities beyond those taking place in the formal Church. For instance, Kerry recently wrote about the intimacy involved in both eating with trusted family and friends at a dinner table and with the saints at the Eucharist. I would like to continue the conversation by suggesting the two are inherently linked together. We recognize the Risen Lord in the Eucharist, because Christ promised to be there. This experience in return enables us to discern he is just as present in every meal we share with others.

It is my understanding that the first Eucharists were love feasts that the early church celebrated every Sunday evening by first eating a fine meal and then reading scripture and letters, offering prayers, singing hymns, sharing experiences, and discussing the life to which Christ called them. I have increasingly found meals with family and friends are also means of grace in which we are bodily available and converse with one another.

Preschoolers taught me the profound significance of this in First Communion classes. Whenever I asked these small children what they did at dinner, expecting they would answer, “We eat” or “We share food”, I received instead “We talk.” And when I asked “About what?” they reported that they talked about what they had done, what they planned to do, and how they felt about one another. This experience has convinced me that being bodily available and speaking to one another in meals is fundamental to our humanity. And, I believe the Risen Christ is part of every essential human relationship. The secret of the Christian life is to experience his presence and hear his voice.

In conclusion, to shout “Christ is risen” celebrates that Love reigns among us. Every aspect of the voice about which we have been speaking, Jesus’ life, God’s Word, and the Church’s message, can be encapsulated in the one word, “Love.” Every experience of the body of the Risen Lord available to us is a loving presence.

Christ is risen! Love reigns! Alleluia!

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