The Rector's Weekly Column

Rev. Victor H. Morgan


 

         Christians around the globe will soon gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some will gather on mountain sides awaiting the first light of dawn; others, on sandy beaches with their eyes fixed on the eastern horizon across shiny waters. Still others will gather in great cathedrals or in tiny parish churches at a later hour for more traditional worship.  

                  What is the meaning of all this? Is Easter just about some great, one-time, past event? Or, does it have some future dimension, a dimension that impacts us directly?

                   The answer is ‘and’ and ‘both’. Easter certainly has a past dimension. Classical creedal Christians believe that the God who called the world into being in the beginning did something so radical and shocking on that first Easter morning that it defies human understanding and explanation. They believe that the same Jesus who was crucified and whose body was placed in the tomb on Friday came out of that tomb on Easter morning.  

                  More than that, they believe that His physical body was not merely resuscitated -- but transformed and given new characteristics. They believe that there was both continuity and discontinuity with the body that was placed in the tomb on Friday and the one that came out on Easter morning.  

                  The body that came out, for example, could be seen and touched and could eat food, just as the body that went into the tomb. There was no hint that Jesus was trans-mutated into some sort of phantom spirit.  

                  Yet, at the same time,  this resurrected body was different. It could pass through locked doors, appear and disappear, and travel in a way unknown to us.   

                  Earlier I used the term “classical creedal Christians”. By this term I mean those Christians who take the Biblical record seriously and who are a part of what has been called the ‘Great Tradition’, that tradition going right back to the Apostles and early Church Fathers.    

                  But even as I write this, I acknowledge that there have been a significant number in every generation who profess a Christianity of a different sort – a sort which strips away from the story anything physical and material. The proponents of such a Christianity concede that “something happened” on Easter morning . . . that the disciples had a new religious experience . . . but please no “conjuring of bones”.  

                  There are at least two problems with this approach. Not only does it not do justice to the Biblical record, it misses the future dimension of the Easter story.

            If the resurrection of Jesus were just a one-time spiritual event, we would have to say it was a most curious happening indeed, but that is about all we could say about it. The world, after all, is full of people claiming  to have had ‘religious experiences’, encounters they cannot explain. 

             The New Testament, however, says much more about this event. It tells us that first Easter was just the beginning and that what happened to Jesus is what will happen to all who are His at His great appearing at the end of the age.

             Let us latch onto and ponder this last aspect of the story as we gather to celebrate this year. It was for us and for our salvation that Jesus died, rose ascended and is coming. He was raised, and so shall we!

                  ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace going before us us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.  


The Rev. Victor H. Morgan is rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Blue Ridge.


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