Saturday, April 2, 2016

Easter services

Christians have a strange relationship with Good Friday and Easter every year. First, the weekend often falls on or before Spring Break so a number of Christians are traveling to warmer climates and Good Friday/Easter celebrations are postponed for their holidays. Second, there are the Good Friday services which focus on the Crucifixion of Jesus with all kinds of flawed theology proclaimed. Similar to Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ which moved us emotionally by the depiction of the human suffering of Christ, Good Friday sermons recount, in great detail,  the how but confuse us as to what the day means.  Mostly Good Friday services are sparsely attended and most Christians are busy and distracted by Easter festivities so they hop from Palm Sunday to Easter without much theological thought in between. Then, the Easter service itself: great singing of the best hymnology of the Church and a well thought out sermon by the minister. This is her big chance to speak to more people than she has seen recently. There are the cliches about the Easter - Christmas Christians but at least they are there and ready to listen. She hopes, for she faces plenty of competition from egg hunts to the NCAA basketball tournament which sorted itself down to the final four this Easter weekend. Still, she does her best to lay out the Easter theology.

Which is what? What do Christians believe about Easter? Jesus is risen, at least. But what does that mean? It means little without a vital connection to Good Friday. Fleming Rutledge has written that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, we would never have heard of him. The Rome of Jesus' day crucified thousands of people and Jesus is the only one known to us. Consigned to the dustbin of history by Rome within weeks he was being worshipped as LORD. Paul wrote, "If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."

Rutledge makes the point in her book, Crucifixion, that the resurrection from the dead did not cancel out the crucifixion; it vindicated the crucifixion. It is the first fruit of the age to come, the sign within history of the trans historical purpose of God.

On Easter we celebrate our "sure and certain hope " of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is his victory over sin and death for us leading us into a new way of life.

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