1 Cor 15. 19-26
+ Acts 10.34-43
by Revd. Elizabeth Bussmann, Environment Officer for the Church of England Diocese in Europe
Old Testament reading
Isaiah 65.17-end – ‘For I am about to create new (or re-newed) heavens and a new (or re-newed) earth, the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating.’
This was the promise not only in the Old Testament but also in the New. See 2.Peter 3:13; Rev. 21.1
New Testament reading
I Corinthians 15.19-26 – ‘For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being: for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.’ Interestingly the only title Jesus used for himself was ‘The Son of Man’. Reference to Adam the first Man? Luke in his genealogy of Jesus traces him right back to Adam. (Adam in Hebrew means dust/ground ‘adamah’ – Adam made from the earth) Jesus title ‘The Son of Man’ and affirmation of our Humanness.
Acts: 10:34-43 – ‘He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Gospel – John 20:1-18
‘Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.’ Reference to Psalm 16.10
Do we understand it?
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
Easter is the consummation of the Scriptures, which began with the Creation of the World in Genesis, how it was desecrated by Adam and Eve’s disobedience – or more pointedly their wanting to be ‘God’. (A goal that humans still pursue today, even though it is not necessarily explicit. What are today’s ‘Towers of Babel”?
What is ‘Sin’ – basically ‘sin’ is ‘rejection of God – any action which harms our relationship with God or another person. God created humans to respond to him in ways that correspond to his nature, but Sin breaks that link, refuses the gift and in doing so, rejects God. Sin comes in many guises!
When we re-turn to God, he offers us forgiveness and a new start. A new start, a new way of living.
The Message puts it in all its fullness:
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
i.e. Actions follow our thoughts…
The Easter message has often been limited to ‘just’ the salvation of people from their sins – and yet there is SO MUCH more. How we understand the Easter message will affect how we act as Christians in all areas of our lives.
Isaiah 65:17-end Too often it is said, that the goal of Christianity is to leave earth behind when we die and go to ‘heaven’. The early Christians had other priorities. For them Jesus’ resurrection was the launching of God’s new creation HERE on earth, starting to fulfil what Jesus had taught them to pray: that God’s kingdom come ‘on earth as in heaven’. (Matt. 6.10) See Isaiah’s words,promised also in 2.Peter 3.13/Rev.21.1 – the joining together of new heavens and new earth, the resurrection of the body affirmed by Jesus’ physical resurrection – a resurrection that would create re-newed human beings to live in the re-newed world.
The resurrection of Jesus is the affirmation of the goodness of creation, and the gift of the Spirit has been given to make us the ‘fully human beings’ we were supposed to be, in order that we can at last fulfil the mandate given at the beginning – to look after the garden. Gen. 1.27 God made HUMANS in his image, to rule over the earth. In ancient days a ‘king’ represented his gods to his subjects with the belief that the gods reigned over their people through the king’s commands. Humans appointed to reign over God’s creation, to be God’s representative on earth! If we represent a loving God (and are made in his image) our calling is to show kindness and wisdom toward the rest of creation, i.e. the ‘natural creation’ AND the ‘human creation’.
Theme of HUMANS as ‘priests and rulers’ throughout the Bible. Worshipping and reigning the twin vocations of the new people in the new city – Rev. 1.5-6;3.21;5.9-10;20.4-6;22.3-5;
Paul writes in his letters that we have to start preparing for the full coming of the Kingdom here and now. Loving God with all our MIND. Paul explains that Jesus’ death and resurrection was to bring about our re-humanisation! Becoming what God made us for in the first place. But this doesn’t just happen – the Fruit of the Spirit has to be worked out by each individual ‘denying oneself and taking up one’s cross’ It involves the hard and painful work of changing our mindsets – getting rid of old habits and learning new ones. The mind often seems to be automatically tuned to wrong thoughts – or have you ever had to struggle to be rude, angry, resentful, jealous etc. etc.!
We cannot ‘earn’ our salvation – that is God’s great gift to us – through his grace. But we are called to work on ourselves to start becoming what we will one day be when Jesus returns. To be lights to others – being made in the image of God means reflecting God’s loving ways to others.
Summing up: The work of ‘salvation’ in its full sense is 1. About whole human beings, not merely ‘souls’ 2. About the present, not simply the future, and 3. About what God does through us, not merely what he does in and for us.
Caring for Creation & Sustainability themes / links:
A true understanding of the meaning of Easter will transform all our thinking and connection to Caring for Creation, sustainability and justice themes …
Paul writes in Romans that ‘the whole creation is waiting with eager longing – not just for its own redemption, its liberation from corruption and decay, BUT FOR GOD’S CHILDREN TO BE REVEALED!’ In other words creation is waiting for the unveiling of those redeemed, restored humans THROUGH WHOSE STEWARDSHIP CREATION WILL AT LAST BE BROUGHT BACK INTO THAT WISE ORDER FOR WHICH IT WAS MADE. This is a clear mandate to all born-again Christians that what Paul writes to the Romans can’t be put off until the ultimate future, it must begin here and now. It is as Tom Wright writes, ‘our mandate for every act of justice and mercy, every program of ecology, every effort to reflect God’s wise stewardly image into his creation.’
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus – ‘How the Jewish words of Jesus can change your life” by Lois Tverberg – published in Zondervan
After you believe: ‘Why Christian character matters” by N.T. Wright in Harper One
Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright SPCK
Jesus and the Earth by James Jones SPCK
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Prayer for an Easter Morning Sunrise Service
Lord we lift our hearts to you. As the dawn breaks, may we carry the unity we share into every moment knowing that we are one with the risen Christ.
Lord, we lift our eyes to you. As the sunrises, may this moment stay with us, reminding us to look for the beautiful colours of promise in your word.
Lord, we lift our prayers to you. As the dew air falls, may we breathe this morning in and know that like the earth, you sustain us, keep us and work within us always.
And so, we lift our voices to you. We celebrate the greatest day in history, when Jesus rose from death, defeated darkness and bathed the world in stunning resurrection light. May we ever live to praise you!
Lord, the resurrection of Your Son has given us new life and renewed hope. Help us to live as new people in pursuit of the Christian ideal. Grant us wisdom to know what we must do, the will to want to do it, the courage to undertake it, the perseverance to continue to do it, and the strength to complete it. (New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book)
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
An Easter Communion prayer and blessing
Dear Heavenly Father, We offer you gratitude for the ability to gather for this Easter Celebration of Communion. We recall how your son gathered with his disciples when he walked the earth. He broke bread with them and enjoyed their company. We thank you for his example as we come together to do the same.
As we ask you to bless our food, we remember why we celebrate Easter. The sacrifice of your son’s very body for our sin was costly. Jesus willingly subjected himself to suffering so that we could be forgiven and free. While the cross symbolizes his death, it also symbolizes the promise of new life—a life that can only come from You.
Make the resurrection personal to us—help it to inspire and change the way we live each day beyond Easter. Make us agents of your hope by what we do for others and claim for our lives. Strengthen our belief so that we might continue enjoying spiritual treasures from your hand as we rest in the promise of the life to come.
We pray this Easter Meal Blessing with confidence in Jesus’ victorious name, Amen.
Noelle Kirchner (adapted)
by Elizabeth Bussmann-Morton, Diocese in Europe