Easter Sunday - Homily 3

 Homily 3 - 2011

Remember the conversation between Martha and Jesus in John’s Gospel two weeks ago: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died… Your brother will rise again… I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day…  And, then, Jesus’ enigmatic response: I am the resurrection, and the life.  I am the resurrection.  There’s only one.  When we rise again, somehow, it must be a sharing in Jesus’ resurrection, an undergoing whatever happened to him.

My sense of things like love, truth, justice, perhaps, in some shape – [the things that make us human] – all call out  for fulfillment, for transcendence, beyond the stage where I’ll have got to before I die.  The way I see it, if life does not continue, somehow, after death, then there is something deceptive, something sour, in my deepest and most precious human yearnings.

Whatever about that, resurrection is not just about life after death.  It is not just about immortality.  Resurrection is more – inconceivably more.  What happened to Jesus when he was raised by the Father?

It’s interesting to take a closer look at the Creed: Talking, firstly, about the Son of God, it says: for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.. by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.  Then the Creed goes on: .. [The one who became man] suffered death and was buried.  On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  It is not just that the Son of God who came down from heaven now ascends into heaven.  Something had happened in between.  He who is divine, the Son of God, the Word, had become human.  The one who rises and ascends into heaven is human – the Jesus who was born over in Palestine, lived there for thirty years, and who died.

What is the Creed trying to say when it says: he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father?  The imagery is down and up, and beside.  But all language about divine things is analogical [sort of metaphorical].  Heaven is not place, and the Father does not have a right hand.  We are talking of the realm of God.  What was human becomes divinized.  With the incarnation, divine became human in Jesus; with resurrection, human becomes divine.  Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus, the human Jesus, speaks of being in the Father, being one with the Father, drawing life from the Father.

All this is wonderful in itself – and it is what we celebrate this morning.  But there’s more.  That is what we are destined to share in – in the experience of the now risen Jesus.  John’s Gospel again: Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you.  The Epistle of Peter refers to us disciples as sharers in the divine nature.  Whatever that means, that is what our being raised involves.

What will that be like?  Our thinking can’t help us.  Our imagining gets in the way.  But, take a deep breath, because that is what is on offer!  And that is why we can all have a … Happy Easter!