Bishop and Christian*, April 2016

“This is the feast of victory for our King, alleluia!” Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

This makes—literally—all the difference in the world. Paul says that if Christ is not raised, then our faith is in vain, and we are to be pitied above all people. Because if you believe in getting a good job, or enjoying your family, or getting people to like you, or having fun while you can, then at least you receive a temporal reward. Believing in the resurrection—that it is also your resurrection—may not get you rewards here and now. Jesus says that His Christians will have trouble in the world. We may suffer, be persecuted, not liked. We may lose or not get jobs; our families may hate us. Much of that will not be fun at all. Certainly, the Lord grants us temporal blessings, which we enjoy. But there is no guarantee of that, and those things can disappear in a moment.

Believing in the resurrection means believing in something beyond whatever prosperity or tribulation we experience in our lives. And that means not taking the things of this world more seriously than they deserve to be taken (e.g., trusting in them so that we are driven to despair when they fail). But if Jesus is not raised from the dead, then we had better take the things of this world far more seriously than anything that we might hold in the “future.” A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as they say.

Believing in the resurrection and having it turn out false would be far worse than not believing in the resurrection and getting on with your life, getting and doing what you can, while you can get and do it.

On the other hand, if the resurrection is true, as the Twelve, Paul, and millions of other Christians have trusted, and so staked everything on it—if Jesus really is raised from the dead, then that changes everything. It changes how we carry out our days, how we order our lives, how we deal with other people, and where we put our trust. And, strangely enough, the trust in the resurrection created by the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ own words does not produce a laziness and lethargy about the people who surround us and the world in which we live. If the resurrection is true, then all of these people’s bodies are going to be raised; Jesus cares enough about bodies to take one for Himself, and then to promise resurrection to all people, just as He is risen from the dead. And that means that what people need for living in these bodies is highly important. It means that their bodily needs are worth serving, as we have the opportunity. It is not everything (we would rather have eternal life in the resurrection than an endlessly prolonged life here in this creation), but it is not at all unimportant. We have work to do in this creation for those whose needs God puts before us: to serve them as Jesus did and does; to love them as God does, unconditionally and completely apart from their sin and good works; and forgiving them as Christ has forgiven us. And the Church has the good work to do of bearing witness to the work of Christ, as we gather to hear His Word and receive His Sacraments, as well as when we live our lives in quiet and joyous confidence.

But the resurrection of Jesus is also a promise that, if we are in Christ by Holy Baptism and faith, then our sin and death are actually forgiven and done away with, and our good works are not empty and worthless. The resurrection is a promise that all will be restored, all will be made right, and all will be healed—the whole creation, including our bodies. And that means we can do our work, completely confident that the work of Jesus for us and for all people has been finished and done.

You have died with Christ, and your resurrection with Christ is assured; you are free, then, to do what is placed before you in joy and confidence and a hope that cannot disappoint because it is grounded not in the shifting sand of this world and our sinful natures, but in the promise of our Lord, whose resurrection is the physical guarantee of His word.

Christ is risen, indeed, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

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