Death no longer has dominion.
A Catetchetical Sermon
April 12, 2023 at Solemn Evensong
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.
Happy Easter to you. At these “Eventide” services I have been describing some of the fundamental principles of the Christian faith. And today, in this Easter week, we get to reflect on the foundational fact on which the Christian faith is based: the resurrection of Jesus.
I say “fact” because Christians do, quite seriously and literally, affirm that the historical man Jesus returned to life after his crucifixion. But the Christian faith is about much more than affirming that something miraculous happened in the past. Christians believe that the resurrection is realized in the present by the body of those who share in the life of Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is a spiritual reality. This doesn’t mean that it is unhistorical—it just means that the life to which Jesus rose is different and more perfect than a life which is simply material.
Saint Paul says that “Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9). Before his own resurrection, Jesus several times performed the miracle of raising the dead, but these people then lived on to age and fall ill and die again. What is different about the resurrection of Jesus is that he rises into a new life which is immortal, and not subject to the power of death any longer
The meaning of the resurrection is not that Christ was once raised, long ago, to demonstrate the power of God, but that he continues to be alive—and that we share in his mode of life.
This is why we read the Acts of the Apostles during Easter season, which tells us about the church’s first days after the resurrection of Jesus. It shows us how the church shares in the risen life of Jesus by faith, and therefore shows us the meaning of the resurrection as it applies to us.
We read a short passage from the Acts moments ago which summarizes how the church lived together: “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people” (Acts 2:42–47).
A community which shares in the risen life of Jesus is characterized by contemplation of the truth, corporate prayer, mutual dependence and mutual service, renunciation of private possessions, joyful thanksgiving and table fellowship. These are ways that we come alive spiritually, living, with Christ, for the sake of things that are imperishable and heavenly. Our natural bodies are still subject to death, but in our inmost spirit we have already, by sharing in the risen Christ, begun to live beyond.
But paradoxically we live “beyond” right here and now, in the community of faith, as we submit to one another in love and service. When the church fulfills her vocation, she is a sign of the resurrection, a place where people can live in the present for the sake of things which are not subject to decay and death.