A Sermon for Easter Day
April 9, 2023 at Holy Communion
“If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.
Sometimes the smallest words are the most important ones. Today, I am taken by the word “with.” In that word, we discover the whole meaning of Holy Week and Easter.
“If you have been raised with Christ.” Have we been raised with Christ? Nothing else that follows applies to us unless we have. The Easter gospel is for those who know that they have been raised with Christ.
Holy Week has been about discovering how we are with Christ. Friendship, service, betrayal, suffering, death, burial—these things belong to Christ, but they also belong to us. We have known friendship, and we have known friendship betrayed. We have known suffering. We have known death. And so we can be in these things with Christ and Christ can be with us. We see him pass through life and death, and know that he doesn’t do it alone, but brings us with him. We see Christ suffering and we also see our own suffering. We see Christ die and we also see our own death, and the death of the ones we have loved.
All of our Holy Week rituals have been about re-establishing and deepening our awareness that we are with Christ in his death—and today in his resurrection. We attended his triumphal procession into Jerusalem. We ate his last meal with him, and heard him tell us that it made us sharers in his broken body. We walked with him to his final moments of undisturbed prayer. We saw him betrayed. We scattered with his disciples. We stood in the crowd as he was judged. We watched him die. And then this morning we heard of his burial, and we renewed our baptismal vows which joined us to him his death. The sacraments and rituals of Holy Week are about establishing that “with” relationship. Were we there with him in his passion? Yes indeed.
What is a Christian? A person who has faith in Jesus? Certainly. But what does faith in Jesus mean? It means just this: that the fundamental fact of your inmost self is that you are “with Christ.” Christ’s life and death are your life and death. The story of your life is passage into death and into new life again, all with Christ. Then his family becomes your family. His desires become your desires. His spirit becomes your spirit. His labours become your labours, and his peace becomes your peace. It is what Saint Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
The Epistle reading for today (Colossians 3:1–11) takes the fact of the resurrection, and, you might say, does some math. We are with Christ. But if Christ is raised, if he is no longer in the domain of death but sits at the right hand of God, then where are we? Well, if we are with Christ, we are there with him, “not on earth” but “above.” So what should we do? “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is.” And just to drive the point home, Paul tells us why we should seek the things above one more time: “Because you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Have you died with Christ this week? Have you descended into hell with him? I have good news. He’s not there anymore, and neither are you. You are seated at God’s right hand, lifted up above everything that held you down. You have been joined to the Giver of Life; there is no longer any death for you. Neither are there earthly things anymore. For you, there is only life, and glory, and communion with God. “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
But Paul also gets practical, just as we would want him to. This world is full of earthly passions. Greed, anger, slander, obscene talk, lying: none of these mean anything to us now. We’re free from them. We’re done with them. Pride, lust, gossip: they once meant everything to us, they used to be our whole lives—but we have a new life now. We died, the old is done. Something new has arrived, and that new life is lived in heaven with Christ—in the heaven of love, the heaven of forgiveness, the heaven of tenderheartedness.
We’ve talked about the word “with,” as in “with Christ.” But what we do with the Easter message also depends on another little word: “if.” “If you have been raised with Christ.” I invite you to consider who you are, in your inmost self. Are you a person who knows what it means to be “with Christ”? Are you a person who has died to the old and lived to the new? Have you been raised with Christ?
Whatever you find, my role is offer this invitation on behalf of our God: be raised with Christ. Die to the old kneeling at this altar, and rise to the new when you drink from this cup. It is the life-blood of one who sits in heaven, one for whom death is no more, one who would have you with him where he is, hidden in the mystery of God.