Bristol United Church of Christ     "The Church on the Hill"
Bristol United Church of Christ         "The Church on the Hill"  

Pastor's Corner

Living into Easter

Easter Greetings to you, beloved of God!

What is that Christians like to say on Eater Day? “Christ is risen!” and “Christ is risen indeed!” After seven weeks of Lent where we focus on the teachings of Jesus and his journey toward the cross, we are finally on the other side of Easter. We are on the other side of death. The early church lived more closely in contact with the Easter event than much of the modern church. For them, Easter was a relatively recent and THE defining event of Christianity, at least for the first 600-900 years. Surviving premillennial (before the year 1,000 CE) depictions of Jesus are exclusively of the Risen Christ. The dead Jesus, the corpse of Jesus, does not seem to appear in the first eight or nine centuries of Christianity. Today, of course, much of the art and language of the Christian church focuses on Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Of all that Christ’s life, teaching, death, and resurrection meanings that there are, most Christians tend only to readily identify the concept of Substitutionary Atonement: Jesus died on the cross in our place and for our sins. But this is not the only Biblical interpretation of Christ; it is simply the one that, in our times, gets the most ink. 
It is difficult for many of us to comprehend how a “Loving God” could condemn an innocent person, God’s own child, to death. Some ask, if God loves us so much and is so gracious and forgiving, why is there so much talk about God wanting or needing to punish us for all our various infractions? We know, of course, that the Christian life calls us to repent, to turn our back on sin and return to God. But doesn’t the constant narrative of our sin and sinfulness cause us to focus, almost exclusively, on that from which we are to turn? 
Christ’s dying in our place is meant to be a liberating act, an act of redemption that we do not deserve and neither can we earn on our own. It is by the grace of our Loving God that we are empowered to new life. Being empowered to live in the freedom of Christ’s redemptive act of obedience to death and God’s loving act of raising Christ to life, shall we live as slaves to sin? Are we not slaves to sin if our faith and action are about nothing but the counting, sorting, and mourning our own shortcomings? How is that freedom? How is that new life in Christ?
With the pain, humiliation, injustice, and terror of Jesus’ death behind us (and him); with the season of Lent behind us, let us look forward in life, in the new life Christ brings. Let us not dwell on sin and death so that we will not dwell IN sin and death. Let us take up the banner of forgiveness and new life and live boldly into the resurrection. Let us live into Eastertide (and even well beyond) as God’s Beloved Ones, granted forgiveness and reprieve from death and punishment to live into the Realm of God’s love where Jesus Christ rules.

Friends, “Christ IS risen, indeed!”