Easter message -2021

Easter Sunday, 2024 (Cycle B)

Easter is a time of focus on what is the very essence, the standing foundation, of Christian faith. At Easter, all else is stripped away. The readings today are typical for Easter--all from the New Testament and all in support of the Easter Gospel reading (John 20:1-9) The narrative is almost devoid of detail; the one Apostle is not even named, the only details being rather exact ones about the clothing--Again the text demands an intense focus on only what is critically important--on what is absolutely essential to the purpose. The central thing here is not the presence of anyone but the absence of someone: The Lord Jesus Christ. And that is no detail. It is the overarching image of the passage--a starkly empty room--with some clothing strangely left behind. What is important is not what we see, but what we don't see---not what we are told but what we are not told. The reading ends in belief based on an absence: "For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead." Talk about no explication or context. Jesus had to rise from the dead and we still don't understand, at least not completely. We know something of the why but little of the how, and even less of the consequences. There are few details. The foundational truth of Christian Faith is easily conveyed in a single paragraph:
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Of course there is more--there is a Bible, there is a theology, there is tradition, there is His Kingdom, and most importantly, there are Sacraments, and a continuing store of Grace. But all these things exist only to foreground the central Truth above: Jesus is God and He died for our Sins. He took the Sin of the World upon Himself for our Salvation and he rose from the dead having defeated death and He extends to us everlasting life.

There are other things. God is Love, Love the Lord with all of your being, love your fellow man, repent for your personal sins. And believe with totality that Christ opened a door of Life for us through His Resurrection.

Jesus did not teach in detail. He taught only in the broadest strokes. Why? Perhaps because He knew details would confuse and divide us. Human beings love to argue over the pointless. Details and argument distract us from core truths. Argument and division distract us away from God, away from Christ and His Resurrection, toward ... well, someone else. Maybe that is what it means to say, "The Devil is in the details."

Today so many Christians desperately need Easter revelation. So many need above everything to renew their faith in Christ's gift and offer. To remember the meaning and feeling of love. They look for Salvation in politics, having seemingly forgotten Salvation in Christ. Many almost never mention Christ and most certainly never mention Love. They talk about patriotism and who they hate (which seems to be most everybody). They champion leaders who contradict Jesus Christ in every way. They sold everything for political power to protect the very thing they lost in so doing. If God is Love....someone else is Hate. Many have come to prefer a strict and vindictive legalism, to focus on punishment over forgiveness. The Old Testament over the New. Punishment is becoming the fetish of a displaced and distorted religion, more ancient than Christianity. For us to argue is pointless. We must continue to show compassion, love, and forgiveness, even if many disdain it, calling it weakness. We can never fall to meeting hate with hate. New wine cannot go in old wineskins. New wine requires new wineskins. The New Testament does not amend the Old. The New Testament replaces it.

Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Very Rev. Father Craig Hargis, PhD

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