Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19
Christ is risen, and now everything has changed; but, of course, nothing has changed.
Christ has risen, and Rome has fallen, but in her place have risen empire after empire, each one repeating that age old trick of dressing up thuggery in the respectability of marble busts and fine bone china.
Christ is risen, but the poor are still with us, as indeed he himself said they would be; this time, however, we have not wasted the choice nard to anoint his feet, but have instead stored up riches for ourselves under the eschatological vision that wealth trickles down. Meanwhile, since Good Friday last week, approximately 180,000 people around the world have died of hunger or hunger-related causes.
Christ is risen; meanwhile, we are witnesses to another kind of resurrection, of the old time demagoguery that appeals to our basest prejudices and insecurities. The most effective tool in the arsenal of the craven warmonger is the fear of the other, and boy do we fear the other. Thus, for every side of every bout of armed conflict, young men and women give up their lives, and all we have to show for it is an ever bloodier mess. First, it was the Jews we feared, and since then we have found others, and the cycles of preemptive and retaliatory violence have gone on unimpeded as the Neros of the world play on.
Christ is risen, and now everything has changed; but, of course, nothing has changed. Or, at least, we haven’t; not enough, not nearly enough.
And yet, this—this sordid state of affairs in which we find ourselves, and which is of our own making—is precisely why we need to continue celebrating Easter, why we need the Paschal light that pierces the darkness, and brings warmth into a cold world.
Truth be told, Christianity has much more in common with nihilism than it does with any whiggish view of history, in which the world is getting inexorably better toward some beatific vision of a just and peaceful society. To be sure, we hope for such a world, but it is not offered to us on a silver platter. After all, surely we know better than most, that it is the severed heads of the politically inconvenient that tend to be thus offered.
There are, in the Christian life, no pat certainties, no guarantees of projected outcomes: ours is a risky enterprise, a sojourn in the wilderness, destination unknown, but for the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, the rising star. Christ is our help and hope, without whom we are lost for sure, trapped in our world of credit default swaps and sweatshops and factory farming and military-industrial complexes.
Hope is the operative word. Easter—the Resurrection—is our sacrament of hope: it is our rejection of the world that has been sold to us on the cheap, in which violence is the cost of peace, and poverty the price of economic growth; in which our conveniences and comforts are bought with the blood, sweat, and tears of anonymous others, kept far, far away for fear that if they too are allowed to prosper, then we would suffer as a consequence; a pale facsimile of the world that God loves into being. Christ—the subjugated Jew; the son of man who has no place to lay his head; the prophet, marginalised and ignored—(Christ) is risen. Christ is risen, and we are raised with him: raised into peace and out of fear, and out of our locked rooms into the world, led by the Spirit whom we have received, to forgive the sinners and wash the unclean and heal the sick, we who are ourselves the beneficiaries of healing, washing, and forgiveness.
This is the difference then, between Christianity and nihilism; and it is a difference that means that there is, for Christians, no room at all for the apathy of resignation or complacent cynicism. Popular opinion to the contrary, we are not about pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die, but about bread today, the kingdom of God come, the will of God done, on earth as it is in heaven.
This is, after all, the faith of Martin of Tours; of Genevieve of Paris; of Thomas Becket; of Francis and Clare of Assisi; of Catherine of Siena; of Bartolomé de las Casas; of William Wilberforce; of Elizabeth of Russia; of Maximilian Kolbe; of Edith Stein; of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; of Martin Luther King Jr.; of Albert Schweitzer; of Óscar Romero; of Dorothy Day. We stand with these, and so many more, men and women—all doubtless fallible and flawed—but nevertheless beacons of the light of the Risen Christ. We have a great cloud of witnesses who have leaned against the windmills of conquering warlords and power-hungry kings and slave-traders and bigots and robber barons.
They—we—are Easter people, the people of the resurrection, the people who are called to have our candles held up high, to bring the hope that we have been given into the world that knows it not yet, not enough, not nearly enough. Therefore, in the light of the resurrection, let us gather in Solomon’s Porch, together with all the saints. And let the sick and unclean be carried to us—let us carry them, all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit—and let not just our shadows fall on them but the Paschal light himself, who refuses to be extinguished, but lives forever and ever. Amen.