‘Hallelujah, He is risen’, to which I am sure you will respond, ‘He is risen, indeed’, yet I cannot help but wonder if the response comes across as just a little muted? Perhaps this is because so many of us accept the resurrection on a cerebral level, but alas, it has failed to impact much further than this. Maybe I am being unfair; my brethren roots means that I am relatively comfortable with muted responses. Rising on the balls of our feet during a rendition of ‘He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today’ (invariably pitched too high for an adolescent with a voice on the turn) was just about the limit of my charismatic worship experience in the church we attended in the late ’80s.
Could it be that many of us have focussed so much attention on the transaction of the cross that we are missing out on the transformation of the resurrection?
I find myself leading a service this Easter Sunday as I cover for a local minister who has COVID. In my (hasty) preparations, I discovered a video through Worship House Media which I intend to use at the start of the service. The video shows text messages that ‘He is risen’ received by many different people, who react with joy and amazement. The narrator challenges the viewer that this is how many responded on the first Easter Sunday and that this is how we should feel too; what it meant for them, it means for us. The narrator is right; we should react differently, perhaps with more overt joy and less Britishness. After all, God is not British, of that I am certain!
The phrase ‘from transaction to transformation’ has been buzzing around my head for a few days. I think that those of us from a more conservative evangelical background are comfortable with the transactional element of Easter. ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour’ is a good question, but it perhaps leads down a transactional path. If we say yes, then we are forgiven and can look forward to eternal life (I am deliberately oversimplifying things), but a concern could be, how does this change us? Perhaps a more pertinent question should be followed; ‘Do you accept Jesus as your political Lord and Saviour?’ That one would lead to change for sure.
You see, proclaiming Jesus is Lord is both personal and political; it involves a deep centring in God, enabling us to speak out. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr, and countless others, we will no longer settle for ‘that’s just the way it is.’ It means we will take a stand and no longer give our loyalty to lesser gods; it means we, like Jesus, will have a passion for compassion, justice, and nonviolence.
The Easter narrative is about Jesus overcoming the dominant powers of the day through the miracle of resurrection. Over twenty centuries later, the Easter narrative provides fuel for a new kind of resurrection. It may not necessarily fall into the category of a miracle, but it is nevertheless miraculous. A transformation that leads to a resurrection of community; a resurrection that provokes us to no longer be silent or afraid to speak up, but instead resurrected into action that will bring about change.
The early followers of Jesus, through the transformation of the resurrection and their acceptance of Jesus as their political Lord and Saviour, were able not just to face the challenges of life in the Roman Empire, they were able to bring about societal change. We, too, can do similar. If fully understood, I believe that the Easter narrative will empower a once silent citizen to raise her voice and ask why the oil companies are making such incredible profits. It will enable a retired person to challenge why politicians consider that behaviour inconsistent with the rule of law, for them is not an issue. It will inspire the youth to continue to push for action on climate change. Friends, I could go on.
This Easter, I hope that we will each move beyond the transactional understanding and see it as so much more. It is an opportunity to be transformed and transformational, to ensure that the good news that Jesus lives doesn’t remain inside the walls of our churches but instead transforms a world in such need.
As Paul puts it in his letter to the church in Corinth:
At one time, we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
(2 Corinthians 5:16b-17)
So, let us celebrate this Easter the death of our old lives and resurrection into new lives. Let’s move from transaction to transformation.
CEO, Rural Ministries