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Our Rich Liturgical
Heritage: Resurrection

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The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain

Easter is the greatest hope and challenge given by God to the world. Jesus is marked out as the unique Lord and Saviour by his voluntary death in our place on the Cross, and his bodily third day resurrection assures us that there is hope before and after death for all who would humbly embrace him.

The Nicene Creed sets forth the Bible’s teaching which we affirm together week by week: On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. We make it very clear that our Lord’s resurrection was an event, on a day in history, when his dead body which was buried, was fully alive once again. It was not an experience in the memory of his followers, read back into the biblical accounts. Rather it was based on their very real experience of seeing, eating with and listening to him once again. After he ascended into heaven they experienced access to their Heavenly Father through him, and enjoyed his presence within them through the Holy Spirit.

Not only did Jesus rise from the dead on that third day, but He is still wonderfully alive. Such is the wonder and reality of the Easter hope. Forgiveness of sins through his sin-bearing crucifixion, and confident hope, because He rose and remains alive as our advocate seated at the right hand of the Father. No day need ever be an alone or hopeless day for the Christian. In the words of Watchman Nee ‘our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection’.

The Creed helps us grasp these wonders of God’s grace when we exclaim: We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Our Lord’s resurrection was God’s vindication of his Son’s perfect obedience and of his once and for all atoning sacrifice. We are assured that the consummation of God’s purposes will be completed at his return. Little wonder we encourage each other and proclaim to all who would listen: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and his kingdom will have no end.

Given that there will be a judgement and that Jesus is the undisputed King, we must become members of his kingdom by turning back to God in repentance enthroning Jesus as our new Master and relying on him alone for salvation. No day need be meaningless. This joyful prospect is like no other and must be shared so that others maybe be rescued from false hopes or errant understandings of God’s purposes. All will be judged, whether alive at Jesus' return or dead. The resurrection at the last day will simply be a revealing of what has been true in life, when Christ became our Saviour and we became God’s adopted child, forgiven and indwelt by his Spirit. Believers in Jesus enter into the heavenly joy of God’s presence at death. The judgement at the last day will be the great display of Jesus glory and the revealing of all, who down through the ages, and across the nations, have embraced him. What greater way for this to be seen, than the resurrection of our perishable body to its final perfection and permanence, fit for eternity in the New heavens and New earth, which Peter describes as ‘the home of righteousness’.

Our privileged responsibility is to go to an unbelieving world, where in T S Eliot’s words ‘man cannot bear too much reality’ and in Tolstoy’s, where ‘everyone thinks of changing humanity; nobody thinks of changing himself’. Believers being transformed by the Risen Christ, urging others to face the reality of judgement by turning to Christ, whose resurrection marks him out as the only Saviour, is surely the most loving and ennobling thing we can do for others.

This is Bishop Peter’s 100th article for the Messenger.

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