Our Rich Liturgical
Our Rich Liturgical Heritage: Easter
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain
Tucked away in our Prayer Books are three short passages, carefully selected and arranged to remind us of the great Easter events and their challenge to our consecrated discipleship.
Found in the BCP with the Collect, Epistle and Gospel for Easter Day, the AAPB (page 88) and the AAPB (page 32) as the Hymn of the Risen Christ, they bring together three great New Testament themes and texts. They are an example of how texts of the Bible give us a concise summary and explanation of our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. That they were real time events, not the wistful thinking of disciples hoping for a resurrection, is clear from the gospels and the consistent apostolic testimony of the epistles.
The hymn, following the APBA runs:
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: so let us celebrate the feast, Not with the old leaven of corruption and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8).
Christ once raised from the dead dies no more: Death has no more dominion over him. In dying he died to sin once and for all: in living he lives to God. See yourselves therefore as dead to sin: and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:9-11).
Christ has been raised from the dead; the firstfruits of those who sleep. For as by one man came death: by another has come also the resurrection of the dead; For as in Adam all die; even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
Easter fulfilled the Old Testament Passover in a way that takes us straight to the gracious heart of our Holy God. The sacrificial system of priests, animal sacrifices, altars and temple were all fulfilled, once and for all in Christ. The Passover feast, inaugurated to remind the people of Israel of God’s grace in delivering them from Egypt’s bondage by shielding them from the judgement he brought upon Pharaoh, gives way to the greater deliverance from a greater judgement, through Jesus’s death upon the Cross.
For us who live, looking back to, and relying upon Jesus, there are many blessings and resultant responsibilities. The blessings include:
- There is nothing for us to do since Christ has been sacrificed for us. So we celebrate God’s kindness in providing the perfect, once and for all, sacrifice for our sins.
- Jesus has been raised: death has no more dominion over him or over those who are in Christ, since they too shall be made alive.
- Death holds no more fear for believers than for those who sleep each night. This does not mean soul sleep since the believer goes to be with their Lord the moment they die, as Jesus assured the penitent thief.
Our wholehearted response to God’s grace to us in Christ must include:
- Sincerity and truth. So gripped will we be by our Lord’s sacrificial love for us, we will, with all our heart, do all we can to rid ourselves of malice (BCP) and wickedness. God’s grace, whilst excluding any sense of earning, calls for our sincere effort to grow in Christlikeness.
- We see ourselves as dead to sin: and alive to God. This takes us to the meaning of repentance and the heart of baptism. Death to sin is essential for us all, otherwise baptism becomes a meaningless ritual. Dying to sin is the daily means of life for believers. It has been said, ‘the Christian is one who is dying to live!’ Jesus makes this plain in John 12:23-26.
- Our Lord’s death and resurrection demand a response. Though we need do nothing to be in Adam except be born, we must be in Christ to be made alive. This new birth brings us, in Billy Graham’s words, ‘life before death as well as life after death’.
The Easter events stand before us as the assurance that God wants us to know him as fully pardoned rebels, renewed disciples, living sacrifices and his joyful adopted children.
Nothing can keep us giving into fear in our uncertain times or conforming to the false hopes and comforts of smug materialism and mindless hedonism, as our once crucified and living Lord and Saviour.