“May the God of peace, who brought back the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus,
from the dead by the blood of the eternal covenant,
equip you with every good thing to do his will,
by developing in us what pleases him through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory forever and always. Amen.”
Hebrews 13:20, 21 (Common English Bible)
The first Christians never preached the resurrection simply as a once and done miracle, as Jesus’ defeat of death and his return to his disciples. They always proclaimed the resurrection as the work of a living God that continues to work in the lives of women and men in each generation. The same creative energy that raised Jesus from the tomb remains available for each of us, not only to raise us to new life following our death, but grants us a divine purpose to pursue and equips us with talent and strength to accomplish it. As the author of Hebrews states, God is continually “developing in us what pleases him through Jesus Christ.” We are God’s continuing work of the resurrection.
What this announces is that there is no present darkness that can extinguish the light of the resurrection, no despair that isn’t answered with sudden hope. The celebration of Easter is more expansive that the remembrance of new breath filling the nostrils of Jesus one morning two thousand years ago. The celebration of Easter is claiming God’s active presence today that calls to us, equips us, and sends us into a broken world to complete God’s redemptive purposes. Once estranged from God by our rebellious nature, God wrestles with us until we once again embody and reflect God’s perfect love and makes us apprentices with God redeeming and restoring all of creation.
Frederic Henry is the protagonist in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell to Arms. An American ambulance driver in Italy in 1915, Frederic wrestles with belief and doubt in a living, active God. During one poignant conversation with a Roman Catholic priest, Frederic questions what it means to love – to love God or anyone. The answer sparkles on the page, “When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.”[i] Easter is an invitation to look closely again at God’s love for us – demonstrated on the cross of Jesus – that we might return that love with a “wish to do things for, to sacrifice for, to serve.” Our own immediate resurrection is from the death of selfishness to a life of selflessness and generosity.
These are tumultuous days. Covid-19 haunts each of us as we tremble in our quarantine spaces. We fear that the power of darkness may ultimately defeat our dreams. Doubt paralyzes and frantically we seek hope from any quarter. However, Easter reminds us that God has already faced evil at its worst, met its challenge, and destroyed its claim on us. Life never again has to be lived in helplessness, maimed, impoverished, and defeated. That is why the author of Hebrews is able to say, with a sturdy conviction, “To him be the glory forever and always. Amen.”