45 Q. How does Christ’s resurrection
A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death,
so that he might make us share in the righteousness
he obtained for us by his death.^1
Second, by his power we too
are already raised to a new life.^2
Third, Christ’s resurrection
is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.^3
^1 1 Cor. 15:17, 54-55; Rom. 4:25; 1 Pet. 1:3, 21
^2Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:1-5; Eph. 2:5
^3 1 Cor. 15:12; Rom. 8:11
LORD’S DAY 17 (Q/A 45)
Episcopalian priest, Fleming Rutledge, described Christ’s resurrection that first Easter morning as:
Jesus’ rising was the undoing of death. Jesus ruined death’s plans, and interrupted it with the freshness of life, a loud interruption that pronounced the end to sin’s long hold upon God’s people. He, in effect, looked at sin and death in between the eyes, grabbed held of its fangs of fatality, and squashed them to pieces and said, “No more.”
German theologian Jürgen Moltmann observed that:
[t]he Easter faith recognizes that the raising of the crucified Christ from the dead provides the great alternative to this world of death. This faith sees the raising of Christ as God’s protest against death, and against all the people who for death.” Therefore “Easter is a feast, and it is as the feat of freedom that it is celebrated. For with Easter begins the laughter of the redeemed, the dance of the liberated and the creative play of fantasy. …Easter is at one and the same time God’s protest against death, and the feast of freedom from death…Resistance is the protest of those who hope, and hope is the feast of the people who resist.
These days in our country, news headlines have been about the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling deadline. At a recent gathering of the Cincinnati Presbytery, we prayed for reconciliation in the midst of intractableness and intransigence in Washington D.C. The power, possibilities, and promise unleashed with the stone being rolled away on that first Easter morning enables what seems impossible to become possible and become reality – even hardened hearts and stubborn wills.
Sharing in Christ’s righteousness. Raised to new life. Our blessed resurrection.
These are the benefits, the outcomes, the results.
By Christ’s death. By Christ’s resurrection. By his power.
These are the works of Jesus Christ – what He alone has done and what He alone is able to do.
For us, the recipients/beneficiaries, it’s a covenant of grace. It’s all gift for us.
For Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, Son of God – it’s a covenant of works. For Him, it’s work, it’s carrying out the desire of the triune God for the world to be reconciled, to be redeemed, to be loved when we won’t love one another, love God, or love ourselves.
The third paragraph of Q/A 45 described Christ’s resurrection as a “sure pledge.” If we needed any more guarantee or promise of God being with us and for us…Christ’s rising from the grave is that pledge.
Wherever and whenever we experience despair, hopelessness, injustice, war and rumors of war, grief, anger, division, brokenness, the pervasive and pernicious effects of sin, violence, lies, apathy, indifference, temptation, and all the shadows of death – and even death itself – the risen Christ stands as the steadfast companion.
Many baptismal fonts around the world, and many church sanctuaries are built in the shape of an octagon. This ancient form expressed the belief that the first Easter morning was both the first day and the eighth day of the week; that just as creation was the first day of the week, Christ’s rising was the eighth day, ushering a new creation. In descending into the baptismal waters, the Spirit of Christ joins us to His death; in ascending from the baptismal waters, the Spirit of Christ joins us to His rising. The baptismal waters are both tomb and womb.
As baptized ones, as the baptized community, we testify of the new creation emerging, giving evidence of it when we prostrate in prayer, when we sing praise to God, when we gather for worship, when we light a candle and open the Scriptures, when we teach a child the ways of Jesus, when we pick up the placard and join others in protesting racism, when we cry and weep with mourners, when we engage in the heavy-lifting of peacemaking and reconciliation, when we confess and repent.
And we do so, and are enabled to do so, because the power of God raised Jesus the Christ from the dead.