Easter: It is/is not about Us

Today, of course, is Easter. In my experience, there are two types of Easter sermons: those that are primarily soteriological–what Christ’s resurrection means for us–and those that are primarily Christological–what Christ’s resurrection means for Christ. The latter type is also the rarer, and the former tends to be rather lightweight, theologically speaking.

I would naturally tend to prefer the more theological, the Christological, but of course Christology cannot be separated from soteriology. Easter is is not about us, first of all, but is about us, finally, and about God’s entire creation.

Easter is part of the reality of Christus victor–Christ the conqueror, in his death, resurrection, reign, and return. And Christus victor is really a subset of Deus victor. Christology and soteriology have no possible significance apart from theology proper.

Let me put this in concrete terms. In the last two months, death has visited the wife of a student, an elderly uncle, and my wife’s sister, the last in a tragic accident that left her disabled husband the widower-father of four adult children who now need to care for him. If God cannot, or does not, ultimately defeat death, then death wins, and the resurrection hope of these three people of faith is, as St. Paul would say, vain, empty.

Before N.T. Wright published his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, he gave, at my invitation, a summary-lecture on the entire book. It was a stunning lecture (no surprise there), but the part I remember best is the conclusion, in which he recited, from memory, John Donne’s famous Holy Sonnet 10, “Death, be not proud”:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Happy Easter to all.

6 Responses to “Easter: It is/is not about Us”

  1. Brian logan says:

    Dr. Gorman

    You mention a stunning lecture of N.T. Wright’s given at your request. Is that lecture available in any form? I’d be interested in getting ahold of it is. Thanks.

    Be well,
    Brian

  2. MJG says:

    Hi, Brian–

    I think it used to be on the ntwright page, but it appears to be no longer there. I think we have a DVD of it at the seminary, and if so we could probably get copies made. I’ll check into it. It was in 2001, I believe.

  3. bruce says:

    Thanks for those thoughts. My problem with most ‘for us’ Easter sermons are that they bypass what it was ‘for the first disciples’ and try and deduce what it means for is quite independently of that experienced that birthed the church… As if the resurrection speaks first of all of our ‘afterlife’ or of the final resurrection. The first disciples already believed in a final resurrection. It seems to me that what made a difference for them was the way the resurrection interrupted their lives with the kingdom of God now. Here’s my recent Easter Sermon on this if you’re interested.
    http://dbhamill.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/in-the-locker-room-after-a-loss-or-not-another-zombie-apocalypse-easter-sermon-2011/

  4. MJG says:

    Bruce,

    Thanks for the link and for a fine sermon.

  5. Michael N. says:

    Thanks Michael. That hits home for me in a real way as well this Easter. My mom died of cancer a few days after being diagnosed recently and as I stood with my son over her grave, death seemed to be an all consuming reality.

    My eight year old boy asked if we were going to pray because “in this world there is pain, but not in God’s world. And one day God’s world will meet this world and this world will be made new and so will Grandma.”

    It was a profoundly hopeful moment in a time that has been difficult lately.

  6. MJG says:

    Dear Michael,

    I am sorry for your loss, especially losing your mother to cancer–as I did, too, years ago. But your son got it right, didn’t he? It sounds like he (or someone!) has been reading a little John the Seer and a little N.T. Wright. :-)

    Blessings,

    Mike

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