Christ is Risen!

He Qi Empty TombChrist is Risen! That’s a much bigger statement than we always recognise, not least as it sums up the whole of Christianity. It’s also a difficult one to think about, particularly in an all-age talk…

So, here’s my attempt. I used a few film clips in this talk; I’ve linked to the nearest equivalent I could find on YouTube, although all the clips that I used were shorter!

Easter Day 2013; Readings: Luke 24:1-12; Acts 10:34-48

Peter “went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”
Christ is Risen! But what does that really mean?

First can any sci-fi fans tell me what film this is the end to?

It’s the end of Blade Runner, which is a sci fi film set in the near future and is about the fight between humans and genetically modified replicants. It’s dark, it’s a bit depressing and numerous different versions of it have been made. The clip we saw was from the end of Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut. The original cinema version had a the two main characters driving off through the countryside to presumably live happily ever after.

That cinema ending was a bit of a let down, because nothing that had gone before had really prepared you for that ending. It’s a classic Hollywood Happy Ending, shoved onto the end of a film, because the executives think that that’s what people want to see. And Hollywood is very good at doing that, changing stories so that they have a happy ending, and turning complicated plots into either a love story or an action adventure.

The problem is, we know that life’s a bit more complicated than that, and people don’t always get the happy ending we might want for them, and unfortunately most of life is neither a straightforward love story or an action adventure in which you’re the hero.

That’s true in the gospels as well. There is a happy ending, but it’s not the sort of happy ending that Hollywood makes. Most of the heroes are shown to be deeply flawed. Peter betrays Jesus. Most of the other disciples refuse to believe that Jesus has indeed been brought back to life. Like Blade Runner, it’s a bit more complicated and the chances of the main characters driving off to live happily ever after are a bit limited. Of the 11 remaining disciples, 10 were killed over the years as they told people the good news about Jesus. The only one who lived into old age, John, spent many years exiled to a small, rocky island.

But, not all stories are like that. How many of you have seen Shrek? Here’s the trailer for the film.

There are some stories for which you do expect a happy ending, like Shrek. Can anyone tell me what happens at the end of Shrek? (The donkey marries the dragon, the princess becomes an ogre, marries another ogre and they all live happily in a swamp). It might not be quite the happy ending you expected, but it’s definitely a happy ending. Through the film there’s been hints and clues about what’s going to happen. So, even if you hadn’t already guessed, if you watch the film again, you can see the bits that point towards what’s going to happen in the end.

Some people think that Easter is more like the original Blade Runner; it’s a happy ending shoved onto a story which hadn’t been building up to it. But, if you read through the Gospels you hear the hints and clues that Jesus was giving his disciples that this would be how it would end. You see the confusion of the disciples as they try and work out what Jesus is going on about. It might not be quite the happy ending you expected, but it’s definitely a happy ending.  It’s unexpected. It was certainly not what the disciples were expecting. Because, they were expecting a bit more of a Hollywood Happy Ending. They were expecting Jesus the action hero to get rid of the baddies, bring back God’s kingdom, and live happily ever after. That is basically what happened, just not at all how the disciples thought that was going to look. The Romans, the baddies they were thinking of, were still there, God’s kingdom turned out to be a lot bigger than Israel, and happily ever after is something we’re still looking forward to. And there was and is a lot of pain and struggle between now and happily ever after.

Because, in many ways Easter is a bit more like this film clip. Does anyone know what film this is the beginning to?

It’s that old classic, Citizen Kane. It’s only at the end of that film that we discover why the word Rosebud was so significant. Like many good films, it’s only once it’s finished that we know what’s been going on the whole time. And it’s the same with Jesus’ resurrection. It’s only after it’s happened that things start falling into place for the disciples, when they start realising what was actually going on all the time.

And that’s the problem with many of the arguments against the resurrection. They assume that the disciples were expecting it, or that they weren’t scientific enough to know that a dead body stays dead, or that there was something in it for them. The problem is, they weren’t expecting the resurrection, they knew that people remained dead, and frankly as a career move, it wasn’t a very good one. Three years trekking round Israel, followed by persecution, exile and martyrdom.

What the disciples were expecting was the bodily resurrection of all believers at the last day, when God would finally return. What they very definitely weren’t expecting was the bodily resurrection of one person before the return of God. That wasn’t in their script, that wasn’t what they were expecting the ending to be. So, they ignored or didn’t understand until afterwards what Jesus was telling them. It took them a while even then, as we heard from the Acts reading, with Peter saying “I now understand”! And that’s the same for us isn’t it? We’re still working out what it really means, whether we’ve been Christians a few weeks or a few decades.

The film Citizen Kane begins at the end, with the final word “Rosebud” of a dying man. At that point we know how things are going to end, but not what has actually happened. As Christians, we know what the end is going to be. Through Jesus’ resurrection we have been shown that we too really can live happily ever after, in new eternal bodies, in a new and perfect world where there is no more crying or mourning or pain. We know the end, but, for now, the interesting part is finding out is how we can get there. Because of Jesus’ resurrection we know that God’s kingdom has come, is coming and will finally come in all its fullness. Because of Jesus’ resurrection we know that all the bad that is in the world will be taken away, that evil and sin and death have all been defeated.

And because of Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus being brought back to life by God, we too are given the Holy Spirit, like we heard in the reading. We too are given the Holy Spirit, to help us, to change our lives so that we act and think and speak more like Jesus, more like the person that God wants us to be. And that’s all part of God’s kingdom growing here in Swadlincote. None of this is something we earn, or deserve, or get when we’re good enough. Because Jesus’ resurrection tells us that death is not the end and that how we are now is not the end either. We’re not meant to feel guilty about this, or be complacent about this. We’re not meant to accept how we are now or despair about how we are now. We’re meant to ask God for his resurrection power in our lives, for his love and power to change us.

Why? Because Alleluia! Christ is Risen. “He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

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