We're not into ranking the seasons. They're all important. But I think it is meant to be significant that Easter is so long in our liturgy. For whatever else we are, Christians are the Easter People. The first apostles and the first disciples were called to be witnesses. Witnesses to what? To the risen Christ. It was the risen Jesus himself, according to Luke in the book of Acts, who gave his disciples this charge. To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Christ. To be a disciple of Christ is to bear witness to the Resurrection.
But we weren't there. And all the people who were are long dead. How can we be witnesses?
There are two ways that suggest themselves to me.
The first is that we are bearers of the story. We pass on to each succeeding generation what was passed on to us. We are Christians today because of the faithful witness of perhaps a hundred generations of Christians before us. They found the Gospels and the Church that bore them credible in each of those generations. For a good number of those centuries before us there would have been no question as to the veracity of this central Christian story. Indeed it was unimaginable for most that it was any other way. We live in a very different world. Faith is not the norm. Even for those who tick the 'Christian' box at the census every decade (a decreasing number), the idea of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is a strange and incredible one. Many of us may shift uncomfortably in our seats when miraculous events are recounted in our weekly reading of Scripture. Nevertheless, for many of us, even though we are many years and miles distant from the events, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is still the only credible explanation for the empty tomb on that Sunday morning. Christian faith invites us to believe something utterly beyond our usual experience – a dead man breathed again, and his broken body was transformed into one fit to live in the realm of eternity. Stop and ask yourself today as you read this: how do you explain the story of the empty tomb that first Easter Day? But take comfort and strength in this too: we are part of a community that whatever our individual doubts and puzzlement over this, holds this to be true: Christ is risen!
The second is that we are 'livers' of the story. It's not just that in our worship each year we retell and re-enact this drama and in our teaching pass it on. It's that this is a story that can shape our lives as well as our words. We bear witness to the Resurrection when we live in its light, when we allow the life of eternity to fill our being in the here and now. We bear witness to the Resurrection when the transforming power of that first Easter is our lived experience each day. Again this is something that will be evident in our common life, not just our individual character, speech and behaviour. That doesn't mean we deny the reality of death and suffering around and within us, but that we live in the hope and reality of God's final word, spoken in the Resurrection of Christ: yes! Yes to life. Yes to us. Yes to the world. That's not something we can work up for ourselves. It's a gift. It comes to us when we invite the same Spirit that raised Jesus and inspired the first witnesses to live in our hearts. Through this gift of God's very self living in us, we experience God's creating, redeeming, transforming life within and among us. The signs will not always be obvious to us. But if we are really open to God's Spirit, there will be a different quality to our life that others will notice.
So let us in this season of Easter continue to greet each other with the good news: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! And let us look for the signs of that life within each other and in our common life.
from the Revd Mark Rodel