Living into Easter

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The Gospel for this Sunday (22 April 2012), Luke 24:36-48, is a continuation of the Easter story; however, the disciples were “startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost” and doubts arose in their hearts.  In his conversation with them, Jesus “o

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The Gospel for this Sunday (22 April 2012), Luke 24:36-48, is a continuation of the Easter story; however, the disciples were “startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost” and doubts arose in their hearts.  In his conversation with them, Jesus “opens their minds.”

The “alleluias” have returned to worship, but during the “Great 50 Days” of Easter leading to Pentecost, we are invited to seek their return to our lives and in our communities.  While we may have doubts in our hearts, we will likely be nourished by an exploration of “resurrection.”  If we open our hearts and our understanding, we may find resurrection in our actions.  We, too, might be “witnesses of these things.”

The submission from Rev. Lou below explores the theme; I (Rev. Michael) will do the same in the sermon this week.

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Christ is risen from the dead!  By death he conquered death,  and to those in the graves he granted life!

Throughout the fifty days of the Easter Season, this refrain punctuates all liturgical services of the Eastern Christian churches.  While both Eastern and Western Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and have built a belief system based on an understanding of eternal life, once again there is an important difference between these traditions.

First century Christians anticipated the return of the Christ within their lifetimes.  That anticipation was frustrated as they began to die natural deaths before the return of the Christ.  Over time, Eastern Christians came to understand life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the paradigm for each Christian’s life, death, and resurrection.  To that end, the only way to experience resurrection was to experience death.  From this perspective, the Christ conquered death by passing through death and coming out the other side to new life.  This movement through death to life doesn’t save us from death but shows us how to move through death to new life.

The spiritual journey along the inner way to transformation into the unique image of the Divine we were created to be, the process of deification, is only accomplished by passing through a series of little-deaths.  In each of these little-deaths, we let go of those things that prevent us from being the Divine Self.  We pass through them in order to become something more than we can imagine. Self-emptying, or kenosis in Greek, leads us to one place:  resurrected life.

The practices of the Lenten Spring are all about one thing:  how to pass through death in order to enter resurrected life.  The practices have no merit in themselves unless they open us further along the process of transformation to the new life that is the resurrection.

Perhaps the best contrast to the understanding of deification and resurrection in Eastern Christianity is the uniquely Western Evangelical understanding of the rapture.  Fundamentally, the rapture suggests that at some moment, in the twinkling of an eye, some people of faith will be taken and enter new life.  Instead, in the East, new life is the result of a process over time – the process of the journey on the inner way.

Each year, the celebration of Easter is a celebration of our gradual progression along that inner way.  Yes, Christ is risen – having conquered death by passing through and coming out the other side.  So, we, too, will come out the other side of death as we learn to pass through the many little-deaths on our journey to the fullness of life.

And so it is that Irenaeus made his great affirmation:  The glory of God is humanity fully alive.

Indeed, we are fully alive – resurrected – when we pass through death and enter life’s fullness.

Happy Easter!

Rev. Dr. Lou Kavar • www.loukavar.com 

 

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/04/19/living-into-easter/

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