The Cathedral held a dawn service on Easter Day this year. I set the alarm for 4.30 in the morning for a 5.30 start.
The service began in darkness: readings and prayers from the Old Testament looking back to creation, to the Exodus, to the prophets longing for God’s kingdom. As dawn broke, we moved outside to the great entrance. New fire was kindled in a brazier. We lit the new Easter candle.
Together the congregation moved into the Church proclaiming with wonder once again this profound and life changing news that Jesus Christ rose from death on Easter Day.
The Christian faith is not based on a dream or a projection or a myth but an event in history. This event was witnessed by those who were not expecting it, unexplained by those who opposed it, written down by those who gave their lives in testimony, and attested by countless generations of Christians who have themselves encountered the risen Christ in scripture and sacrament, in prayer and fellowship.
This is the life changing, death disarming, fear destroying, mind transforming, joy bringing, grief shattering, kingdom proclaiming, history making, culture shaping truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day. God offers to everyone forgiveness and new life.
But how can anyone believe in the resurrection of the dead? Death seems so final.
St Paul uses this very simple picture in 1 Corinthians 15. He asks us to imagine seed: the kind you plant in the ground. Think of the pip in the apple, or a sunflower seed, or the stone in the heart of a peach.
No matter how long you look at a dried peach stone, no-one could possibly imagine that this hard, dry object could possibly change and not only change but grow and not only grow but become a whole tree, bearing leaves and flowers and fruit for years and years.
So it is with the resurrection of the dead, says Paul. Death seems so final. But we only see part of the picture. A person’s life and soul and personality rests with God after death, like the DNA hidden deep in the stone of a peach. God in his love and grace and power is able to raise them to a new and deeper and richer kind of life, life without end.
How can we know this to be true? Because of what Christians celebrate in the fifty days of Easter.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.