The year was 1922. The place Kiev, in the Soviet Union. There was to be a great anti-religious rally to be addressed by the revered Soviet politician and orator Nikolai Bukharin. Thousands had arrived to listen to his words. He stood up and spoke for over an hour – preaching atheism, pouring scorn on those who believed in God. Finally he sat down, and the chairman asked if there were any questions. There was silence.
But then, a man stood up near the back. He was elderly, with a beard, and dressed in the robes of an Orthodox monk. Slowly he made his way to the front, passing row upon row of people, until he reached the front, and climbed up slowly onto the stage, and turned to the silent, expectant crowd.
He raised his arms, and in a loud, confident voice cried out, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” and at once, the huge crowd rose to its feet and thundered out, “The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”
Resurrection was in the spiritual DNA of those people. However much they were told the opposite, however much they were forced to live as if there were no God, the seeds of hope lay deep in their souls, latent, waiting, watching – and those ancient words ‘Christ is Risen’ brought the seeds suddenly to life – he is risen indeed, Alleluia! No surprise perhaps, that the Russian word for Sunday – Voskreseniye – is also the Russian word for resurrection.
And the same seeds of hope are placed deep in our own hearts – and we are here today – this Sunday, this Day of Resurrection – this Voskreseniye – to cry out with joy, with all of creation – Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
How do we allow those seeds of hope and resurrection deep within us to burst out into new life? One way is to open our eyes and see the signs of resurrection all around us. In our Gospel today from Matthew, the word see is repeated again and again. After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. As the day dawned, their eyes were opened to see the miracle of resurrection. The angel says, I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He’s not here – he’s been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. He has been raised from the dead! Go to Galilee – you will see him there. And then suddenly they see Jesus. And he tells them – tell my brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see me.
Open your eyes and see that resurrection is written into the very fabric of life. The whole of creation has been transformed by Christ’s victory over death – if we but have eyes to see it. C. S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe loved that idea. After the children discover with joy that Aslan is alive, suddenly the whole dead frozen land of Narnia begins to melt. “All around them there were streams chattering, bubbling and splashing. Edmund noticed a dozen crocuses growing around the foot of an old tree – gold and purple and white. And his heart gave a great leap – when he realized that the frost was over.”
Lewis writes, of how his own cold heart had been warmed by the love of God, and he saw the effects of death and resurrection mirrored in nature. The winter cold was like the death blow of evil in human lives, and springtime mirrored the signs of personal transformation and the redemption of the whole human race.
I love all those places in Scripture where God’s creation shares in the joy of resurrection and new life. In our Psalm today (Psalm 114) – ‘the mountains skipped like rams – and the little hills like young sheep.’ And in Isaiah 55 those wonderful words: “You shall go out with joy and be led back in peace: The mountains and hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands!” Go out and look! Open your eyes and see in nature that life, new life is breaking out all around – that life is stronger than death, that hope is stronger than despair. If we really look, God’s very creation will point the way.
God’s creation spoke to me in a powerful way many years ago. I had been ordained two years, and I helped lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We spent a whole day walking through the desert from Jerusalem down to Jericho. Everything was dry and seemed quite dead. Just sand and rocks, and more rocks. As we walked, we saw that by the roadside ran a small aqueduct taking water, by gravity, all the way down to Jericho. And then I noticed, at one point there was a tiny leak and the water dripped out. Where the water had fallen into the sand, there was a riot of beautiful flowers – bursting out of the desert. It struck me that in that apparently dead wilderness were countless seeds of life, lying in the ground, dormant, waiting, watching, just waiting for water so that they could burst into life.
The precious and wonderful life of God is planted in each one of us. Resurrection, new life, is written into the very fabric of our lives – part of our spiritual DNA. Easter Day is the day to bring them to life.
I wonder what seeds are lying within you – perhaps deeply buried, but latent, and potent, waiting and watching – longing to be brought to life. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived – what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
What would it be like if you allowed those seeds to come to life? What is stopping them coming to life? Perhaps fear, perhaps a besetting or unacknowledged sin – perhaps you are not sure if you can trust God.
On this day of resurrection God longs to pour the sunshine of his love and the water of his grace into your hearts, that those seeds may burst into life to God’s glory. What would that be like?
On this Easter Day – everything is possible. Death has been overcome by life – new life is breaking out everywhere. Come to him, the Risen One, put out your hand to receive his life in bread and wine.
Come alive in Christ. Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
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