Happy Easter! What a joy it is to spend 50 days remembering the miracle of Christ’s triumph over death. Our readings focus on that, as you might expect. Exodus remembers the final act that led to the release from bondage in Egypt, which we just remembered with the help of Rabbi Abby Jacobson from Emanuel Synagogue at our Seder Meal on Palm Sunday (Did you see the write up in the Oklahoman? http://m.newsok.com/sacred-and-symbolic-passover-seders-at-christian-churches-are-a-growing-trend-in-oklahoma/article/5487420 )
Then in 1 Corinthians and Mark we experience the depth of God’s love for us, a new birth if you will in the story of the resurrection. This story is repeated in all four Gospels. It is reiterated in Paul. As it turns out it is one of the central messages of Christianity, along with Christ crucified. Central to this message is an internalization of Christ’s resurrection – that we too have been raised. We do this as we live out God’s love.
I am going to do something I rarely do, focus on another scripture. But it is because everytime I start talking about the resurrection the words at the end of John come to mind – especially “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is how we live into the crucifixion AND the resurrection – shining the resurrected story of God to all people.
Are you like me and Helen Kemp? Often when I hear scripture, I hear music. It was the same for her. During the readings, I hear Handel’s Messiah. When you say to me “If you love me…” I hear Thomas Tallis’ piece, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
I remember conducting this in undergrad. I had completed my required junior recital in organ, and also done a sophomore recital (which was not required) and so I was allowed a little leeway when it came to my senior recital. Instead, I petitioned to do a conducting recital, which was approved. I had the delight of putting together a choir of my own, conducting Rejoice in the Lamb by Benjamin Britten, as well as some other pieces like Tallis’ If Ye Love Me. As you might expect with undergraduate recitals, there are requirements of memorization. I didn’t want to raise questions with the faculty, so I had my choir memorize the whole second half – including the Tallis piece.
Now that I look back on it, it seems all too appropriate. “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” John speaks of an internalization that, in many ways, is akin to memorization. Those who love me, will not only keep my word, but will have me dwell in their soul. They won’t be able to shake me, Jesus is declaring.
And how true that became as I rehearsed my choir. I found the words sinking so deeply in my soul that I can still sing this from memory and rattle off the entire passage. But memorization is only the beginning. Jesus speaks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – a resting upon one’s heart. It is not just “keeping words” or an adopting of policy, but God living in us and consuming our hearts desire.
There is also an intimate and chosen aspect to this. “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’” Jesus’ response was that he and the Father will come to them and “make our home with them.” If this isn’t an indwelling I don’t know what is!
As the Easter story unfolds in these coming days (as they always do with our post-Easter lectionary stories) we discover that Easter is much more than simply a resurrection of one person – it is a whole new chapter of existence, of being with God, of intimacy and closeness, of grafting into a new body. Easter is about new life – not only with ourselves, but a new life with God.