Sermon 3rd Sunday of Easter

The resurrection and its connection to morality.

In the epistle today, Peter continues to spell out the consequence of the resurrection. 

It is in the light of the profound hope of the resurrection, that he has been encouraging the faithful to build their lives. It is the means to understand their present experiences. 

Everything is in flux; the chaos of sin and death are all around them. They are being persecuted for not complying with the cultural world, within which they live; a world which they have rejected as corrupt and meaningless. 

They have also rejected Caesar as the ultimate authority and proclaimed the One who has power over death itself, by raising Jesus from the dead. This God, the father of the Lord Jesus, is the one who has the ultimate authority and judgement over the living and the dead. The Lord’s judgement is not confined, as Caesar’s is, to this realm but is played out on the canvass of eternity. 

The call to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ is an invitation to leave behind the realm that has been corrupted by the fall, in which we are subject to sin and death reigning in our bodies. We are called then to die to the corrupt fallen world and rise to new life in the new creation. In this new creation we are born in the Spirit into the Kingdom of God. This kingdom is eternal. 

Our place in this new kingdom has be ransomed by the ‘precious blood of the Lamb without spot or blemish’ and has been prepared before the foundation of the world. The prophets looked forward to these events and the angels longed to see them. This is Our Lord’s triumph over death by entering death and rising to new life. Death can claim no place in this new creation or power over those born to new life in it. 

If death cannot claim any dominion in the heavenly kingdom then neither can anything that belongs to the fallen world. The citizens of heaven are to live the morality of life, as revealed by God, and not to conform to the culture of death. In the earlier part of this epistle (1 Pe 1:14-16) Peter states: ‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’

The morality of the resurrection then is a call to life in God; the life God has longed for us to have and know. As we have said, baptism is the entry into this new life. However, we experience as the Church militant this conversion as an ongoing process; the ‘already but not yet’ experience as citizens of this eternal kingdom. 

The stage on which we play out this journey of transformation means a continuous dying and rising with Christ. Our discipleship thus seeks to shake off the old Adam that ties us to the fallen world as we long for the fullness of the heavenly kingdom. 

How often, without always knowing it, have we assumed the values of the culture within which we live our lives? How often once we have heard the teaching of the Church, the morality of life in Christ, have we been shocked and struggled to accept it? How often have we even rejected it, as it confronts received assumptions? The wisdom of the world is so often presented to us as self evident, and as compassionate wisdom.

The Gospel confronts many of these received assumptions. Thus begins the struggle of acceptance and conversion of the manner in which we live our lives as citizens of heaven.

Paul again puts this well in his letter to the Philippians:

‘Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’

Therefore we cannot see the resurrection as the happy ending, in which we can all breathe a sigh of relief, sit back, relax and say thank goodness that’s all over. The resurrection demands us to embrace, with utter desire, the path of transformation into the likeness of Christ. It is the path of holiness and life in God which makes us, in our transformed lives, witnesses to the good news of Christ’s triumphant resurrection.