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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

For fifty days (a week of weeks) we will begin our worship with this affirmation, following the somber period of Lent and Holy Week.

I find that a lot of people say “Christ has risen.” And while that is true, it is a different statement from “Christ is risen.”

“Christ has risen” says that we agree that something which might be important and is certainly unusual happened long ago. It is a historical statement.

“Christ is risen” confesses a present reality. It declares that somebody who once died is now alive and available for us, so we can live in a relationship with Him.

Certainly the historical statements matter. “Hitler is risen” or “Jeffrey Dahmer is risen” would not be good news, because of who they where. But “Christ is risen” connects us with Jesus, and specifically the crucified Jesus. His death is not just a tragedy that happened to a good man, but because He is risen, He has the power to give our lives purpose and meaning here and now. And as Luther reminds us, the connection between His death and resurrection can be expressed in the phrase, “the forgiveness of sins.”

Because He is risen, Jesus has the power to transform our lives. He gives us a future, and our lives are placed in an eternal context. We are now able to live for Him and not for ourselves; we are able to be “little Christs” (Luther again) to our neighbors. As His Spirit empowers us, we begin to find life’s true riches in serving others instead of insisting on being served and entertained.

Everybody who wrote the New Testament was convinced that Christ is risen and that He is active in the lives of those who believe. While there are many different approaches to the meaning of Jesus in the New Testament, and it is impossible to know with certainty all the details of his life, the writers are in marvelous agreement about the basics of the faith. St. Paul could even assume this agreement when writing to a church he had never visited, in Rome.

The agreement centers around the presence of the Risen Lord in the power of the Spirit among His people. All Christians believed that in Jesus, specifically in His death and resurrection, God was active “reconciling the world to Himself” and bringing history to its conclusion in God’s promised future.

Because Christ is risen, we can experience a bit of the future now, and we can live for that future. Already in Baptism we have died to the world that is, with the assurance that we will be raised with Christ for the world that shall be (Romans 6). Every celebration of the Eucharist is “a foretaste of the feast to come.” It is the presence of the Living Lord among us, giving us Himself in the bread and cup.

Christianity is not about the past but the future. The past shows us God’s faithfulness to His promises and points forward to their fulfillment in the future. Faith does not mean that a lot of weird and wonderful things happened long ago; it is trust in the Lord who is present among us, empowering us and calling us to new life in Him.

So let’s be clear. During Easter we not only proclaim that somebody named Jesus came out of a grave 2000 years ago. The whole point of Christian faith is that this Jesus is alive and active, and that in Him we are a new creation.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Pr. Steve Shipman, STS