As a young person in the church, I was taught that the first words to be spoken on Easter morning—and to everyone you met that day—were: “ALLELUIA, CHRIST IS RISEN!” and, in response, “THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED, ALLELUIA!” I cannot say I always remember to do that—but many times in the Easter season I make it my greeting. Sometimes it startles those I meet, but often it is responded to enthusiastically. Every time it is said or heard, I feel within me an intense joy, a reminder of the sure and certain hope on which our faith is founded.
Contained in these few words is the explosive power of God that nothing can defeat. If death itself is powerless before God, then there is nothing to fear and nothing to stand between us and the love of God. Every year, through Lent and Holy Week, we walk with Jesus, invited to see our complicity in sin and Jesus’s unfailing call to the life of love, compassion, justice and mercy.
We walk with Jesus into the destruction wrought by human collusion with political forces, religious protectionism and fear. We take with us the pain of our own lives when, despite our best efforts, relationships have been broken; around us the planet groans under the effects of climate change; political leaders undermine moral principles; racism continues to infect our world and actions; and inaction for Indigenous justice continues. The list of pain and agony in the world is endless. We enter the emptiness of death and despair on Good Friday when hopes have been crushed and then into the numbing grief of waiting on Holy Saturday—waiting for something stronger than death, stronger than our sin—waiting for hope.
The empty tomb of Easter morning and the first appearances of the risen Christ to Mary Magdalene and the disciples offer that hope, even if it is a hardly believable hope. Death can be defeated? Jesus lives? It would take the disciples days and weeks to fully comprehend the power of this hope. Then it fuels a passion, joy and proclamation that echoes through the centuries and continues to fuel transformation in hearts and minds and communities. With the resurrection of Jesus we see and know the full extent of God’s commitment to us, by entering into death and restoring life.
The early church offered baptisms at Easter Vigil so that the newly baptized would rise to their new life in Christ at the dawn of Easter morning—cleansed, renewed, ready to live this hope. Over the course of each year we find ourselves pulled into the currents and whirlpools of attitudes, expectations, powers and human dynamics that tempt us to place our hope elsewhere. Every year we need the cleansing and renewal of Lent and Holy Week leading us into the power of the resurrection. Every time I shout, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” a burst of joy and delight is released in my heart as I know that in God is the sure and certain hope that nothing can destroy.
May our Easter celebration release this joy in every heart to give us courage to live the life of faith!
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!