Our Sacred Stories: An Easter People in the Midst of the World of Creation
Even beyond the Feast of Easter, we are an “Easter People” living an incarnational faith in the midst of our world. At the center or core of our faith lie two great mysteries: the Incarnation and the Resurrection. These two great truths stand at the center of our creeds: I believe…. In Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary… was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven… (Apostles’ Creed).
Two particular passages of our Christian scriptures capture these two key tenets of our faith. The significance of the Incarnation is proclaimed in the Gospel of John: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn.3:16). Fundamental to our Christian faith is that God loves us. Right from the very beginning, from the very act of creation, God has expressed this love in life-giving (Genesis ch.1). The Incarnation is a wondrous proclamation of God’s continuous and unconditional love. God has entered into our humanity sharing life with us in the person of Jesus the Christ. The community of love we see in the Trinity has overflowed into our humanity.
The centrality of the Resurrection is expressed in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation [of the Gospel] has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor.15:14, 17). To believe in the Resurrection is to believe in the unconditional love of our God. The Risen Jesus, is the full expression of God’s compassionate love. Even death cannot erase, hinder or halt it.
It is not without significance that John’s Gospel for this Sunday in the Easter season focuses on the image of the Good Shepherd (Jn.10:11-18). Like the disciples who witnessed to the Resurrection, it draws us into the relationship or communion we share with the Jesus of our faith. Like the disciples too, the image of the Good Shepherd reveals the close bond we hold with this Jesus.
While many of our churches, our gathering places, are dominated by the crucifix behind the altar, occasionally we come upon a few which express the meaning of the sacrifice on the Cross, that is the sign of God’s constant, life-giving love in the Resurrection.
In the Easter event of the resurrection, there is an assertion that this steadfast love of God has a capacity to do something remarkable. The disciples came to recognize that Jesus who has laid down his life for them has been raised to new life. Such is the love that God has for us, that it has the capacity to transform death into life. The risen Jesus becomes of the revelation of this life-giving love in the midst of all humanity.
It is no accident that the earliest Christian artistic representations of Jesus were as the Good Shepherd. John’s Gospel reveals how wide is this compassionate love of God:
I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong
to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
As Jesus lays down his life for his disciples, it is for a much broader circle – for all humanity. The life-giving love of God is to reach to the ends of the earth. This is truly Good News for all, for we all share the bond of God’s love as Easter People.