We Are About Relationships
Every Easter Sunday, I have a difficult time singing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.”
It is not that the words are complicated to pronounce or the tune challenging to sing; rather, it is the power of the emotions of the holiest day of the year combined with the weight of the mystery of the Resurrection that cause me to get a lump in my throat and
a tear in my eye.
Easter is the oldest of our Christian festivals. In fact, it is because Christ’s resurrection happened on a Sunday (the first day of the week) that we, for nearly two millennia, have chosen to worship on Sundays rather than the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday (the last day of the week when God rested in the creation story). Each Sunday, then, is to be a mini-Easter, a celebration of the Resurrection, but there is something holy, sacred and special about Easter Sunday
I am sure some of it, for me at least, is the traditions (both of the church and my family) surrounding Easter of changing the paraments and our robes to white, decorating the cross with flowers, speaking our Alleluias again, hunting for eggs, giving baskets to our children and even shaving my winter beard. Some of it is memories of past Easters from my childhood and other churches I have served, and reflecting on how life has changed and how it has remained the same. One constant for me, as a United Methodist, is that we have always sung Charles Wesley’s hymn on Easter Sunday. Even when I was serving a church that only had a “contemporary” service, I still insisted that we sing it.
The words to “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” are etched in my memory and remind me of what lies at the heart of our faith. The first verse calls us to join in with all creation in praising God for all of God’s mighty works, but especially that of the Resurrection. The second and third verses get at the theological heart of what God is doing. The Resurrection is an act of love, an act of redemption, an act of salvation. The words here favor a Christus Victor understanding of the atonement (a much earlier understanding than the now-prevalent among Protestant churches penal substitution model) in which Christ defeats the powers of evil and death, which have oppressed humanity from the beginning. Finally, the fourth verse calls us to follow Christ, even unto suffering and death, with the promise of eternal life
Now that Easter Sunday is in the past, you might be asking yourself, “Now what?” I believe our hymn instructs us well: praise God, join in Christ’s victory and follow wherever Christ leads. May we do so and thus become people of the Resurrection!
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!