For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15.53-57, NRSV).So while it is true that those of us who die in Christ will go to be with him in heaven until the day of our resurrection, the fact remains that between the time of our death and that day, we are still dead because our mortal body lies mouldering in the grave, dead as a doornail—just like you are when you hear Fathers Gatwood and Sang preach. When Scripture talks about life, it has in mind a physical existence, not some disembodied spiritual state. That’s a Greek and gnostic thingy. And this is where the Church has dropped the ball over the years because it has succumbed to its enemies’ skepticism. Bodily resurrection (the only kind of resurrection) is such a fantastic notion that many refuse to believe it. I remember being a young man and not reciting the clause in the Apostles’ Creed that states, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” How could I believe that when my ancestors were lying in their graves? Who’s seen a resurrected body? But this is exactly the testimony of St. Paul (1Corinthians 15.3-6), our earliest witness, and the gospel writers! Jesus’s body was not in the tomb. It wasn’t in the tomb because it had been stolen, but because God had raised him from the dead, the first fruits of God’s promised new world, a physical and spiritual world combined, not some disembodied heavenly existence! And for those of us who are in Christ, who believe he is who he says he is, who believe he is the embodiment of the living God who came at the Father’s good will to rescue us from the clutches of Evil, Sin, and Death, and who have a real and ongoing relationship with him, the astonishing promise is that we too will be citizens in God’s new world, the new heavens and earth, thanks be to God! No other religion promises this magnificent and sweeping view of creation and history. Only the Christian faith promises us that creation, along with us, have a real and tangible future in Christ! If you have ever seen the ugliness of a body ravaged by disease or death or by hunger, thirst, or exposure, or the ugliness of a mind ravaged by mental illness, or those who struggle terribly with deformity or infirmity, or witnessed the immense cruelty and ugliness in this world, or when nature turns ugly, this mind-boggling, breath-taking promise of resurrection should give you real hope, comfort, and purpose for living because it reminds us that all that is wrong and awful with God’s world has been defeated and will be fully restored one day. Try as best you can to imagine the beauty of this world and all that is beautiful in and among humans without any of the evil or wickedness. Try to imagine having a body so beautiful that it defies description. Try to imagine a world where there is no hurt or heartache or sickness or sorrow or crying or loneliness or anything else that despoils us and God’s current creation. Try to imagine living in God’s direct presence so that you can always experience his love for you. If you can begin to imagine any of this, you can begin to grasp the implications of living in God’s new world with your new resurrection body, a world that Jesus’ resurrection announced and launched. If you cannot find reason to rejoice and celebrate over this, my beloved, if you cannot find real hope and purpose for living in the resurrection promise, I fear there is nothing in all creation that can bring you real hope and joy, and you are most to be pitied. To be sure, the promise of new creation has not yet come in full. Ugliness and brokenness remain. Death is still with us. But our Lord’s resurrection witnesses to the fact that God’s restoration project has begun and we are called to live in the already (of Jesus’s resurrection and the beginning of new creation) and the not yet (the completion of God’s restorative work begun in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection). And we can be assured of its testimony because the resurrection is based in history. Critics, of course, deny the resurrection ever took place. I don’t have time to offer a defense for its reality other than to point you to a couple of things from our texts. One of the criticisms of the resurrection accounts in the gospels is that the accounts vary, and sometimes considerably. But this criticism often is based on the expectation that the gospel writers should write as 21st-century historians, and this is patently unfair to them. Scholars like Richard Bauckham have demonstrated that some of the differences can be accounted for because the gospel writers prized eye-witness accounts and we all know that eye- witness accounts don’t always agree on what happened. But that doesn’t mean their testimony is false, especially given the fantastic nature of the resurrection (first-century folks didn’t believe that dead people come back to life any more than we do). Take our gospel account, for example. When Mary came to the tomb that first Easter Sunday, she didn’t come there expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead. She came there to anoint his dead body! And when she didn’t find Jesus’ body there, this helps explain all the running and fear and commotion. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that if we were to witness something of great magnitude for which we had no previous frame of reference, our various accounts would be all over the map. Had the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection all agreed to the letter, I would be much more suspicious that the story had been cooked instead of experienced. For those of you who wish to dig deeper, I commend a video on my blog that features N.T. Wright’s defense of the historical reality of the resurrection. So what do we do with this reality that we have new life in Christ, the promise of living in God’s new world as God’s healed and forgiven people? We return to St. Paul and our epistle lesson and what he wrote about baptism in Romans 6.3-5. Those of us who are baptized are baptized into a death like Jesus’ so that we can share in a resurrection like his. In other words, Paul is telling us that this gift of new life in Christ begins right here and now and will extend all the way into eternity in God’s new world when it comes in full. This is God’s free gift to us because God loves us and wants us to live forever with him, enjoying a real relationship that will make us fully human again. So what are we to do? The first thing is to rejoice and party like it is the Eschaton—just like you do when you know that I am preaching! By virtue of our faith in Christ we are given new life, eternal life, resurrection life, a life that is hidden at the present time but is real nevertheless. It is the life we share with Jesus, whose body is in heaven, God’s space. Jesus is our life because only he is the resurrection and the life, and only in and through him can we have the hope of resurrection and living forever in God’s new world. That’s what Paul means when he tells us to set our minds on heavenly things where our Lord currently is, out of our sight. We are to work out what it means to live in ways that are patterned after Jesus’ life. We are to reject things that dehumanize and despoil us. We are to learn how to stop loving ourselves first and to love God above all, and neighbor as ourselves. This is what it means to share in Jesus’ death. As we learn to do this, we will discover that Jesus is with us and helps us in the power of the Spirit to put to death those things in us that need to die. As Jesus told Mary, we have to get used to dealing with him in and through the Spirit. While we will share a body like his, until Jesus returns, we must realize he is available to us in the power of the Spirit and therefore also in and through other people. That means we learn to live as though people and creation matter, and supremely. They matter because they matter to God, who raised Jesus from the dead and promises to heal and renew his creation and us. This means we are to live out our baptismal vows instead of forgetting about them, and that doesn’t happen automatically. We have to be intentional about it and set our mind on Christ through regular prayer, worship, fellowship, Bible study, and the like. We’ve been given the best gift of all, the gift of new life, eternal life, and we must learn to treat God’s gift with reverence and respect by leading lives that imitate Jesus. Is this your Easter hope and how you live it out in the living of your days? And here is where I want to appeal to us to make Easter our primary and go-to celebration during the year instead of Christmas. Christmas is important but it needs Easter for it to mean anything to us as Christians. As we have seen, Easter, along with the crucifixion, proclaim the abolition of Evil, Sin, and Death, the beginning of God’s new world. Most of us treat Easter as a one-day event—today. But the season of Easter, Eastertide, actually lasts 50 days! And it provides us with wonderful opportunities to live out our Easter hope and joy in ways that can make others want to know what our secret is. How will we do that this Eastertide, St. Augustine’s? Whatever our answers are, do it we must because we are the recipients of God’s great love and future for us. Death is abolished and our future is life and beauty and love! So think of ways you can demonstrate your Easter (resurrection) hope to others, both as individuals and as Jesus’ body here at St. Augustine’s, and then get to work, proclaiming by your deeds and words the reality of our risen Lord and the impact it has on our life. There will be scoffers for sure because the world hates Jesus and those who follow him. But there are others who desperately need and want to hear the Good News that Jesus Christ is risen and Lord of this vast creation of God’s. Let us proclaim that, especially during these next fifty days, because we are resurrection people who have Good News to offer, now and for all eternity. Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever. In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.