Sermon–Easter Day 2014


Easter Day

April 20, 2014

William Bradbury


Acts 10:34-43 
Colossians 3:1-4 
Matthew 28:1-10 

I heard about a teacher who received a note from her student: It read—

“I loved what I was learning but I couldn’t make it stay in my head. It was too different from what I had already learned, so my brain just kept switching back to default.” See N. T. Wright Surprised by Hope, my inspiration throughout the Great Three Days.

This could be written by churchgoers on Easter Sunday because even though the New Testament teaches bodily Resurrection over and over, it is too much for us, so we keep reverting back to the default.

For example:

At the end of our service we will join the choir in singing Handel’s Halleluiah Chorus, in which we will sing this famous line which comes from the 11th chapter of the Book of Revelation: It goes:

“The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ…;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,”


In the South where I come from if you ask people to write down what this means they will write something like: “This means that because Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead, when I die my soul will go to heaven to live with God for ever and ever.”


This is the default setting for most Christians of the past 100 years—myself included. Our enlightenment worldview simply won’t let us believe that death is overcome, so being saved can only mean that when I die my soul gets to float to heaven, but my tired old body will be lost forever, because death has mostly won.


And what will my soul do in heaven for eternity: Worship God.

As Alan Watts says, when children finally get old enough to grasp this they go crazy. “You mean when I die my soul goes to heaven so I have no physical body to run and jump in and that whatever is left of me will have to sit still 24/7 in church?!”

My God, hell must be better than that!”

We claim to believe in incarnation but we’ve ended up with a disembodied salvation.


But the New Testament repeatedly and consistently says this is incomplete.

The line Handel uses from Revelation says, “The kingdom of this world—not heaven, but this earth, sea, sky, you, me, and millions of critters great and small—will be set free from the tyranny of evil and corruption and is now under the Lordship of the Creator and the Christ.  

Not us floating up to God to get away from this world, but God coming down to us in Jesus Christ to transform this world into God’s Dominion in the Eternal Now.


Or take our story from Matthew’s Gospel:

The stone blocking the tomb is rolled back, not so Jesus can get out, but so the women can get in and see that Jesus’ corpse is no longer there. So right off we see the story pointing toward a body that has been transformed.

Transformed into what?—a ghost floating around?

No, transformed into a glorified body that has feet that Mary Magdalen can grab onto and a mouth that can tell her to go to the disciples and tell them he will meet them in Galilee.

And when that meeting takes place the Resurrected Jesus says to the disciples:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing… and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

He doesn’t say go hunker down until you get free of your body and your soul floats. He says, “I’m in charge now, so go into all the world and announce that the Kingdom of this world has been reclaimed by our Creator. Go to everyone and baptize them into Christ’s death and resurrection, so they can take part in witnessing to and working for the new creation that has begun.”

Jesus is sending them to colonize earth—not through violence, but through his suffering love.

As N. T. Wright puts it: “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That is what the Lord’s Prayer is all about.” Surprised by Hope p 293

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done… ON EARTH as it is in heaven.”

Look what a difference this makes. If all we expect is for our souls to go to heaven when we die then creation must not be very important.

Creation ends up getting treated like a Florida motel room rented by rich kids on spring break: Who cares how trashed it gets, it’s only temporary!

Maybe this explains why we have huge dead zones in the Pacific Ocean filled with human garbage.

Maybe it explains why we’ve been slow to care if the temperature of the earth goes up.

Maybe it explains why we are more interested in building our economic comfort and military might than helping the sick around the world. Their bodies are not important, only their souls—and everyone knows suffering is good for the soul!

It was the ancient Christians who invented the novelty of caring for the sick who were not Christians.


When we check out the New Testament we see very little about “going to heaven when we die.”

Of course right after death we are with God in an interim period.

This is why Jesus says to the thief who repents: “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise is a garden where we wait for the main attraction: that New Earth in which we will be newly embodied selves that are empowered not by our old nature but by God’s Spirit and therefore immune to decay and death.


The resurrection of Jesus announces what will happen to us in “the life after life after death”, as N T Wright puts it.


Paul writes in Romans:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;20 for…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

Through Christ’s life and death God has defeated the powers of evil that corrupt and destroy. God is God, Jesus is Lord, as Tom Wright says, and “all people everywhere are invited to come in, to join the party, to discover forgiveness for the past, an astonishing destiny in God’s future and a vocation in the present.” Wright 227. I was inspired by Wright throughout. If this “new” vision of resurrection hope interests you read his Surprised by Hope


To follow Jesus now is to take up his kingdom work as our own.


A simple example: I suspect most of us will be gathering with friends and family for a meal—some of whom may be sick, some you may struggle to accept. If we believe in Christ’s resurrection then this meal becomes an experience of reconciling love, a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet.

Maybe after dinner you’ll work in the yard or the garden—in the light of resurrection this becomes a sign pointing toward the New Creation.

Even those of us who will be napping will be offering our sleep to the recreating power of Resurrection.

The tomb is empty and Jesus encounters his followers and they were so transformed those peasants changed the world through his suffering love of all things.



“The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ…;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,”