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Easter Sermon


Last year in the UK, I came across interesting information that revealed that the majority of people don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus. This includes one-fourth of British Christians. It would not be surprising if the results were similar to those of Britain in New Zealand. After all, New Zealand is among the most secularised countries in the world. We know that the 2018 Census show the number of Kiwis with 'no religion' has increased by 6.67 per cent from (41.92 per cent) in 2013 to (48.59 per cent).


The modernising and secularising tendency is spreading in the rest of the world, and it would be safe to assume that the percentage of people who do not believe in Jesus’ resurrection is on the rise.


One might say there are good reasons not to believe in the resurrection. In the 18th Century, David Hume made a strong case against the resurrection and miracles.


For him, stories of miracles, including the resurrection of Jesus, are anecdotal. He believes these stories are likely untrue because they violate the laws of nature. He also believes that we cannot calculate the probability of either scenario.


So, to Hume and his followers, miracles are events that are inherently unlikely. Due to their unlikelihood, the probability of them being true is low. Therefore, it is more likely that miracle stories are not true. In other words, the probability is against the truth of miracles.


Hume famously summarised his argument as follows: " No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony is of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous.”

To put it simply, Hume's argument is that when it comes to matters of fact, we can only trust the evidence we gather through our own senses or that which is provided by others. Therefore, when determining whether a miracle has occurred, we should approach it just like any other factual claim: by carefully examining the evidence and determining its reliability. Ultimately, we must weigh the evidence and decide for ourselves whether it supports the claim or not.


How, then, can we relate to the story of Jesus’ resurrection? What do we do with it?

To a large extent, Christian Scriptures are mythopoetic writings. Their truths cannot always be measured through the discourse of science, which relies on hard empirical data. Growing up, I was on my school debate team. I learnt very quickly that a truth claim can be made in favour of or against certain propositions or claims.


I also learnt that the truth itself can get lost or obscured in the pursuit of truth. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton makes a counterintuitive observation about the critics of religion. He says, “Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the church.” In other words, the cause itself is sacrificed.


Emanuel Levinas says something interesting about the idea of truth. “If you see the colour of somebody’s eyes, you are not relating to them”. He means that if you are watching someone, you see their hair and eye colour, and if you are fixated on how they look, you are not really listening. You have lost them, and you have what he calls an “I-It” relationship. You are treating them as an object. But then we get into a really good conversation, and suddenly I don’t know the colour of their eyes and hair and how they look. I became interested in their story. I am now engaged with them in a much deeper sense.


The encounter with truth requires a deeper dive into the truth claim. We have missed the point if we try to prove or disapprove of the story of resurrection or miracles. We have entered an “I-it” relationship, treating it as an object of intellectual gratification.

 

We know that objective events do occur, but their objectivity never endures, meaning there is no one set criteria for judging an event or discovering its meaning. Rather, an event can appear and mean something significant only to those willing to recognise themselves in its call and step into its happening.


During the Easter season, we acknowledge the reality of life's darkness, which includes judgment, suffering, and crucifixion. Unfortunately, these are not just past experiences but daily realities. However, we also acknowledge the truth that Easter proclaims. Despite the darkness and death, there is hope and the possibility of renewal.


For Christians, we can’t ignore Good Friday and the reality of death.


Many times, we don’t allow things to die. We allow grudges to linger, relationships to become harmful, and negative habits to persist. We find ourselves in a state of limbo, where we are neither living nor dying. But death is necessary for rebirth. This is a fundamental pattern of life that is recognised by Easter.


Easter is a significant event in the lives of Christians worldwide. It commemorates the story of Jesus's triumph over judgment and death 2,000 years ago and his resurrection. While the meaning of resurrection varies among Christians, some interpret it literally, while others view it as a metaphor for new life.


No matter how we see it, the resurrection is all about transformation and rebirth. Easter is not only a commemoration of the past but also an event that occurs in the present. Forgiveness brings about a new path, breaking the cycle of destruction and leading to a sense of peace that surpasses all understanding. When broken relationships are restored, Easter is experienced in various other ways, making it known.


The Easter story teaches us about trust and the importance of letting go. When Jesus cried out, "Into your hands, I commit my spirit", from the cross; he demonstrated faith and trust in the belief that something new and better could emerge. However, letting go can be scary, but it is an essential part of faith. Easter invites us to trust that there is a bigger picture, a deeper story, a greater mystery, inviting us to embrace life fully.


Easter can be seen as a daily occurrence when we choose to let go of things while believing in the possibility of something more. This act of letting go leads to the birth of compassion, kindness, and justice. We don't have the power to make Easter happen, but it can manifest through us when we are receptive to new ideas and experiences.


The meaning of Easter is a mystery we must experience — in nature, in relationships, in our actions in the world. It is a stance that welcomes hope and trust in something more.

Indeed, the resurrection of Christ is not limited to one single event. Every single time we stand with the oppressed and marginalised, Jesus is resurrected again. Every time we look into the eye of injustice, resurrection happens. Every time we open our lives and ears to the cries of the downtrodden, Jesus is resurrected. In those moments and more, Jesus lives in our words and deeds.


The resurrection many of us profess in liturgy, hymns, and prayers on Easter Sunday is not an annual religious ritual. It is a way of living the story of Jesus. Easter invites us to move beyond confession to action, from belief to faithful work, where we discover Christ in the most unlikely and absurd moments. Thanks be to God.

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