Derby Unitarians

A Tomb is No place to Stay

Easter 2008

Max A.Coots wrote;

The resurrection stories of the New Testament need neither be taken as fact or reinterpreted to appear scientifically acceptable. They can be left as they are myths of meaningfulness. They are the poetry of reverence. They are the stories of the reaffirmation of life that even death cannot end. They are the songs of the experience of a people, who having experienced grief and loss and disillusionment, felt a restoration of their hope.

I think the resurrection is one of those doctrines of the Church that we have a deal of trouble trying to get our heads around. We are told by the Church that belief in the Resurrection is a founding doctrine of the Christian faith and without that faith we cannot be in any way Christian; without belief in the Resurrection, there is no Christian faith.

Jack Spong a leading liberal theologian and retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church writes: " To literalize Easter has become the defining heresy of traditional Protestant and Catholic Christianity. That transforming mystery has given way to propositional truths." (Spong 2007. p117)

Many leading theologians now accept the Resurrection to be Midrash or mythology. Even St Paul seems to agree at the non-physical nature of resurrection in his letter to the Corinthians - "of course the resurrection was spiritual. What goes into the ground is physical. What comes out is spiritual." (Corinthians 15)

And yet, here we are almost 2000 years later still celebrating an event that for many thousands is the rock on which their belief, their spiritual life, their salvation, is built. Some look to that longevity of a tradition to justify belief, it has stood the test of time they say, it must be true!
But what of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, they are all older than Christianity - does that make them more true? For thousands of years people believed in the Sun God, some still do, science has disproved this; time alone does not make something true.

And yet, something must have happened to change the lives of those first disciples, something so powerful, something so inspirational that they felt honour bound to not let that power die in the events of that first Good Friday.

I believe that the power was the life, the teachings and the example of Jesus that just had to be kept, and the only way those early followers knew was to wrap the death of Jesus in a shroud of mystery already known to the people of their time and day. Resurrection was not a new idea but one established in the biblical tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures.

What is true of Easter is not the debate about the physical or spiritual nature of the resurrection stories but the continuance of the Jesus tradition and the lessons he taught about how we should live our lives.

He gave us the choice between life and death; again not in a physical sense but, the choice of living a life full of meaning and led by sacred impulses rather than the death of life that begins and ends in self. He gave us the choice to live a heavenly life here, now, if we think and behave in a certain way.
He said it was up to us to choose, he could not do it for us, we have to learn the lessons, of divine unity and love that which can yet build the kingdom of God upon the earth.

He taught that we have to take responsibility for our actions, to learn to forgive and be forgiven, only then will the world change for the better; only then will we be creating a more harmonious world, a just world. Only then can we live in true freedom.

He taught that only by forgiving can we find true freedom. If we truly wish to move forward in our lives we must learn to forgive those whom we believe have harmed us, we must remove the burden of our grudges that we each carry around on our backs. We cannot live a spiritually free and happy life whilst carrying anger, judgement, hurt around with us - it is a crushing load.

He taught that we have top trust in life, in God, if you will, that there is a balance that we should learn to live with rather than fight against, rather than attempt to dominate - that there is a corrective balance in the Universe that will supply all of our needs, "Consider the Lilies of the field."

He taught that to live spiritual and fulfilling lives we need to open our eyes and ears to see divinity is everyone, in all things, and in ourselves. We have to learn to stop judging others. For as long as we judge others, we also judge ourselves, the world and creation.

He taught that we need to learn to love, as nature loves its existence, as a mother loved her child. If we can but learn to love our enemies as our selves then all the humanly created barriers of perceived difference will fall away. We will be one and we can reach out with compassion to any who need us, or who can be healed by us, or we by them. Then we shall see the divine in all, and existential loneliness will disappear. We are one.

He taught that if we truly want to experience the realm of God then we need to develop a generous heart. We need to be generous with our love, our time, our money, when we hold back it rots before our eyes. When we learn to live with a generous heart we see our attachments for what they truly are. Do not store up for yourselves treasures here on earth.

He taught that we need to see and understand life as the gift that it truly is; it needs to be cherished, loved, celebrated, then can our lives take on new meaning. Life is to be experienced in its fullness, not explained in its exactness.

It was Jesus' life that was inspirational; his death unfortunate and caught up in the politics of his day. But his disciples were determined that his life and his message would live on, be resurrected as an example of how a life should be lived. A life inspired by what he understood God to be. A life that can still be salvific today if we allow it to draw us out of the dark tomb of selfishness and apathy and live in the fullness of the divine promise. That is the good news of Easter.

A Tomb is No place to Stay.

A tomb is no place to stay,
Be it a cave in the Judaean hills
Or the dark cavern of the spirit.

A tomb is no place to stay
When fresh grass rolls away the stone of winter cold
And valiant flowers burst their way to warmth and light.

A tomb is no place to stay
When each morning announces our reprieve,
And we know we are granted yet another day of living.

A tomb is no place to stay
When life laughs a welcome
To hearts that have been away too long.

(Richard S.Gilbert)

© Rev Chris Goacher