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With this proclamation each year we shout the Easter message of resurrection and new life. It is the same message that Christians have been shouting out for centuries, a message of hope over despair, of victory over loss and of life over  death. But have you ever contemplated exactly what it is we say when we exclaim “Christ is risen?”

The verb in each of the sentences is in the present tense, not in any form of past tense. In other words, we don’t say “Christ was risen” or “Christ has been risen” or “Christ had risen.” The verb tense we use gets to the very heart of the Easter proclamation,  because on Easter Sunday we recall an event, the resurrection of Jesus, but we experience that event as both past and present at the same time. Yes, in the early morning of the first day of the week, a few women went to the tomb and  found it empty. Yes, the Jesus whose death they witnessed appeared to them and to the apostles to show them that he had been raised and is alive. But as the early church believed the witness of the resurrection as told to them by the apostles, this early church also realized that the resurrection is not only past event, but is present reality as well. The earliest Christians, even those who did not see Jesus appear to them, had a very real sense that through the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus very much was present in their gatherings. They knew and felt the presence of the resurrected  Christ as they read the Scriptures, as they spoke the message of Jesus, as they ate the supper Jesus initiated, as they baptized new members and as they shared the love of this Christ in fellowship and in acts of kindness. In all that they did, the early Christians felt a profound presence of the risen Christ calling them, enlightening them, encouraging them and filling them with the joy of life in his name. How, then, do you speak of this Jesus who was crucified and raised, yet who remains a very real presence in the life of the Church? The only way is by using the present tense of the verb “to be” to denote the ongoing reality that Jesus, who had a moment when he was raised from the dead, is alive still, and very much present in the life of the church. Christ is risen, you see, because this Jesus still is an ongoing reality in the ongoing body of Christ, the Church.

This is the importance of Easter, that the Word made flesh, Jesus, Son of God, was crucified, died and was buried, but on the third day was raised from the dead, never more to die. It is this Jesus who remains active in the life of the people who call him Lord and Savior. To say the words, “Christ is risen,” is the most concise way to speak the gospel message. In one sentence we proclaim the good news that the resurrection took place and that the Jesus who died is now, even as we speak, alive.

This is the Jesus, as crucified and risen Lord, whom we proclaim each week in our gathering. It also is this Jesus whom we serve by sharing his love and the fullness of his life actively in the world in our daily lives. The Easter message is our source of power, our source of love, our source of mission and our source of life in all its fullness. That is why, each year, we shout the same refrain proclaimed by the church in every age, the words which tell the world what God has done:

“Christ is risen!”
“Christ is risen, indeed”