Presiding Bishop's Easter Message, 1966

Diocesan Press Service. March 31, 1966 [41-2]

Goethe once upset a young Englishman by saying to him, "I would not have advised you to undertake Faust. It is mad stuff, and goes quite beyond all ordinary feeling." Goethe's counsel concerning Faust might well be the counsel of faith to "Faustian man" in the face of Easter -- if for other reasons! For the cry, "He is risen!" is "mad stuff" indeed to those who "live by bread alone, " or by reasons precise calculations only. The empty tomb is no place for the sect of the slide-rule! For, as G. K. Chesterton once put it, "The real trouble with our world is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one! The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite ! Its wildness lies in waiting."

Easter shows us the face of God as that face truly is! Good Friday exposed the face of God also; a God Who appeared unable to compete when the question was one of naked power. And, in the figure of Jesus broken against the Cross, the cynic seemed to possess ample evidence to support his mocking challenge: "If thou be the son of God, come down from the Cross. Save thyself... and us!" But it was the "wildness that lay in waiting" that trapped him.

The Resurrection telegraphed the most exhilarating reassurance since the conviction, "In the beginning... God" dawned upon the writer of the first sentence of the Book of Genesis! The Resurrection dramatized a deathless hope: "God has not forsaken you. God will never forsake you. The 'man for all men' is, at once , the God for all men. Do to me what you will. My love for you is greater than your rejection of me!"

For Christians the undiscourageable incentive to live and work and strive and suffer and die in this world... and to rise again... came thundering out of the Empty Tomb! The deposit of joy, which is the gift of the unshakable conviction that God will not abandon mankind, centers in the Risen Christ.

Twentieth Century Christians live on the knife-edge that splits the abyss which is nuclear annihilation. But so did pre-nuclear First Century Christians!

Twentieth Century Christians live in daily communion with death, and with death's fraternal twin: suffering. So did First Century Christians!

Twentieth Century Christians do not know what the morrow will bring forth. Nor did First Century Christians.

But First Century Christians stoutly refused to surrender to anxiety concerning it. And neither should we!

For out of a faith which does not negate reason, but rather transcends it, we can labor and love without edging towards the panic button.

We can grapple with the demonic powers that make a Watts or a Selma or a Vietnam morass because Christ has identified and helps us overcome those same powers within ourselves.

We can speak the truth in love amid hostility because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.

We can mitigate, as much as lieth in us, the weariness and pain and tragedy of a broken world because there is sufficient healing in The Broken Body. We can live in simple joy amid the insecurities of this present age by the power and surety of the age to come.

For our future is not in doubt. Neither is our freedom to be "real persons" regardless of circumstances. For these have been won for us by the Lord of Life who holds the universe and all of its mysteries within the hollow of His hand.

"It is precisely this final nonchalance about life and death," as Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr suggests, "which includes some sense of serenity about the life and death of civilizations, that delivers the people of God from hysteria when -- on occasions -- the human campfires seem about to be snuffed out." A conclusion which echoes the Resurrection faith: "Whether we live, we live unto the Lord. Whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, or whether we die -- WE ARE THE LORD'S."

John E. Hines

Presiding Bishop