The year was 1922. The place was Kiev, in the Soviet Union. The occasion was a large anti-religious rally. The featured speaker was the revered Soviet politician and orator Nikolai Bukharin. Thousands had arrived to listen to listen to him speak. He stood up and spoke for over an hour – preaching atheism and pouring insults on those who believed in God. Finally he sat down. The air was thick with blatant oppression, tyranny, and bullying. The chairman asked if there were any questions. There was only silence.
But then, a man stood up near the back. He was elderly, with a beard, and dressed in the habit of an Orthodox monk. He slowly made his way forward, passing row after row of people, until he reached the front, and climbed onto the stage. He turned stood facing the crowd. They sat looking at him with silent expectation. Then, he raised his arms, and in a loud, confident voice cried out, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” And at once, the huge crowd bolted to their feet and thundered out, “The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”
Resurrection was in the spiritual DNA of those people. No matter how much they were told the opposite, how much they were forced to live as if there were no God, the seeds of hope lay deep in their souls, latent and waiting. The seeds had been planted within them by their ancestors and preserved by the stories over the ages. And now their time had come as they stood together in solidarity one another and with God.
In order to experience the freedom and joy of new life, we must first experience death – or many deaths – in our life. So the question becomes this: What in my life needs to die in order for new life to spring forth? What old ideas do we need to let go of in order to make room for a new vision? What darkness lurks in the shadows of the soul that needs to be brought into light in order to move forward into freedom? And freedom, my friend, is always the freedom to love fully.
We live in a culture that is in many ways being held hostage by fear. When we are controlled by fear, we cannot truly give ourselves to compassion, we cannot love fully. But the dynamic of death and resurrection can offer us hope. If we can just be honest enough with ourselves to face the real issues that are around and within us there is hope. In order to foster true equality, we must first allow the idea that some lives are more valuable than others to die. We move to a place where we know that all people are equally beloved by God. Old ideas need to die. We cannot, as Jesus says, pour old wine into new wineskins. Resurrection is about new horizons, new ideas, new ways of seeing one another and new opportunities to love without strings attached that carries with it hope for our future.
But the good news of resurrection must continue to live beyond this moment – beyond this weekend. If we as Christians are to have integrity and authenticity beyond the four walls of the church, then we must be able to bring the good news of resurrection in ways that are vital and relevant for the current time in which we live. And these are not easy times. But we as Christians have other breaking news for the world. Because the message of Easter isn’t about the principalities of darkness, it’s about the light of Christ. It’s not about despair, it’s about hope. It’s not about hate, it’s about love.
The time is now for us to live our Christian lives right out front and center like that monk in Kiev and show the world that the reality of God that we see in the risen life of Christ is alive in us and is to be had for all people regardless religious tradition, denominational stripes, political affiliation, gender, race or who we love or how we love. God is bigger than all of that. Our time has come to show the world a love that cannot be buried in a tomb; to share a light with others that cannot be swallowed up by darkness. Hope is what this time is about, my brothers and sisters. And it is a hope that we can bring into the world. It is a hope that we must bring into the world. It’s a hope that says God wins. One that says love wins. And that is real good news.