It should come as no surprise that Easter Sunday is the most important single day in the entire Church year. And, it should also come as no surprise that The United Methodist Church has a very clear doctrinal position on the subject of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Article III of our historic Articles of Religion is quite straightforward as to the nature of the Resurrection of our Lord; sadly, few seem to have read it:
Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of mans nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.
This doctrinal statement doesnt stand alone. Our faith is not built upon our doctrinal statements but, rather, upon the Scriptural witness. This Doctrinal statement is a faithful reflection of Anglican and Methodist Christians upon the Biblical account of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Creeds and Council proclamations which have interpreted the Biblical record, and the faith and personal experience of uncounted millions of Christians who know with both their minds and their hearts that Jesus is alive! In other words, our doctrinal standards reflect what we believe and know to be true through our principle authority, Scripture, amplified and interpreted by Christian Tradition, Experience, and Reason.
From the very beginning, this has been the central and essential proclamation of the Universal Church: He Is Risen! By this we mean an actual resurrection -- not just a philosophically grounded, metaphysically diluted series of visions and dreams, but a real event in which God broke through the bounds of time and space not only to dwell with us, but also to deliver us from the constraints of our sin and mortality.
This is the message of Holy Week and Easter Sunday made simple. In His death, our Lord Jesus took upon himself our sinful nature; in His resurrection, He defeated our death; and, in and through His abiding presence, we too have hope for eternal life.
The promise of eternal life, revealed to us in the resurrection, is both a future hope and a present reality. This is not just a fine point of theological distinction, by the way; it is very important. You see, not only do I believe that in Christ I shall never die (even though this body shall, one day, see corruption), I also believe that eternal life has already begun. The moment of Christian regeneration begins the eternal life in Christ and, as such, it is a promise which is already fulfilled.
Let me say that again. For eternal life to be truly eternal, it must be present in the here and now. And, I believe that it is.
The Easter message of Christs victory over the powers and forces of darkness in his death and resurrection are central to the Christian faith. It is not some side-message that we can proclaim once in a great while, and especially in Lent and Easter time. Each and every Sunday is a re-celebration, a remembrance, of the resurrection of our Lord. The glorious message of our Lords victory is appropriate every Sunday, every week, every day. And we, as members of the risen and glorified body of Christ, are the only ones who can proclaim it.
© 1997, Rev. Gregory S. Neal
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