The Collect for the Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.
The Difference Easter Makes
Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection, arguably the most significant feast in the Christian tradition. To paraphrase St. Paul, without the resurrection our faith makes no sense. This morning, in the wake of great celebrations in our churches, we begin a journey through the season of Easter, 50 days in which we explore the difference that Easter makes.
We’ll hear a lot in this season from the New Testament book, the Acts of the Apostles. It tells how the early church got off the ground, how a group of frightened and feckless disciples encountered the risen Jesus and were so affected by the experience that they were willing to give their lives for the sake of the Jesus movement. Easter made a big difference to them in those first days of the church. They changed the world.
Yesterday was also the day in which we remember the life, ministry and witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died on April 9 in 1945. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been studying in New York, but returned to his native Germany to contest the ascendancy of the Nazi regime. He was arrested in Germany on April 5, 1943, and imprisoned in Berlin. After an attempt on Hitler’s life failed on April 9, 1944, documents were discovered linking Bonhoeffer to the conspiracy. He was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, then to Schoenberg Prison. In that prison, he gathered and led a worshipping community. On Sunday, April 8, 1945, just as he concluded a service. two men came in with an ominous summons, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer … come with us.” Those present knew what this meant. As he left the room, he turned to his congregation and said, “For us, this is the end. For me, the beginning of life.” Bonhoeffer was hanged the next day, April 9, 1945 at Flossenburg Prison.
I sense that it was the confidence in the good news of Easter that allowed Bonhoeffer to see that in death life is changed not ended. I imagine that such faithful confidence allowed him to work fearlessly for justice and peace. He is just one in a great cloud of witnesses to the difference Easter makes.
Last Tuesday, on April 4, we observed the feast of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life ended on that day in 1968. His work for civil rights was animated by his faith, which has at its heart the good news of Easter. He saw in Jesus the love and hope that could change the world, that could make a difference. He described the cross as the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken humanity. He said: “When I took up the cross, I recognized its meaning. The cross is something that you bear, and ultimately that you die on…If you have not discovered something you are willing to die for, then you are not fit to live.” On the night before he died, in a prophetic speech, King revealed that he was not afraid to die: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will…And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have sen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Dr. King knew the difference that Easter makes.
Se we now launch into the season of Easter, mindful of these and others in the great cloud of witnesses. Perhaps, probably and gratefully, we will not face the kind of test these two martyrs faced. But they give us a glimpse of the transformative power of Easter. They call on us to let the good news of Easter animate our life in the world, working for justice and peace. They help us see that we too can offer ourselves, in ways great and small, for the sake of the way of love. When that happens, it’s enough to make us say: “Alleluia.”