Bishop Adams' Easter Message
Dear Clergy and People of Central New York:
"Do not be afraid." So the angel says to the women when they come upon Jesus' tomb that first Easter morning. As a child I went through a stage when I would be afraid to let my hands or feet dangle over the edge of my bed. My fear was that something under the bed would reach up and grab me. As long as I kept everything tucked in all would be fine.
Irrational fear, even a child's, is one thing. We know, however, that there is much of which to be fearful in our world. I hear that fear expressed, too many times, by parents of children attacked in school in nonsensical and wanton acts of violence. We see it in the eyes of Ukrainian people wondering if they will have an autonomous country. It is among us in times of uncertainty, the loss of loved ones, and even in unknown futures for the life of our faith communities as everything we have come to depend on shifts around us more quickly than we seem able to adapt.
Fear is real. In the face of that fear the angel declares we need not be so, not because fear isn't real, or because we have easy reassuring answers. My mother was not able to convince me that there was nothing under that bed of which I need not be afraid. The angel, however, shifts the conversation and proclaims a new reality: "He is not here, for he has been raised as he said." This is the unique witness of the Church - Christ is Risen.
What we are given is not a promise that nothing can go wrong. It is not an assurance that everything will turn out for the best. After all, the Gospel tells us that even after being told not to be afraid, the women left the tomb "with fear and great joy." It's like falling in love or witnessing the birth of a child. The fear was mingled with hope and joy. And they ran to tell the disciples.
So in life, fear still exists. We cannot avoid it. But we face it with great joy because Jesus is Risen. Whatever may happen, we face the world knowing God strengthens us and upholds us. Whatever we may face, we do not do so alone. Nothing we encounter is stronger than God's love. As participants in the new creation God is bringing about, we are to be witnesses to these things. Go and tell the story in your life and by word that "this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm 118) The world is waiting to hear.
Peace to you for a glorious Easter,
The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III
Bishop of Central New York
Presiding Bishop's Easter Message
The tomb is empty, and nobody knows where the body is. Mary Magdalene tells the others about the mysterious disappearance, but they give up and go home. Mary stays behind, weeping, and then fails to recognize the risen one before her. As the days pass, each resurrected encounter begins in surprise or anonymity – the disciples fishing all night without catching, Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach, the two on their way to Emmaus. Nobody recognizes him at first sight.
Clearly the risen body is not identical to the Jesus who was crucified. People mistake him for a stranger. He enters locked rooms. He walks along the path to Emmaus for a long time without being recognized. Crucifixion, death, and resurrection result in a transformed body – with evident scars, but changed nonetheless. When he reminds others of God’s banquet, meant for the whole world – when human beings are fed and watered, delivered from prison, gathered from exile across the earth, and healed and reconciled into a community of peace – his companions discover that he has once again been in their midst.
What does that resurrection reality mean for the Body of Christ of which we are part? How does the risen Body of Christ – what we often call the church – differ from the crucified one? That Body seems to be most lively when it lives closer to the reality of Good Friday and the Easter mystery. In the West, that Body has suffered a lot of dying in recent decades. It is diminished, some would say battered, increasingly punctured by apathy and taunted by cultured despisers. That body bears little resemblance to royal images of recent memory – though, like Jesus, it is being mocked. The body remembers and grieves, like the body of Israel crying in the desert, “why did you bring us out here to die?” or the crucified body who cries, “My God, why have you forsaken me,” or “why have you abandoned us?” In other contexts the Body of Christ is quite literally dying and spilling its lifeblood – in Pakistan and Sudan, in Iraq and Egypt – and in those ancient words of Tertullian, the blood of martyrs is becoming the seed of the church.
The Body of Christ is rising today where it is growing less self-centered and inwardly focused, and living with its heart turned toward the cosmic and eternal, its attention focused intently on loving God and neighbor. This Body is rising to stand in solidarity with criminals sentenced to death, with widows and orphans, with the people of the land who slave over furrows and lettuce fields to feed the world. This Body can be found passing through walls and boundaries that have long been misused to keep the righteous “safe” and “pure.” The Body is recognized when the hungry are fed – on the lakeshore with broiled fish, on the road to Emmaus, on street corners and city parks, in food pantries and open kitchens, in feeding neighbor nations and former enemies, and as the Body gathers once again to remember its identity and origin – Christ is risen for the sake of all creation.
Where and how will we look for the Body of Christ, risen and rising? Will we share the life of that body as an Easter people, transformed by resurrection and sent to transform the world in turn?
Christ is risen, Alleluia! Alleluia, Christ is risen indeed!
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church