Three Mysteries, Two Stories, and One Question
At the heart of the Christian faith lie three great mysteries.
Not mysteries in the sense of a murder mystery, in which, when the truth is revealed all will become clear, but mystery in the sense that art is a mystery, music is a mystery, science is a mystery: a mystery in this sense is something that goes deeper than we will ever see. It’s a mark of a great work of art, that its meaning can never be exhausted by our appreciation. That however long we listen or look or reflect, there will always be more to it than we have yet seen.
But to acknowledge that we will never reach the end is no disincentive to keep looking. For as we continue to ask questions of it, we continue to be rewarded with insights, with revelations of beauty and truth, and, most of all, with more questions. So it is with art, so with science, and so with the mysteries of our faith.
At the heart of the faith lie three such mysteries.
The first is the mystery of creation. How is it that from nothing, there could be something? How could it be that the God who was everything, the only thing, could create that which is not God, could give freedom to something different, something separate from, but not separated from, God?
The mystery of creation is the mystery of the creative nature of love; that love overflows itself to create the beloved, to give life, to give freedom. It is the mystery we witness in the birth of a child, in the dedication of a teacher, in the genius of composition: love creates, love gives, love sets free.
The second mystery of our faith is the mystery of the incarnation, the mystery of Christmas, of Emmanuel, God with us. How can it be that this God who is the creator of all can enter into God’s own creation, how can the infinity of God be found in the helplessness of a baby, what does it mean when we affirm that Jesus was fully God and fully human?
The mystery of the incarnation is the mystery of the redemptive power of love; that where love sees separation, it longs to see reconciliation; that where love sees brokenness, it longs to see healing; that where love sees despair, it longs to see hope. In the mystery of the incarnation the greatest imaginable chasm is bridged; creator and creation are brought together, in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery we witness in graceful acts of forgiveness, in individuals, groups, societies, nations, who choose not to be bound by the past, but together seek a better future. Love repents, love forgives, love reconciles.
And the third mystery of our faith is the mystery we wonder at and celebrate today; the mystery of resurrection. This mystery is the overturning of the law of life and death; the reversal of the triumph of evil over good; the ultimate triumph of love over all its enemies: hate, greed, fear, envy, and the rest. It is, in Aslan’s words, the deeper magic from before the dawn of time, declaration that God is love, so love forever, o’er the universe must reign.
The mystery of the resurrection is the mystery of the final power of love.
On Good Friday, love was defeated. On Good Friday, realpolitik triumphed over idealism, self interest over generosity of spirit, fear over hope.
For two long nights and a day, creation waited.
And then early on Sunday morning, the mystery of Easter unfolds before us.
All the brokenness of the world had descended upon Jesus, battered him, broken him, killed him: but he was alive.
Death had been overturned, and hope had returned from despair.
And love wins.
Most people, most of the time, live as if Good Friday was the defining story of the world. As if Jesus’ life was noble but naïve; his death on the cross a meaningless gesture; his life of love only proved that power, wealth, and influence are what make the real world go round, that hatred and violence get the final world.
But on Easter Sunday the resurrection declares that it is the love of God – the creative love that spoke the universe into being; the redemptive love that became flesh and dwelt among us; the resurrection love that overturned death and hate and violence – that these are the things that lie at the core of creation.
That we do not live in a universe devoid of meaning, in which the material struggle to survive and prosper is all that we can ever know.
The story of Good Friday tells us that whatever we might do, death brings it all to an end: the mystery of the resurrection says death ends nothing.
Good Friday tells us that love is a dangerous path: the resurrection agrees – but says we can take the risk of living lives of reckless love; of giving ourselves for others.
Good Friday tells us that the powers of the world will always crush the individual: the resurrection says that the world is changed by those who insist on living as they are called by God, not by those who simply know how to play the game better than most.
Good Friday tells us that violence and anger can tear us from those we love: the resurrection says that reconciliation can be the norm in our relationships; that no breakdown in relationships is ever entirely beyond hope.
The mystery of Easter, of love undefeated, asks us the question: does this love – this love which treats others, whoever they are, wherever they come from, as God’s children; this love which pours itself out in creativity, in generosity of giving, in seeking reconciliation, in the struggle for justice – does this love form the core, the heart, of our lives?
Do we live lives bubbling over with a love that knows no bounds, a love which brings healing and reconciliation, peace and justice and beauty into our communities, that protects the wonder of creation and holds its hands out, its arms open, to all?
As we stand here today in the light of the resurrection, in the story of the power of God’s love, what’s stopping us?
We can be those people, whose love changes the world.