Bishop’s Easter Letter to the Diocese of Eau Claire
April 15-16, 2017
Dear Friends and Family of the Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire,
By the time we are five years old and on we become aware of death. We see death in animals and in other humans who touch our lives. We know that one day our time will come. The threat of death is one of the most powerful means by which the mighty impose their will on the weak. It is appropriate that we connect sin with death. In Chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Genesis we had access to the Tree of Life but forfeited it in disobeying God and seizing the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result human life is one of knowing what is right and wrong and, in spite of this understanding, making wrong choices.
Into this sad human condition comes Jesus Christ. The word Christ means Anointed One. When Samuel anointed David as the new King of Israel in 1 Samuel 16, it was a sign of God’s favor. David was a child, an unknown, but God knew what was in his heart. David became a great leader but also a great sinner. In spite of the things he did wrong, David would never end his relationship with God. He would repent and seek forgiveness. In return God never withdrew his favor. David was his anointed.
In this context Jesus is more than Christ. He is more than the Anointed One. The disciples came to understand that Jesus was more than favored by God but was God himself. Jesus was God incarnate—made flesh. He was Emanuel—God with us. He also in knowing good and evil chose the good—always. He therefore was without sin.
Jesus’ death on the Cross was an attempt by authorities, both Jewish and Roman, to shame and humiliate him. They believed the horrible death of crucifixion would silence not only the person of Jesus but his message as well. It was an old and familiar story. “We don’t like you and what you say. By killing you we don’t have to listen anymore.“ The Cross is also a statement that humans control this world, and God is someone humans only imagine exists.
The Easter event blows up this conventional thinking. Jesus carries the marks of the Cross but appears before Mary Magdalene and the disciples. He has crossed from death into a new, heavenly life. The Gospels and Epistles now have the disciples and early Church members trying to make sense of Jesus’ Resurrection. As humans we first have to accept this new information as fact. Then we have to make sense of it. We need to interpret it and incorporate this new reality in our view of the world and of ourselves.
The primary teaching of Jesus’ Resurrection is that it isn’t only for Jesus. It is promised to us. If we do our best to live as Jesus did on earth, we too will be raised from the dead. In the language of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and 3, Jesus leads us through the death symbolized by the flaming swords of the cherubim established by God to block re-entry to the Garden (Genesis 3:22-24) and returns us to the Tree of Life. This means death is conquered, and we are restored to a wonderful relationship with God. Like the Prodigal Son, we have returned to and been embraced by the Holy Family! May this Eastertide fill you with joy and new life with Jesus the Christ, the Son of God! Alleluia! Wth my love and best wishes, I remain,
Your brother in Christ,
W. Jay Lambert
VI Bishop of Eau Claire