This Sunday is Resurrection Day. It is Easter. It is the day that we celebrate what happened on the first day of the week nearly two thousand years ago. Sunday we will see that the table is a place of resurrection and new life. It is a place of remembering and encountering the Risen Christ. It is a place where, in the simple act of breaking bread, Christ is made known to us—as the Risen Christ was made known to two of his followers in Emmaus when they sat down at the table and he broke the bread.
So central is resurrection to the Christian Community that early on believers began to worship on the first day of the week, rather than on the seventh. The importance of The Lord’s Day, as it was called, gradually replaced the importance of the traditional Sabbath day. Every Sunday, then, became a celebration of resurrection. Every Sunday became a celebration of the good news that death does not have the final word. Every Sunday became a celebration that new life is possible—no matter the quality of the old life or the kind of deadness one had experienced. In Christ, to use Paul’s words, we are new Creations.
Even the architecture of churches in the Byzantine period, which had eight sides, proclaimed it. For Jews 8 was the number which symbolized salvation, rebirth and regeneration: 8 members of Noah’s family were saved in the time of the Great Flood and it was on the 8th day of his life that a boy child was circumcised, signifying his entrance into the covenant family of Israel, the chosen people of God. But for early Christians 8 was the number which symbolized the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the formation of the New Covenant. Jesus was raised on the day after the 7th day, or Sabbath, making Jesus’ Resurrection on the 8th day, Sunday. This eighth day, which was the first day of the week and the day of the New Creation just as the old Creation also began on what is the first day of the week. It is for this reason that Christian churches built during the Byzantine period were 8-sided structures. The rediscovery of the ruins of St. Peter’s house in Capernaum was verified by the identification of a central room used for Christian worship which was reconfigured as an 8-sided room. (Click here to learn more!) The baptismal font in our sanctuary—like many in other churches—has eight sides for that same reason.
Symbols of resurrection and new life abound in our architecture, in our music, and in our literature. But that’s not all. Resurrection, new life, abounds in the greening of Spring and, even more profoundly, in the new life people experience as they let go of the old life and grasp the new. In his book entitled Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church (Harper Perennial, 1994), Samuel Freedman tells the story of Saint Paul’s Community Church in Brooklyn. He quotes an Easter sermon from the pastor, Johnny Ray Youngblood. In it he said, “Every time I see a man put down his bottle, there’s a resurrection goin’ on. Every time I see a man go back to school, there’s a resurrection goin’ on. Every time I see a man hug his son, there’s a resurrection goin’ on.”
I look forward to seeing you at our special services at noon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then on Sunday as we experience the beautiful music of the Choral Union and full orchestra and greet one another with the ancient greeting: Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Grace and Peace,
PS – Click here for the schedule of services and special events.