As I expect you all know by now, there was a coordinated attack on Christian churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Morning, which killed almost 350 people and injured hundreds of others. I made sure we prayed for the victims during our service, but I wish I had addressed it somehow from the pulpit. I don’t know why I did not feel the urgency to do so—perhaps because Sri Lanka seems so far away, or because I have become desensitized to senseless violence, which seems to happen almost every day, or perhaps because it can seem callous to celebrate the resurrection in the midst of so much death. I can’t get that morning back, and I’m sorry I didn’t mention anything in my sermon.
Perhaps it is callous of God to raise Jesus from the dead. Perhaps it is horrible to give hope like that in the midst of death like this. There is CCTV footage now of one one of the bombers, heavy backpack strapped on, smiling at a child as he walks into the church. I don’t know how many people in that footage are left. They certainly have not yet been raised.
No one seems to have a clear understanding of why these attacks took place in Sri Lanka. The suspects were middle to upper class. ISIS may have helped the bombers, but no one seems to know for sure. Recently Sri Lanka ended a decades long civil war fought along ethnic lines, and now violence is come again—will vengeance and attrition again beget violence from violence, as the rage of the wounded seeks some kind of justice?
If these Christians are an Easter people, the only answer we can give is no. The resurrection is God’s final answer to the power of death: God’s love puts death to death. The witness of every Christian martyr is the testimony that love is stronger and more beautiful than death, that reconciliation makes killing powerless.
Easter’s message is the same as it was when Christ was killed by violence, as Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled himself to us through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” There is a cry for justice—but the cross reconciles. There’s a cry for vengeance, but in the resurrection Jesus proves that God means that we should love our enemies, because those that betrayed Jesus and those that cried out for his death were once again called to follow him. That’s what makes the resurrection both revolting and revolutionary.
The Reverend John Flack