Easter: Defeating the Culture of Death

Paschal blessings to you and your loved ones! Recently I learned of a friend who thinks that Easter probably is a fictional story, albeit an epic one, to highlight the overcoming, peace-filled message of Jesus, who, by the way, is nothing more than an enlightened emissary of God. He recognizes that the Christian message of love is a radical one, one that can truly transform lives and communities, and for that reason he bears the name Christian and seeks to carry out the mission of love.

But as Bishop Robert Barron has often stated, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all bishops, priests, and Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs, and all the Christian faithful should leave their churches immediately. As St. Paul himself put it: ‘If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.’”

True that.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changes everything in this world, summing up all of history and reversing and defeating the culture of death inaugurated by the first Adam. It is the true epic story of the Triune Creator of all that is, was, and ever will be, taking on flesh in the person of the Son Jesus the Christ, who then descended to the depths of God-forsakenness, tethered to God the Father by God the Holy Spirit, to rescue all the created order, including and especially, those of us (me included) who are the most recalcitrant and violently disobedient. Then, in an acrobatic act of loving redemption and reconciliation, the faithful Son is raised from the dead, bringing with him the entire created order into resurrection light. Death and hell are defeated. Violent oppression is crushed to death. Heaven and earth are once again brought back into their pristine unity.

Icon of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

So why does it look like the culture of death is still alive and well? Why is the world still such a violent place? Why is the appearance of evil still so vivid? Well, we are in clean-up and gather-up mode. The celebration of Easter gives us Christians a glimpse into the reality of a restored and reconciled creation. Our missional privilege is to participate with heaven in self-sacrificially ushering in the present and future reality of God’s great gathering Kingdom in a soon-to-be transfigured earth.

As Bishop Barron wrote, “Let us not domesticate these still-stunning lessons of the Resurrection. Rather, let us allow them to unnerve us, change us, and set us on fire.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

About the author

Dr. James R. Hart served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies from 2007-2024. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.