The Church that we are lives forever with a painful paradox. On the Lord’s day we “proclaim God’s word and bear witness to Jesus” (Revelation 1: 9). “One like a son of man” touches us at this liturgy and tells us: “there is nothing to fear. I am the first and last, the living one. Once I was dead but now I live, forever and ever. I hold the keys of death and the underworld.” We are conscious, however, that if he is not alive in us, his livingness at God’s right hand is of no consequence. Christ conquers death and hell only if we let him do so in us. If we perpetuate wars and killings, starve the poor, damage reputations, warp the young, then we engage in the rhetoric of religion without doing the works of religion.

Surely that is not our intent. Yet we must remind ourselves of the perilousness of our Easter profession, the awesomeness of our hope that “men and women in great numbers [will be] continually added to the Lord” (Acts 5: 14). It must be a good for the world that there are Christians. Is it? Are there among us the signs of the apostles — healings, cures, soothing of troubled spirits? Does Easter mean the walking abroad on the earth of the risen Lord in us in whom he lives?

The fact must be faced that faith progressively loses its grip on the world’s population as the world becomes increasingly secularized. By that I mean that less and less does religion provide answers to the questions people are asking. They have increasingly less need of it as they see the responses to their needs met in other ways: by the food they require, the technical progress that gives them a better life, the recreations of the sports and the arts however debased that provide relief from daily drudgery. Religious people like to suppose that the great mystery of life and death is met by none of these things, that eternal hungers continue so long as mortality persists. It may very well not be so. If it were, the Christian churches of the globe would be filled every Sunday because they proclaim hope in what is humanity’s greatest problem. But they are not filled. The fact of having to die is probably not humanity’s greatest problem.

Having to live is. We see the mosques in public squares of the Muslim world, the rivers and temples of the Hindu world, the wayside shrines and monasteries of the Buddhist world filled with the devout because the multitudes come there for some help for living. As the standard of living rises and village clinics multiply, and cars replace bicycles, the petitions and prayers slacken off and the pieties become a memory — a cherished memory, perhaps, but a memory. Can Christian faith resist such cultural erosions? It seems no better able to than the other faiths, despite all our claims for the greatness of Jesus. We call him Lord and Christ, the bridge between heaven and earth, God with us. Yet the churches empty out. The root question is, has the risen Lord anything to say about the living of a life? In fact, his triumph over death seems to be a matter in which the Christian world has a very modest interest.

“Jesus came and stood before them. Peace be with you he said,” (John 20: 19). Then he sent his disciples out with a task, even as God sent him. He breathed upon them the breath of God making them the agents of divine forgiveness — or its withholding if there is no change of heart. “Do not persist in your unbelief but believe….Blessed are they have not seen and have believed.” The resurrection of Jesus therefore is all about a lived human life. It holds out the possibility of peace where there is no peace, of mutual forgiveness in a community that is defined as a forgiving community. Is there a proved human need for these tremendous gifts? I think you can say that a war-torn, starving, exploited, anxious and un-reconciled human family needs nothing so sorely as what the Risen Christ stands ready to give — if we who have not seen will only believe.