20.4.11

Christ Is Risen!

Upon my memory there is indelibly imprinted the image of something I saw years ago at Easter time in New York City. At one of the busiest spots in the city, where day and night a vast crowd of people thronged to and fro, someone had suspended a banner between two skyscrapers with the words CHRIST IS RISEN inscribed upon it. Day and night the large letters shouted out across the sea of buildings of this world-city, so that none of the hundreds of thousands who went past it daily could ignore the message: CHRIST IS RISEN.
This has been the Easter greeting of the church since days of old: CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED! With that greeting and reply Eastern Christendom still resounds, and not only in church, where we say it at the beginning of the Easter service, but also at home and on the street. We probably should ask ourselves whether we ought not write this greeting across our own cities by means of modern technology. Certainly, it must have had an unforgettable impact upon all those who saw that neon sign hanging over New York; they could not escape the question which comes to us today at Easter: What does the message of the resurrection of Christ have to say to our world today?
What does the message of the resurrection of Christ say to our world today? Is there any room for it in a world whose thinking is determined by modern science, in which lives are shaped by the wonders of human technology and ingenuity? Does this message make sense any more in a world of political and social revolution, when new worlviews fill people's minds? Or, does the message live today only as a remarkable monument to the religious life of a bygone age? Is it possible that in this 20th century it should conjure up any response apart from the mockery of modern "explanations" or a Faustian doubt?

From "The Incomprehensible Easter Message", a sermon preached on Easter Sunday, April 17th, 1938, in Erlangen, Germany [trans mine].

The encounter with the banner in New York probably dates from Sasse's visit to the eastern United States as an exchange student at Hartford Theological Seminary, Connecticut, in 1925-6.

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