The Easter Address
of Bishop Ivan Laptev of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria
Christ is risen!
“Risen” is an amazing word! On the one hand, it is so familiar and close to our heart, especially now in this time of spring as we see tree buds swelling, new grass sprouting up through the ground, birds singing and everything coming alive once again. But at the same time, it’s a very strange word as if it had come from the other world. This word is like a bridge reaching from the beyond, from eternity, from Heaven, that wonderful place where there is no weeping, sorrow, sickness or death, toward us in this sinful world. In this word, fear and pain go incomprehensibly together with an ineffable rapture and joy.
“Risen” means He was struck down, but rose up again; He was defeated, but He won a victory; He was dead, but He came alive! “Resurrection” is the most important word for each one of us. It is important for believers who remember the words, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14, ESV). It is important for unbelievers who have been subjected to slavery for fear of death through all their life. It is important for every soul who, aware or unaware of it, is constantly seeking comfort and hope. This one word contains the victory over the enemy of the Lord and the main enemy of us all—the enemy whose name is Death.
In these latter times, death has been high-profile again. It’s been active taking its terrible toll. The pandemic has taken and continues to take lives. Many of us have lost our loved ones and parents. And now this monstrous carnival of death in the neighboring country is distressing thousands of families. Hundreds of mothers on both sides of the front are bewailing their sons. Sorrow, hatred and fear are hanging over us like a thick dark cloud. But the thicker the darkness, the brighter the dawn. It was in the grey of the dawn two thousand years ago that it was announced, “Christ is risen!”
The One who was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief rose from the dead. It was the Christ who wept from grief at the tomb of Lazarus, who knew the pain of betrayal and innocent suffering. It was the Christ who prayed for His killers as He was dying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It was the Christ whose breathless body, too, was wept over by His mother, and it seemed that Death was victorious. But no, on the third day Christ rose from the dead! The Word was fulfilled: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Is. 25:8, ESV)
“Risen!” This short word is a true hymn of victory for each person who is in fear, dismay, grief or sorrow. It’s not a belief dictated by a religion, but a profound truth—if Christ is risen, our Savior is not in a tomb, He is alive and near each one of us. Any of us can come to Him with our cares and concerns. He is close to us—the distance is as short as one short prayer. He knows our life and is waiting for us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28, ESV)
“Risen!” is a word for those who are grieving over their loved ones: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14, KJV)
“Risen” means He overcame my and your death. Death is the wages of sin. But all our sins have been laid on Him, He took this cup and cried out, “It is finished.” It is redeemed! It is forgiven! The mercy and love of Christ proved greater than our sins. And through the resurrection of Christ, God the Father testified that His sacrifice is accepted and our guilt of sin is removed. “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” (1 Cor. 6:14)
“Risen” is a bridge word reaching out from eternity and Heaven, and today the Lord is calling to take a step of faith on this bridge from darkness to light, putting all one’s heart into such a familiar reply to the Easter greeting: “He is risen indeed!” and to exclaim with the Apostle, “O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55, our translation)
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Christ is risen!