Mainline Protestant Channel
Resurrection doesn't come easy for many of us. Frankly, many of us find it difficult to celebrate life these days. Holy Saturday, the time of uncertainty and waiting, the experience of provisionality and suspense, seems a far more realistic assessment of the human and cosmic condition. Even devout Christians, reflecting on Easter Sunday, struggle for a realistic and life-transforming message to affirm. Jesus' resurrection changed everything, yet the world remained the same. Resurrection does not deny the tragedies and injustices of life, but places them in a larger and more hopeful context. In the spirit of the prophet Jeremiah, resurrection gives us a future and a hope.
Resurrection changes lives. Yes, the fearful became faithful, and then go out into the world sharing the good news, "Christ is alive." For the women and men who first experienced resurrection, their teacher transformed their lives before and after the crucifixion. But, the post-resurrection Jesus was more than they could imagine or hope for. Death could not contain him any more than doors and walls. The Risen Jesus was energetic and dynamic in stretching the limits of natural causation. The dead don't come back to life; corpses aren't resuscitated. Yet, the Jesus they encountered was neither a revived corpse nor a disembodied wraith; he was a whole person, alive and lively, yet not encompassed by the limits of everyday physical reality. He lived in them, but lived beyond them, as their animating spirit.
Resurrection pointed the first Christians—and persons like us—to a new vision of nature and its possibilities, and a larger vision of God's work in the world. I disagree with supernatural understandings of resurrection: resurrection is not a violation of the cause and effect laws of nature, but a revelation of the deeper energetic realities of life. I also disagree with the liberal labeling of resurrection as merely a myth or transformed state of mind. There is no future in a literal flesh and bone Jesus or the search for Jesus' tomb and the bones buried therein. The future is opening to amazement and possibility, and the "good faith" of those who shared the first Easter message.
We live in a wondrous universe filled with wonders beyond our wildest imaginations. I think Jesus' resurrection comes from this deep down place in which divine and human energy intersect to create a synergetic burst of transformative energy. Resurrection is not restricted to Christians but embodies God's living, transforming, and energizing movements in all of life. Resurrection is God's pathway of rebirth and renewal, most dramatically reflected in Jesus' life, but residing in all things.
Resurrection changed everything, yet everything remained the same. The first Christians experienced persecution and martyrdom, the church itself became a place of both healing and destruction, and our post-resurrection world is threatened by global climate change and the destructive actions of Christianity's most "ardent" followers who subvert the all-embracing love of Jesus with a religion of rugged individualism, self-interested capitalism, intolerance, and scorched earth politics. Yet, resurrection lives on—an empty tomb and open future beckons, despite the failures of Jesus' followers.
Still, let us celebrate resurrection and, in the spirit of Wendell Berry's poem, "practice resurrection." But, how shall we practice resurrection today? It is not about enlightenment denial or conservative literalism, paths that lead nowhere. Rather, it is in looking for the Empty Tombs in our world, and seeing within them open futures for ourselves and for others. It is in bringing forth beauty, especially in children and marginalized and vulnerable persons. It is in resisting the politics of division, coercion, and greed, and learning to live in terms of a beloved community in which all persons can rise to the heights of abundant living.
Today, we are called to be resurrection partners, to roll away the stone, imprisoning marginalized people, and open pathways to the future for all creation.
We are called to be God's celebrative companions—to say "yes" to life in all its complexity, contrast, and beauty. To rejoice in birth and rebirth. Christ is Risen, today, and every day! Hallelujah!
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty one books, including Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for lectures, workshops, and retreats.