Practicing Resurrection

Practicing Resurrection March 27, 2008

It was poet/writer Wendell Berry who coined the phrase “practice resurrection.”

He used it, in fact, in his poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front. jesusw-cross.jpg

Though I am not an expert in literature, especially poetry, it seems to me that Berry meant to say two things in this masterful poem: first, resurrection is not an event we remember once a year on Easter morning.  If it really means anything we’ve got to somehow learn to live it. And second, practicing resurrection in our lives flies in the face of everything our world considers logical, acceptable, reasonable . . . sometimes sane, even.

Listen to what Berry says:

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Barbara Brown Taylor agrees with Wendell Berry.  She says that we spend too much time concentrating on the tomb and don’t recognize the powerful metaphor of all those people looking in the tomb for Jesus but coming up empty. Resurrection is too big, too powerful, too life-changing to be contained in a tomb, or even in one special Sunday a year.

You have to know that Mary and the women at the tomb, along with the disciples, didn’t wake up Monday morning and head back to the lives they’d known before resurrection. Can you imagine? Right back to life as they’d known it, as if resurrection was just a notable weekend event? They couldn’t live as if resurrection hadn’t happened . . . and we can’t either.

For the next few weeks in worship we’ll be studying the Acts texts offered by the lectionary and examining some “signposts of renewal,” as Diana Butler Bass calls them in her book Christianity for the Rest of Us. She proposes that there are qualities of living, both individually and corporately, that denote the practice of resurrection. Her list includes ten: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection and beauty. If you look closely you’ll recognize these qualities plastered all over the Acts story of what happened to Jesus’ disciples after the resurrection . . . these signposts of renewal marked their practice of living resurrection.

I don’t know about you, but church is part of my life because resurrection has to mean something. There’s too much pain in this world to go to church on Easter and go back to life the way it was before. It’s an audacious way to live, to be sure, but the alternative-going back to the tomb of life the way it was-is no way to live at all.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Practice Resurrection.

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