Practicing ResurrectionPosted: March 31, 2013
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
We gathered that first Easter, not in a sanctuary, but on an empty lot where we hoped that one day there would be a church. It was early, as John tells the story, while it was still dark. Danny had, without anyone asking, prepared a fire and it was blazing.
One by one we the gathered around that fire until almost our entire newly formed congregation was present. Children in pajamas. Men in blue jeans and flannel shirts. Women not dressed with their Easter best. They came, not because it was their desire to impress, but because something was stirring in their hearts in new and profound ways.
Donna sang “Up from the grave he arose.” It was as if the angels themselves were singing. We read the story of the first Easter from John’s gospel. It struck me then as it does now, that the first Evangelists were women. Peter and the other disciple believed next. Mary Magdalene went, says John, and “announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them the things he had said to her.”
Something was stirring in the hearts of this new community of faith. We were finding our way. We were practicing, as Wendell Berry describes it, “resurrection.” We were seeing, before our very eyes, bit by bit, little by little, a new heaven and a new earth being formed.
In Peter Steinke’s book, A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope, he tells the story of N.T. Wright, the New Testament scholar who was being interviewed by comedian Stephen Colbert. Colbert says his view of heaven was a harp, a mint julep and asking Ronald Reagan questions. Steinke says, “Far too many people want to go heaven for the same reasons they want to go Hawaii—to enjoy sun, surf, and siesta…with a view. But the Biblical final destination is a new heaven and a new earth. All creation has a future. Our journey in life is not a private affair. We are invited to become agents of God’s creative work—seeking the lost, feeding the hungry, and befriending the lonely.”
That newly formed, fledgling congregation of individuals that gathered that Easter 26 years ago was becoming a place of hope. Daily, weekly, every time we gathered we prayed, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:9-11
Easter’s grand promise is cosmic. The whole creation will be redeemed. As Steinke goes on to say, “The central point of Easter is that God has set in place his place that all things will be put right, set free, and remade. Easter is about God’s new creation and the calling of believers to be agents of the kingdom. Christians are called to embody the hope that the God of promise offers. The gift of resurrection provides us with boldness.”
Wright proclaims: “Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life. We’re called, here and now, to be instruments of God’s new creation, the world put to rights, which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’ followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents.”
That young congregation on that early Easter morning was demonstrating their hope in a future that was not yet evident in bricks and mortar. They were saying, though they many not have been able to tell you, that they believed God was redeeming them and with them all that they influenced. They were practicing resurrection and in so doing were putting their hope into action. Indeed, the living hope of Christians is the basis for Christian mission.
- HOPE for the poor, the sick, the despairing
- HOPE for the stranger, the homeless, the hungry
- HOPE for the sinner, the neglected, the embittered
So on this Easter morning, go! Go practice resurrection! Go bear witness to the love of God in this world! Go and be the new creation!
We are invited and summoned always to discover through following Jesus, that God is always moving toward us and not away from us. God is a God of promise where hope is not wishful thinking but grounded in the promise of a new heaven and a new earth.
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!