Risen Indeed

Isaiah 65:17-25, John 20:1-18, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26

What is the resurrection you long for this Easter? The question asked the first time I read it... Then it stuck with me, Where do you need resurrection this Easter? Ever since this question came across my radar several weeks ago, it has grabbed hold of me and keeps on probing, nagging, persisting.  Where do I need resurrection?

The question implies there are dead places within me, or in my world. The question assumes there are places beyond hope, beyond rescuing, dead and gone, over and given up on.
 It’s not, where do I need resuscitation? Where would I like to see a little more verve and oomph in my life?  It’s, where do I need resurrection? Where are things so utterly dead, so completely past redeeming, so fully beyond reimagining or resuming or recuperating that they are over?  That if anything were ever to happen there again, it would need resurrecting, literally, bringing it back from the dead and making it alive…and so they are places I have grieved and moved on from, places I have buried and forgotten, places in me or the world that I have relinquished hope, that I have simply abandoned.  So it is a hard question to let yourself ask, let alone answer, because it means staring at corpses. 
Where do I need resurrection this Easter?
How do we even begin to open ourselves to a question like that?

We are accustomed to death. We adjust to death. We even swallow the lie that it is a natural part of life and should simply be succumbed to.
And so to sit here today and talk about resurrection like it somehow makes sense, like it is something docile and graspable, something domesticated and churchy, is the strangest thing to do.  Because if it is real, it changes everything.
The day the disciples did their ridiculous race to the tomb, the day Mary leaned in and saw angels and mistook Jesus for the gardener, the day of the Resurrection, the easter event itself, it wasn’t all trumpets and triumph. It was confusing and frightening.
Jesus, who was dead, is now alive?  What do we do with that?

But death, now we know what to do with death.  We’re really good at death.  Mary knew what to do with death – she brought the spices to care for his body.  So what if everything they had believed was gone? That’s how life works. You live and learn, you lose and you keep going.  So what if everything they had lived for was a lie?  You move on.  Death happens, the bumper sticker should say.
So when the grave clothes are there, empty, what are the disciples supposed to believe? Death is the final word.  When a couple of glowing strangers are sitting there where Jesus’ body had been, what is Mary supposed to think?  Death means it is over.  Why would they ever think things would start again?  Why should they?

Resurrection defies the laws of nature, it disobeys logic and physics and sanity, it flouts death’s authority over the world and all that is in it.  Experience and logic and everything else tell us that things move from life to death.  And there they end.  So why would they imagine Jesus could be alive? Why is Resurrection even an option? 

Last week, on Palm Saturday we talked about Jesus’ last week on earth, a week in which he stormed through the temple, and cried through the garden, and bled through the courtyard,
and at every turn ripped off death’s mask to reveal its insidious and pervasive presence underneath all decorum and decency, inside all relationships when love turns to betrayal or failure, within every experience of being human when fear causes us to fall asleep on each other, or to weep so hard we sweat blood in terror at what awaits us. 
We pondered the question, what would God want to do in God’s last human days on earth, what would God want to make sure to do the week  before leaving?
And so Jesus did not go quietly into that good night – he called out death, he exposed the hypocrites in us all and the injustice and the evil and the suffering and pain of being human, and he left them hanging out there waiting for an answer.

This is the answer. Today is the answer. Easter is the answer. 

When the story was over, when he was buried and gone.  Jesus Rose from the Dead.
The resurrection ends death’s disguise, and caps its reign, it sets the final score.   It says that no matter how terrible things get, and they get terrible, and no matter how hopeless they are, death doesn’t get the last word.  The last word is life.

It’s easy to live like death rules.  To live worried about me and mine, to live seeking more and better, to ignore the needs of those around me, to let fear, or disgust, or apathy dictate my actions.  It’s easy to live towards death – after all, that is the logical progression, and the dominant mindset and force. 

Except – the dead God lives.
What if we lived like resurrection was real?
What if we turned, and heard the risen Lord call our name, and believed?

Then we live as people with hope. People who see each other and the world we are in as sacred, belonging to God, over which death is not the final word.   Then we live as people who can participate in resurrection, as the future hope bleeds backwards into the present, and we get to be people who talk about life coming from death and be part of it in all the little and big ways it happens.  Then we get to live our lives knowing that what we do and who we are matters to God, is beautiful to God, is something God can work with.  That we can let go and know that even in my darkest places, God is there, has been there, that God loves to bring life out of death, resurrection is God’s THING.

And that we can honestly face and name the darkness, the places where death appears to have won, the pain and suffering in our world, we can say those things aloud because they are taken into God, into a God who brings life from death and hope from despair. Because by saying and naming and sitting in those places we are joining Jesus who is already there, we are claiming and waiting for resurrection.

I was asked to write for an online collection from various people, in 100 words or less, why I need the resurrection.  This is what I said:

I need the Resurrection
because my sister is sick
and can’t afford insurance,
because I’ve told a weeping Haitian mom,
“No, I can’t take your son home with me.”
because I’ve been rushed off a Jerusalem street
so a robot could blow up a bag that could’ve blown up us.
because I’ve exploded
in rage
and watched their tiny faces cloud with hurt.
because evil is pervasive
and I participate.
I need the Resurrection
because it promises
that in the end
all wrongs are made right.
Death loses.
Hope triumphs.
And Life and Love
Prevail.

So, back to our question… 
On this Easter day, when we sit here announcing and embracing the absurd and astonishing news that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, when we gather together to sing and shout and defy death’s rule and celebrate the relentless and transforming promise of hope,
I ask you, What dead things have you given up on?  What hope have you abandoned, fear have you submitted to, brokenness have you accepted?
Where do you need resurrection this Easter?


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