Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
This is our “Woo Hoo” of the Good News! We splash around color around the sanctuary. I love the Kindness Rocks that the youth and adults have been painting during Lent that are now being used to decorate this space! We sing songs and break out the word “Alleluia!” once again. New life bursts forth in the plants and flowers.
But… resurrection??? What does THAT mean?
What have we just witnessed?
Resurrection. This High Holy Day in our faith tradition. Alleluia once again! Yet, what does it mean? Resurrection. What does resurrection look like? What is it? What was it? A bodily resurrection? Spirit? Is resurrection found in people retelling the story? Listening to… the story? Remembering… the story?
What does resurrection look like today?
One thing that seems clear to me, is that resurrection is rooted in the hope that there is something more. Thus, I really liked rifting on the intersections, the interweaving of the “what is going on around here?” of this week’s scripture readings. Here we encounter one book written in two parts, Luke and Acts. In the New Testament there are 5 narratives: the 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), followed by the one continuation of the gospels, or the “Acts of Jesus’ followers.” Did you ever notice that the book of John interrupts the writings of the author of Luke… of which Acts is “book two”? This morning we heard from both Acts (Book 2) and Luke (Book 1) about the response of those who knew Jesus best. How they encountered him following his death—and how they lived into the hope that there is a great, holy, Something More.
Let’s start with Book One of Two (Luke). There we can find
at least 5 instances that mention:
- Jesus anticipates his death and
- Something unexpected will happen on the third day… and that this “something” is that he will “rise from the dead” (Luke 9:22, 16:31, 18:33, 24:7, 24:46).
Thus, this morning we join in the company of the women as they encounter the tomb. I imagine them tired, emotionally exhausted, and half asleep in the early morning darkness as they gathered. Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women grabbed precious jars of spices and walked to the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been placed. They had a routine, a “what is expected” following a death. But as they walked along in the dusky shadows that morning, did any of them wonder, “What if…?”
What if… just what if… when they got to the garden tomb that day… what if… they dared to hope that maybe… just maybe… could it be that… what Jesus had predicted was true… and that Jesus WASN’T dead? What if? What if they found something unexpected at the tomb? What if Jesus had… indeed… risen? Did any of them think that there might be some Great Truth in the hope that there is something more that is possible?
Did the women walk alone towards the grave? Did they walk together? And if they walked together, did they walk in silence? Or, if any of them dared to think the unthinkable—that there IS Great Hope and that Jesus lives!—did any of them dare share that hope out loud with the other people with whom they walked?
What if… As we turn to Book Two of Two, the Acts of Jesus’ followers, we meet up with Peter. Peter, who had heard Jesus first hand talk about this Something Unexpected, this anticipated shift of Life overcoming Death…
Peter, who had denied three times that he know Jesus (Luke 22:59-62)…
Peter, who ran to the tomb this morning and breathlessly leaned in to glance at the horrible sight of Jesus’ dead body, only to see the clothes in which Jesus’ body had been wrapped tossed aside. Empty cloth. Empty tomb. Nothing. What had happened? What if…
Could there be… can there be… that Great Hope that there is something more? Can we begin to see the resurrection in our midst? What might that look like? Can it be that something so broken, so visual, so painful, so grief filled, can give rise to something beautiful? Can the impossible become possible?
And what if this all takes a really, really long time to process—this understanding that there is always, always, Great Hope in our midst? That the impossible can become possible? Whether we walk along in the haze of unknowing as the women did that morning, immersed in our own thoughts, or whether we take the risk to share our belief that there is Good News in the what if… What if heaven is HERE? What if heaven is NOW? What if God is HERE? Jesus LIVES? And the SPIRIT breaks forth…
What if… what if it takes US seeing the Good News, witnessing the Good News, talking about the Good News, seeing it over and over again, for Jesus’ resurrection to be realized… to amaze, perplex, and surprise us once more?
What if… THIS is how we are to encounter the resurrection… as it is written in Luke (Book 1) and Acts (Book 2)? Through the witnessing and preaching of others, and that THEN and only then as Matt Skinner notes, “What you thought was impossible just might be possible”? Resurrection is all about naming impossibilities. Of letting go of what was, and reimagining what could be. Can be. Is.
Shifting to Book Two of Two today, the Acts of Jesus’ followers, if we back track to the earlier sections of the chapter, we find out that Peter is STILL confused about what this all means. Peter has just had a vision, and is doing his very best to understand this New Thing God is revealing (Acts 10:17). But… how… can… it… be?
What if resurrection, what if the Good News, is all about naming impossibilities? Letting go of what was and the Holy Reimagining of what could be. Can be. Is.
This past Monday, the world was transfixed by the fire that consumed the roof and spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and rightfully so. There are places, buildings, that are sacred, living, breathing stories of who we are as human beings. Notre Dame is a part of our shared story, whether or not we have ever physically been there. The architecture, the art, the theology, history, humanity and beyond that has woven in and out of the doors of that structure is undeniable.
The human response to this tragedy is not surprising. The self-sacrifice of the first responders. The initial silence held by the crowd that gathered. The hymns that spontaneously broke out. The grief. The determination to rebuild. The millions that flowed in from billionaires pledging financial support.
What was broken began to transform into something beautiful. A resurrection. We witness, and we share stories.
Yet, did you know that on the same day that a fire broke out at Notre Dame, a fire broke out at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque? And that earlier this month, three historically black churches in Louisiana were burned out of hate?
Did you know that, after an initial lackluster response to the churches that were burned in the south, things changed following the fire at Notre Dame? This week a second crowd funding campaign was launched for the churches in Louisiana, and that by Tuesday, $1.2 million had been raised? And, that when I checked at the end of the week, that figure had grown to over $2 million?
Resurrection 2019. What if, as we witness to and preach God’s abundance in the world and lean into our “alleluias!” what if today something new is rising out of the “what has been”? What if our great belief as followers of Jesus that there is a Holy Something More, is challenging us to go beyond our routines of “what is expected” and into God’s creative reimagining of “What if…?”
What if the $1 billion that was pledged in less than one week to the resurrection of Notre Dame was pledged in response to global warming? Climate change? Poverty? Hunger? Homelessness? Caring for those who are sick? Lonely? Discarded? Oppressed?
What if we stepped into the Divine Mystery of this day and, like the women at the tomb, as the SALT Project writes “whether or not (the women are) completely convinced… announce the good news? … this is a ‘new day’ (that) still has shadows, and wounds… struggles, and doubts… if our first reaction to a report of resurrection is skepticism, we’re in good company…”
But… What if… ???
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
Reflection on Acts
10:34-43 and Luke 24:1-12 offered on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
 Zraick, Karen, and Niraj Chokshi. “Black Churches Destroyed by Arson See Spike in Donations After Notre-Dame Fire.” The New York Times. April 16, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/us/black-church-fires-donation.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur.
 Myer, Elizabeth. “Dawn: SALT’s Lectionary Commentary for Easter Sunday.” SALT Project. April 16, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2019/4/16/dawn-salts-lectionary-commentary-for-easter-sunday.