Easter Sunday – April 8, 2012
|Reading 1:||Reading 2:||Reading 3:||Reading 4:|
|Acts 10:34-43||Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24||1 Corinthians 15:1-11||Mark 16:1-8|
By Bruce G. Epperly
The Psalmist’s exclamation “this is the day that God has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it” is an appropriate affirmation for Easter Sunday and every day. Affirmations like Psalm 118:24 create a lens through which to view your life and the world. They proclaim that God is moving within our lives, working for good. They remind us that celebration, gratitude, and radical amazement are at the heart of the spiritual journey. Celebration, not fear, holds the key to the future and our ability to confront illness, injustice, and hatred.
Mark 16:1-8 in its simplicity paints the picture of an empty tomb and an open future. In no way does its starkness or lack of post-resurrection encounters weaken its witness to the amazing realities of Easter morning. The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty, and the future is full of promise. We don’t need the exact details of resurrection to believe that Christ is alive, unbound and ever-present.
It is good that the first witnesses are women, whose testimony would not be considered reliable in first century courts of law. The resurrection cannot be reduced to mere fact anymore than the moment of conception or the wonder of life can be reduced to political wrangling. Resurrection is beyond rationality – though not irrational – and invites us to a deeper vision of ourselves and the world. Whether we see resurrection in terms of energetic quantum body, a spirit body, or a paranormal experience encompassing a whole community and continuing to this day, resurrection will always defy the reasoning of those who reduce everything to what can be experienced through the five senses or the bottom line. In fact, we are learning that the five senses are just the tip of the iceberg of experience and reality. As important as facts are to everyday life, they gain their significance by the unseen and unspeakable lying within and beyond them.
Still, the women’s question haunts us in our every day experience, “Who will roll away the stone for us?” There are boulders that stand in the way of the future, that block the pathways of hope, and imprison us in fear and self-limitation. Resurrection turns boulders into highways and limits into possibilities.
The messenger at the tomb tells the women that Jesus is going ahead of them. This is our hope as well, that Jesus is present in whatever futures we face and he is working in all things to bring forth God’s shalom and inspire us toward partnership in healing the world. The women are overcome with awe and amazement – even terror – and initially don’t tell anyone, but eventually the word gets out. They go forth to the male disciples and to Galilee and discover the spirit, energy, and life of Christ is there to meet them. Like the most important things in life, resurrection can’t be reduced to mere fact – or the suppositions of scholars who speak of stolen bodies or carcasses eaten by dogs – but pushes us and our experience toward new horizons of wonder and amazement. More than that, it is wonder and amazement that gives us the energy and inspiration, like those first women and men who witnessed resurrection, to transform the world.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians speaks of the resurrection as a contemporary event that continues to save us, not just once but throughout our lives. Paul recognizes that his resurrection experience is anomalous, different in kind from Jesus’ first followers who met him in the world of the flesh. Paul has a mystical encounter with a being of light. Perhaps, like the burning bush Moses encountered, that light had been guiding Paul’s way, even in his persecution of the church. It might have been revealed in feelings of restlessness, uneasiness with his actions, and insights that he could not fully fathom…until that mystic moment when the doors of perception were opened (William Blake) and he experienced Christ in all his infinity, and heard God’s magnificent word, “Yes!” – “Yes” even to a persecutor of the faith.
Paul proclaims that his resurrection journey has been synergetic. Paul has worked hard. He believed he has excelled his fellow apostles in ardor, but his efforts were never solitary nor were his achievements entirely of his making. The grace of resurrection has energized, guided, and inspired him every step of the way. God’s vision has become the center of Paul’s reality in a way similar to Jesus’ alignment and unity with God’s aim toward healing, wholeness, and transformation. Christ is in Paul, and Christ’s presence fills him with hope for a glorious future and confidence that he will have the resources to share good news wherever he goes.
Acts records Peter’s message to Cornelius and his household. Peter relates his experience of the Risen Christ, but – inspired by his vision of an open table (Acts 10:9-20) – asserts that the resurrection is a global experience. God shows no partiality. Women and men, Jews and Gentiles, young and old, righteous and unrighteous, clean and unclean, are all welcome into God’s resurrection realm. As all three New Testament readings affirm, resurrection is not localized in time, place, or ethnicity but is God’s good news for all us every day.
We practice resurrection (Wendell Berry) by attending to new life in all its forms, by blessing diversity, by sharing good news in every situation, and by choosing life rather than death. The pathway of resurrection sees angels in boulders and possibilities within limitations. Practicing resurrection challenges us to cultivate our imaginations and discover a deeper realism than the bottom line and our current life situation. Yes, there are deep limits and many of our churches and institutions are in deep trouble. It is easy to succumb to a practical atheism, acting and believing as if God neither cares nor moves in our lives, churches, or the world. But, there is a deeper realism – the realism of resurrection, of unexpected possibilities, of new birth, and abundance bursting forth where we see scarcity. This greater and deeper realism calls us to creativity, imagination, and courage as we create a resurrection future along with God. Truly, “this is the day that God has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it!”
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. Contact him by email for lectures, workshops, and retreats.