|Alternate Reading 1:
|Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
|1 Corinthians 15:19-26
By Bruce G. Epperly
“This is the day that God has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” These words from Psalm 118 set the tone for today’s homiletic adventures. Joy and celebration are the mood of Easter. God’s initiative in bringing forth unexpected signs and wonders that transform our lives and liberate us from the powers of death and destruction shape the theology of Easter. Resurrection is both improbable and necessary to face the daunting threats of personal, communal, and – in the twenty-first century – planetary death. The call and response of God and the world is not suspended and reduced in divine unilateral activity on Easter; but there is the hope of a superabundance of divine possibility, energy, and power, a deeper power that resurrects the dead and transforms the living. With the Psalmist, we can take heart and move forward, knowing that God has raised up the rejected ones. “It is marvelous in our eyes.”
Can we ponder “miracles” of a deeper nature from a process-relational perspective? Can the “best for the impasse” ever be “more than we can ask or imagine?” Does the continuity of causal relationships, including that of God and the world, appropriately maintained by progressives, liberals, and process theologians contain deep within it quantum leaps of energy that make a way where there is no way? Can the surprising new beginnings, articulated by the “big bang” or “big birth” of the universe be replicated in the microcosm of personal and planetary life? We need such a “big birth” today when the forces of planetary death, governmental gridlock, regressive religion, and economic and environmental destruction seem out of control. We need a “miracle,” for only a transformation of divine energy can give us and our planet a verdant and fruitful path through the wilderness. We need an Easter. We need to set aside our theological and spiritual limitations, and discover a deeper naturalism, grounded in providential bursts of divine energy moving through the causal nexus within which we live and move and have our being.
Can we preach about the possibility of a “miraculous” releases of divine energy and creativity while encouraging personal and corporate agency and affirming the multi-factorial nature of causal relationships? We need a host of amazing events, and we need participate in midwifing them, if we are to have our own “axial” age (Karl Jaspers) of revelation, our own global “great awakening,” and our own interdependent “resurrection” energy. Despite the intractability of governments, including the USA, deep down we know that we need more than incremental changes to survive as a people and people. We need a resurrection.
This resurrection, as the reading from Acts proclaims, must embrace all the peoples of the world. God shows no partiality: resurrection must be global or null, there is no middle ground. The offer of transformation must be available to Cornelius (the Roman military leader whose mystical experience and spiritual transformation is the context of the Acts reading) and his household and every other household on the planet. The story of new creation is global, but the presentation and the experience are always personal and local, and emerging in the context of new experiences. What does resurrection mean to a “cradle Christian” who has heard the story for fifty years and knows that beyond the Cross, there is a happy ending? What does resurrection mean to a Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, seeker, or none of the above as they encounter a reality that is “more than we ask or imagine?”
Resurrection is always personal even though it is universal in scope. In the garden, Jesus calls Mary’s name, and she is transformed. Resurrection happens when we hear God’s voice – the voice of new life – amid the deathfulness of our lives and the world. We may want to hold onto that voice, but as Jesus tells Mary, “let go of the way you used to know me; for, I am also a new creation. I am not bound by the past, but will bring new life in unexpected places, to cultures you cannot imagine, and in ways that will astound you.” If resurrection means anything – then and now – it means that we must be open to transformation and to the birth of unimaginable possibilities in our midst.
Luke’s gospel notes that the resurrection appears to be an “idle tale” and “unbelievable,” and it surely is to the rationalist mind, imprisoned by its own limited vision of reality. Supernaturalism and one-dimensional rationalism alike cannot understand the power of the resurrection. You can’t put your finger on it or control or localize it, but for those who open to a deeper, energetic naturalism, you can be transformed by it.
The apostle Paul sees resurrection as the antidote to death in all its forms. We moderns still need such an antidote. How many friends, congregants, and family members are dealing with cancer and other life-changing illnesses? How many people need liberation from past trauma and abuse, at the hands of family members, slave-traders, religious professionals, and institutions? Liberation requires a community and a vision of possibilities that gives us courage to experience and midwife birth in the midst of death. “All will be made alive in Christ!” Think big, you double predestinationists! Let go of small-minded visions of God and the scope of salvation. Embrace salvation and election through God’s grace for all creation in God’s good time!
We need on this Easter Sunday to preach boldly and to open our minds and hearts to a wider vision of possibility. We need to embrace the creative energy that resurrects the dead among us and gives us the power to become God’s partners in healing this good Earth.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty four books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age, and Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He recently served as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. Contact him by email for lectures, workshops, and retreats. His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion).