Thursday, October 17, 2013

Resurrection: God's Yes!

April 8, 2013, 1:53 PM

Resurrection: God's Yes!

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18
I believe in resurrection.  I’m not able to explain Jesus rising from the dead or the eye witness accounts that fueled the birth of a movement that eventually became the Christian faith.  A number of people have tried to explain the resurrection—perhaps Jesus wasn’t really dead in the first place, perhaps it was all a ruse or a ploy, perhaps Jesus did die and his resurrection was a vivid spiritual experience.  Truthfully, I don’t know.  I just know that resurrection was the central metaphor of the early church.  Resurrection opened the gates to paradise—not paradise in some far off tomorrow or in heaven, but paradise here on earth.  Where the religious leaders and the Roman Empire felt threatened by Jesus’ life and teaching and ended his life, God’s love prevailed.  Human beings deprived Jesus of his dignity and his life.  God restored it. 
But I believe in resurrection not because of the story in the Bible, not matter how compelling it might have been for the early church.  I believe in resurrection because I can see it in nature.  I can cut back blackberries to the ground and they will grow back.  I can pull even the roots of morning glories four feet long out of the earth and they will rise again.   Mount St. Helens can destroy everything for miles around in fire and ash and flood, and the forest will rise again from the ashes.
I believe in resurrection because God continues to raise people from the ashes.  I know several women who were abused as children and by the grace of God now have families that thrive on love.  I know people who have risen out of the despair of addiction to reach out a strong hand to others who are still in the pit.  I know people whose marriages have risen out of hopelessness to be bright with joy.  I know women and men who have had the courage to rise out of abusive relationships to find safety and new life.   I have seen and experienced miracles of healing and goodness and generosity.  I believe in resurrection because I know some of your stories.
I believe in resurrection because I need to know that I can rise from failure to be the person I want to be; long to be.  I need to believe in resurrection so that I can rise from indifference to compassion.  I need to believe in resurrection so that I can rise from disappointment to hope.  I need to believe in resurrection so that I can rise from self-doubt to confidence and trust.  I need to believe in resurrection so that I can rise to forgiveness of myself and others to create a new future.  Where I have said No to myself and to others, I need to believe that God commands the Yes of new life and rebirth.
I believe in the resurrection because I believe that this life is the gift God gives us to enjoy and that God desires that life in this world should be paradise.  Christ demonstrated a way to live that restores the dignity and beauty of life to all of creation through faithfulness to God’s abiding love. 
We sang this morning that Christ has opened paradise.  In the very early days of Christianity, the resurrection was the central metaphor—not the cross.  Christians gathered to help one another to live lives that would make paradise on earth a reality.  They shared their possessions.  They cared for one another is such a way that they became conspicuous in their difference.  People saw how they loved one another and wanted to be a part of the Christian community.
In the cross-cultural brew that produced early Christianity, the assurance of paradise was an inebriating grace, a life-giving recipe drawn from many ancient sources.  This assurance of salvation fueled Christian resistance to Roman oppression and sustained love for the world, despite its many difficulties.  When Christian gathered to share of the bread of heaven, partaking in the Eucharist feast, they entered the most concentrated form of paradise on earth, where living and dead communed with the risen Christ, and the banquet of abundance was spread for all.  From feasting in paradise, they took strength to embody ethical grace in the world—the world that God so generously loved.[1]
I believe in the resurrection because I have experienced it in the past and need to know it is possible in the future.  I believe that God commands the same Yes to new life in you and me that God commanded in the Jesus.  This is the day!  Christ is risen and you and I can be too.  Hallelujah!   

[1] Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008), 55.

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