Easter Day, today, is traditionally regarded as the most important day in the liturgical life of the church.
Is Easter about the transformation of Jesus’ corpse, the most spectacular miracle ever?
Did God literally raise Jesus from the dead in physical bodily form?
Is the Easter story to be treated as a parable of the resurrection?
Living the resurrection in the New Normal in our bubble and after? How?
Today we have heard a story from Matthew.
The dominant emotion in this story emotion ‘fear’.
- Fear drove the guards to the authorities.
- The angel tells the women not to ‘fear’.
- After an encounter the women leave quickly ‘with fear’.
- Jesus says to the women: ‘Do not fear… go tell’.
- One denied him 3 times.
- One betrayed him.
- Many deserted him.
We too live today in a culture of uncertainty and it can be dominated by fear.
The new normal brings with it economic hardship, job loss, financial crisis, depression and debts. Beyond that we’re afraid of diminishing resources and environmental destruction. We’re afraid of racial tensions and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. We fear for ourselves and our loved ones. We fear a system where humans enslaved other humans; oppressing and exploiting the poor.
I read an article about Gene Robinson an episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States. He was the first openly gay man
to be elected and consecrated a bishop, in a so-called ‘mainline’ church.
In a very moving 2005 article, he tells of the preparations that were going on around him prior to his consecration as Bishop, and of
the fear some had, if his consecration went ahead…
“I was getting a lot of death threats. Preparations were being made for the consecration security, and I was asked for my blood type, so that preparations could be made for immediately beginning medical treatment on the way to the hospital, should something violent take place.
“I remember saying to our two grown daughters, who were worried and anxious about my well-being, ‘You know, there are worse things than death. Some people actually never live – and that is the worst death of all. If something does happen, remember that the God who has loved me my whole life, will still be loving me, and I will have died doing something I believe in with my whole heart’.
“As I strapped on my bulletproof vest just before the service, I remember feeling blessedly calm about whatever might happen. Not because I am brave, but because God is good and because God has overcome death, so that I never have to be afraid again. That is the power of the resurrection. Not in what happens after death, but what the knowledge of our resurrection does for our lives… before death.” (Robinson www.thewitness.org 2008)
There is much ‘fear’ around and within the Easter story.
Yes there is much ‘fear’ in our world today.
Jesus’ death was primarily the result of ‘fear’.
How do we view the resurrection? Scholar Stephen Patterson says:
“I have become convinced that in each of these ways of interpreting Jesus’ death, the followers of Jesus were in fact drawing attention
to his life. His death mattered to them because his life had mattered to them. They spoke of his death in ways that affirmed his life, and
reaffirmed their own commitment to the values and vision stamped into his life by his words and deeds. To the followers and friends
of Jesus, his death was important in its particularity – as the fate of him who said and did certain things, who stood for something so important to him that he was willing to give his life for it. That something was the quality of life he called the kingdom of God. They too believed in this vision of a new empire. And if this vision was God’s, then the bearer of this vision was not dead. No executioner could kill what he was. To kill Jesus, you would have to kill the vision. This is what the cross could not do.” (Patterson 2007:77)
Patterson is taking the so-called Easter stories seriously, not literally.
Years ago I was involved in a study group called ‘Living the Questions.’ Based on a DVD study called “Saving Jesus”, interesting title.
The question is saving Jesus from whom?
Back then, Jesus was killed because of what he said and for what he stood for.
The problem now is we, the church generally,
are trying to kill him all over again.
His humanness has been killed off! Replace by doctrines, creeds and dogmas.
We do not look to Jesus for a way of life, but for salvation. ‘He died that we might live’…” (Patterson 2007:80)
Jesus’ death has been separated and lost all connection to, the real human events of his life which brought about his death.
Whatever we believe or do not believe, whatever views we hold, we won’t find Jesus in the land of the dead. He’s still loose in the world. He’s still out there, still here in our bubble. Still recruiting people to share his passion to promote quality of life, to promote the welling and flourishing of humanity and creation. Guess this is living the resurrection in the new normal.
We give thanks for our life and the courage we are given to live it.
Let our gratitude for life be expressed in our generosity.
Let our faith be expressed in good causes.
Let our belief in the future find full expression
in our daily attitude of mind. (Francis Macnab/fwb)
Notes and Acknowledgements
Patterson, S. J. “Killing Jesus” in (ed) R. J. Miller. The Future of the Christian Tradition. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2007.
John Prine. “Jesus: The missing years”. <www.lyricsfreak.com/> Accessed 22/4/2011.
Rex Hunt: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcus Borg. “The resurrection of Jesus: Physical/Bodily or Spiritual/Mystical?” 2011. Available at: https://www.patheos.com/resources/additional-resources/2011/04/resurrection-of-jesus-marcus-borg-04-18-2011
“Alleluia Aotearoa. Hymns and Songs for all Churches” New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 1993.
Duncan, G. (ed). “A World of Blessing. Benedictions from every Continent and many Cultures” Norwich. The Canterbury Press, 2000.