Sunday, April 24, 2011

He Is Risen, Indeed

Yesterday, again, I got that question:  "Why is Good Friday good?"  I gave my friend the answer that I gave my colleague.

She asked, "So what is Easter all about then?"

I wish that I had taken time to answer her more deeply, but it was a mixed group, not all of us interested in these issues, so I didn't want to hijack the conversation.  I also wasn't sure that I wanted to go down the road that this conversation often takes:  do you really believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Or, do you really think Jesus was that concerned about you, insignificant you, to take on the Roman empire and to suffer crucifixion?

I still felt a bit raw from the whole Holy Week experience.  I was afraid that if I had to answer honestly, I might cry.  My friends would likely be OK with this, but I wanted a simpler Holy Saturday, not one with collapsing into weeping.

So, let me take these questions separately.  The one about Jesus being concerned about me is easier for me.  Yes, I do believe that Jesus was that concerned about me, about all humans, that he would come and live among us to show us the best way to live.  I see the whole Bible as one long story about God trying to make deep connection with us.  It's the vision of God that I love, that God will take on all our miseries and all our joys, in an attempt to know us deeply.

God would go through 7th grade again with me, if I was required to travel back in time (my personal vision of the Valley of the Shadow of Death).

Am I worthy of that devotion and care?  Is anyone?  Happily, I'm a Lutheran.  I don't have to be worthy.  Grace is mine, just by virtue of my existence.

Now, for the harder question, the one that asks that I forsake my rational self.  Do I believe that Jesus rose from the dead?  Yes, I do.  I don't believe that Christianity would have had such traction and transformed the world, if the central miracle had not happened.  When I was younger, I played with the idea that it was all some sort of hoax perpetrated by the Disciples to prove that they hadn't wasted the last few years of their lives.  But I don't think Christianity would have lasted, had that been the case.

Can I prove this scientifically?  No.  Is that important to me?  No.  As I keep track of scientific developments from a distance, I realize that the world is full of mysteries that our rational brains don't always understand.  The outer edges of Physics takes on a sort of mysticism as we think about time and space.  The things we believe because scientists can prove them with experiments or equations would seem equally improbable to earlier generations as resurrection might seem to some of us.

But in the end, whether or not the story is fact is just not very interesting to me.  If someone found the bones of Jesus, thus disproving Resurrection once and for all, I would still be a Christian.  For me, the Good News is less about resurrection than it is about this idea of a God coming to earth to eat dinner with me.

The bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, has written a very moving post here.  He talks about the death narratives in our culture, the stories that are so prominent.  He reminds us, "But those realities do not define you, nor are they the resurrection that found and claimed you in baptism. Your story is the one proclaimed by Pastor Josephus Livenson Lauvanus, resurrection messenger and president of the Lutheran Church of Haiti, during my visit in February. He told me, 'We will not be defined by rubble, but by restoration, for we are a people of the resurrection.'"

I have heard Lauvanus speak; no one else has ever persuaded me that the future of Haiti can be bright, but Lauvanus is convincing.  Bishop Hanson reminds us that all our futures are bright; we are set free to live joyfully and generously.  He ends by reminding us of our mission:  "The world yearns for new life and deserves to hear this story: the song, the life of God's liberated people, messengers of resurrection hope and freedom."

The tomb is empty.  All the forces of death cannot defeat us.  Alleluia!

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