Monday, April 25, 2011

the trouble with resurrection

I was asked to speak on the topic of "resurrection" on Easter Sunday. It seemed like a pretty straightforward task, so I mulled it over in my mind for a few days, read all the gospel accounts of Jesus being raised from the dead, studied some Greek words, researched what a few others had said about it, and tried to put something together. It was much harder than I had anticipated. For some reason, nothing I came up with excited me, and this was troublesome. How could I be so disconnected from the whole concept of resurrection when it is such a foundational aspect of what I believe?

Dean suggested I read what Paul had to say about it, so I went to 1 Corinthians 15 and found some disturbing answers to my question. Here are a few thoughts from my talk on resurrection yesterday:

1. I have removed myself from the context of resurrection. I used to work with a woman who could only eat chicken by never thinking about where it came from. For her, a yummy thai chicken dish originated in a nice sanitized package in the grocery store, not in a bloody death. And this is part of my problem with resurrection: I have sanitized it and taken it out of its bloody context. Following Jesus is not that dangerous anymore (like it was in Paul's day when he faced death numerous times), so resurrection has become less important. Life is pretty good; danger and death are at a distance. My hope has subtly been transferred from resurrection to a nice sanitized (we call it 'good') life. This is mainly because I am ignorant of the death in and around me and don't realize how much in need of resurrection I am. Jesus said: "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said?" See 1 Corinthains 15:30-34.

2. Deep down, I am a skeptic. Yes, I am a person of faith, but there are many places where I am confused and want answers, perhaps a detailed diagram, certainly some explanation, and of course, some eye witness experiences. But resurrection (and much of who God is and how God does things) remains a mystery. God does not follow life's rules: he does not provide proof upon demand, and he asks me to believe things I will never see with my own eyes. And even if I did see resurrection with my own eyes, would I recognize it? Mary did not recognize the resurrected Jesus, neither did two fellows walking along the road to Emmaus. Would I fare any better? The disciple Thomas (who demanded to see Jesus' scars before he would believe in resurrection) reveals another unattractive truth about skeptics: we are control freaks. We demand to set the parameters for what we will or will not believe. This basically reveals our so-called faith to be reliance on our own ability to prove something rather than on the faithfulness of Jesus. Jesus said: "The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!" See 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 and John 20:24-29.

3. I don't like death. My dad died when I was 23. It is the closest that death has ever come to me, and it changed me drastically. On the day that the most stable presence in my life was taken away from me, another presence made itself known. I remember washing my face in the bathroom shortly after I had received the news of my dad's death, and in that instant, I knew that everything that my dad had shown me about God was true. I also knew that I would never walk away from this God who became immanent when death arrived. When death touches us, something changes. The gaping hole that death leaves is the place where resurrection (life in a new way) can build a home. It hurts like hell, no doubt about it, but if I want to participate in something as powerful as resurrection, I have to be willing to let death near. There is no other way.

In our culture, we have devalued death. Nearly every movie or television show has someone dying. Many video games are based on killing. The news is filled with death that renders us somewhat numb to the whole subject. We are confronted with value-less death all the time, and I believe it is one way of distancing ourselves from it, of not getting real about it. In reality, death means that I have nothing left. In death, God has to come through or I am done. It is an uncomfortable place to be, but a necessary one. Resurrection only shines in a dead place. Jesus said: "You don't have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?" See John 11:14-26.


This is a photo of flowers I saw in a shop during our walk on Mont-Royal street on Saturday. I love how the sunlight reflection overpowers the picture.


All scripture quotations taken from The Message.

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