Sunday, March 23, 2008

Resurrection Now

I originally posted this a few years ago on my In The Wilderness site. Looking at it again, I find it is one of the few things I have written I do not feel the need to tinker with. I may be in a bit of a bad patch personally right now, but I hold fast to my believe that "this too shall pass" and that every death leads to resurrection -- now.

Some of the most painfully beautiful stories in all of Scripture are the Easter Stories. Mary’s encounter with Jesus in the Garden has never failed to make me cry. I know just how she feels!!! The original ending of the Gospel of Mark is such a mystery: why did the women go away and not tell anybody? The stories about the Risen Lord are the foundations of the future Christian church. Paul avers that if Christ did not rise, then the Church is based on a lie. Theologians have argued endlessly about what exactly the disciples experienced when they “saw” the Risen Christ. I don't care very much what it was. What is important was that they "experienced" the Christ among them, and that experience changed them -- and the world -- forever.

Paul was wrong when he says, “Last of all he appeared to me …” ( 1 Cor. 15:8). Christ revealed himself to his friends (Peter and others), and then also revealed himself to Paul. I have no problem with that. I absolutely believe the disciples experienced the Presence of Jesus as the Christ. The Gospel writers assume that the initial Appearances are “it” and that once Jesus disappears into the clouds on Ascension Day, then the Disciples are in charge because they are the ones who were directly commissioned by him to continue his ministry before his death and they were the first ones to whom he appeared after he was raised from the dead. This, of course, gave them a significant claim to holding authority in the developing church (which is, I believe, one of the principle themes of the New Testament).

Paul correctly contradicted that idea and says, “Whoa, guys. He appeared to me and commissioned me, too! My witness, is also authentic so I should have a say in how the Church is organized and run.” Paul assumed that Jesus left the Damascus Road, and went straight back to Heaven, leaving Paul and the Twelve in charge of the Tradition-to-be. He was prepared to battle the Twelve for the power and authority in the new church on the grounds that Jesus came back and specifically commissioned him as an Apostle. Paul, then, conveniently sent Jesus back to Heaven. That way nobody else could come along and claim to be Witnesses, too, and undermine Paul's authority.

Well, Surprise!!! Jesus did not cooperate (when did Jesus ever do anything his followers expected?): He never “left." Not on Ascension Day. Not after the Damascus Road incident. The Christ has been right here all along, “appearing” to lots of folks just as clearly and surely as he did to Mary Magdalene and Peter and Paul and the others. That makes our current experiences of the Risen Lord as valid as theirs, and makes it possible for us to have a one-on-one relationship with the spirit of the Christ (the Spirit of G-d through Christ; the Holy Spirit – whatever you choose to call it), without the intermediary of the Bible, Tradition or the hierarchy of the Church. Contrary to Paul’s shrill protests and despite the Church’s best efforts to channel all Revelation through itself, G-d resolutely refuses to stay inside any box humanity tries to put it in.

For me, the real message of the Resurrection of the Christ has nothing to do with what happens to me after I die. Maybe it does that, too, but that has never really been an issue for me. For me the real power of the message of Easter is that it gives me a way to live my New Life -- Now. The knowledge that the ChristSpirit is only as far away as the barest beginnings of a soulprayer allows me to seek his presence as a comfort and source of strength. The ChristSpirit does not need the Church in order to come to us or nourish us, nor do we need the Church to reach out to that Spirit. It is always simply right here, as close as our tiniest breath. It is the same "still small voice" that Isaiah heard after the whirlwind, and it breathes into our hearts if we will only listen.

Yes, I believe in Resurrection, but not any long-time-ago resuscitation of the crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth or some long-time-hence resuscitation of lots of human corpses at the end of time (that particular notion gives me the creeps). I believe in Resurrection Now.

Most of the information we have about that is in the Third Testament of the Bible, which is written in the hearts and experiences of the many people who have encountered the Risen Lord. It is powerfully described in works like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila and many others. That encounter can come in many ways. It can come unbidden and unexpected at any time or any place. Glimpses can also be found in some of the passages in Zane Grey westerns, great music, great art, home-made bread, hand-made wedding quilts, fresh brewed coffee or a gift of flowers picked by a child to mention only a few. All we have to do is open our hearts and our five senses and pay attention.

Resurrection Now demands that we always be prepared to die to some aspect of our current life and then live a New Life right now. Resurrection Now demands that we follow Christ when he calls us. We have to be prepared to put down our nets or whatever else may hold us back and simply follow the Spirit. We have to be prepared to change at any time. We have to be prepared at any time to put aside our old ways, old ideas, old practices, old religions, even our old notions about G-d. In our liturgical practice we tend to follow Jesus from his birth through his ministry and death. When he is raised on Easter, we tend to slide back and start over, but the Christ beckons us to follow him into resurrection life also. Right here. Right now.

That is the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come to which I set my heart (credo).

That is the significance of Easter for me.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.
Christ is Risen, indeed. Alleluia.

Let us follow Him into that New Life.

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