Of Resurrection Now

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We are approaching the end of the fifty days of Easter. The last day of Easter is this Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, at which we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. The writer of Luke and Acts has this “red letter” event occurring fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection. The writer of John’s gospel has it occurring among the disciples in the locked room on the very day of Jesus’ rising from the grave. In either case these writers are making an important theological connection with the resurrection of Jesus to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

For centuries the church has looked back towards the past to find meaning in the resurrected Jesus. The church has treated this central event of the faith as a singular miracle… a once upon a time miracle where God defies the laws of nature and raises the dead body of Jesus to new life. Over the theological history of the church we have been taught that if God is willing to do this, then we too will be raised on the last day when God will re-inhabit the earth… when God will be all in all. This I would argue is at best an over simplification, and at worst a pathology. God doesn’t defy nature. God inhabits it.

The resurrection appearances of Jesus in scripture are odd… There is no resurrection appearance in Mark, and in the other gospels the disciples don’t at first recognize the risen Christ. The writers seem to be concerned more with the notion of recognition than they are with the literal account of Jesus being raised from the dead. What is that recognition about? Something happened to be sure… but what?

The answer I think is found in the connection these gospel scribes make between resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit. They are making the case that resurrection is not a past reality, but an ongoing way of life, and that that life is manifest in and among the community of believers. Jesus’ martyrdom evoked from his followers their passion for his cause, a passion for meaning and purpose. His torture and death called forth a renewed commitment from his followers to persevere against the evil that besets them. They become aware dramatically that the love they bear is stronger than death itself, and this awareness engenders immeasurable joy and perspective and courage.

The Spirit is the ongoing life of Jesus that we all bear, as natural as breath. Resurrection life is a testimony to our capacity to love, and that love is the most powerful force on earth, and that it will continue undaunted in restoring all people and all things into the heart of God. Do I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? Absolutely. Resurrection life didn’t just happen a long time ago in a land far far away. It is present in every breath, in every act of love. The season of Easter may be ending, but resurrection is always and forever. In every act of love God’s life lives on… Alleluia, Christ is risen… the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.

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