Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saying Yes to the Risen Christ

Resurrection readings on this Resurrection Day.

An invitation
to live in the confidence that every act of compassion matters - not just now, but forever,
to celebrate the infinite possibilities beckoning  past "the reigning plausability structure,"
to say "yes" to the present risenness of Christ,
to stand in flux and change as bright "immortal diamond." 
Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

Who Are You Looking For? Anna Kocher, 2006

from Resurrection, Rob Bell, 2010

resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world
because this world matters
this world that we call home
dirt and blood and sweat and skin and light and water
this world that God is redeeming and restoring and renewing . . .

resurrection says that what we do with our lives matters
in this body
the one that we inhabit right now
every act of compassion matters
every work of art that celebrates the good and the true matters
every fair and honest act of business and trade
every kind word
they all belong and they will all go on in God’s good world
nothing will be forgotten
nothing will be wasted
it all has it’s place

everybody believes something
everybody believes somebody
Jesus invites us to trust resurrection
that every glimmer of good
every hint of hope
every impulse that elevates the soul
is a sign, a taste, a glimpse
of how things actually are
and how things will ultimately be
resurrection affirms this life and the next
as a seamless reality
and saved by God

there is an unexpected mysterious presence
who meets each of us in our lowest moments
when we have no strength when we have nothing left
and we can’t go on we hear the voice that speaks those

destroy this temple and I’ll rebuild it
do you believe this?
that’s the question Jesus asked then
and that’s the question he asks now

Jesus’ friends arrive at his tomb and they’re told
he isn’t here

he isn’t here
there is nothing to fear
and nothing can ever be the same again
we are living in a world in the midst of rescue
with endless unexpected possibilities

they will take my life and I will die Jesus says
but that will not be the end
and when you find yourself assuming that it’s over
when it’s lost, gone, broken and it could never be
put back together again,
when it’s been destroyed and you swear that it could never
be rebuilt

hold on a minute
because in that moment
things will in fact have just begun  

Resurrection, Manuel Panselenos, Greece, ca 1300

from The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin, 1989

It is obvious that the story of the empty tomb cannot be fitted into our contemporary worldview, or indeed into any worldview except one of which it is the starting point.  That is, indeed, the whole point.  What happened on that day is, according to the Christian tradition, only to be understood by analogy with what happened on the day the cosmos came into being.  It is a boundary event, at the point where (as cosmologists tell us) the laws of physics ceased to apply.  It is the beginning of a new creation – as mysterious to human reason as the creation itself.

But, and this is the whole point, accepted in faith it becomes the starting point for a wholly new way of understanding our human experience, a way which – in the long run – makes more sense of human experience as a whole than does the reigning plausibility structure.  That the crucified Jesus was raised from death to be the firstfruit of creation is – in the proper sense – dogma.  It is something given, offered for acceptance in faith, providing the starting point for a new way of understanding which, instead of being finally defined by the impassable boundary of death (our personal deaths and the final death of the cosmos), moves from death outward to an open world of infinite possibilities beckoning us into ever fresh regions of joy.

Doubting Thomas, Emmanual Nsama, Zambia, 1970

from Abba's Child, Brendan Manning, 2002

For me, the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say YES to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.  . . . I have lived long enough to appreciate that Christianity is lived more in the valley than on the mountaintop, that faith is never doubt-free, and that although God has revealed himself in creation and in history, the surest way to know God is, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, as tamquam ignotum, utterly unknowable.No thought can contain him; no word can express him. He is beyond anything we can intellectualize or imagine.

My YES to the fullness of divinity embodied in the present risenness of Jesus is scary because it is so personal. In desolation and abandonment . . ., in loneliness and fear, in the awareness of the resident pharisee, and in the antics of the imposter, YES is a bold word not to be taken lightly or spoken frivolously.
This YES is an act of faith, a decisive, wholehearted response of my whole being to the risen Jesus present beside me, before me, around me, and within me; a cry of confidence that my faith in Jesus provides security not only in the face of death but in the face of a worse threat posed by my own malice; a word that must be said not just once but repeated over and over again in the ever-changing landscape of life.

Resurrection, unknown artists, Istanbul, ca 1315

from That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection, Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1888

Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, his mark on mind, is gone!

. . .  Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Jesus: the Resurrected One, Jason Fowler, 2011

Earlier posts on the resurrection:
Where is Newness Needed, March 2013
Risen Indeed!, April 2012
Resurrection,, April 2011