A Post- Easter Postscript To The Lenten Journey
We’ve been through it all. It all began with a decision. To live intentionally, reflectively, and most importantly, honestly was both the means and the end. To experience what Lent offers means focusing on why we need Lent at all. Toward that end, an imaginative journey to Jerusalem, filled with the horrid flotsam and jetsam of this world and my own life, became a necessity, I could not arrive at Good Friday, then move through that to Easter, without first naming all that makes this whole thing necessary for me. To that end, I tried to make clear, at least to myself, all those parts of my life that make me the sinner I am.
We are on the far side of that time, now. We have come to the cross. We have laid all that baggage at the foot of the cross, where it was taken up in the death of Jesus, lay in the tomb with Jesus, and with the resurrection of Jesus has been taken up in to the life of the Godhead where it has been erased. We have all heard the call of Easter, to come and see the empty tomb and believe and spread the word that Jesus Christ has risen. When people wonder if that is possible or why it has any meaning, we need to tell the story. We need to remind them of the whole history of God’s people – a history of sin and redemption; a history of covenant broken and restored; of faithlessness and faithfulness; of the promise of The New and the call that this New be met with New Song; the New Covenant that now exists in and through the body and blood of Christ, to which we are admitted when we die with Christ and are raised with Christ in Baptism – and make clear this history is now our history. Then we tell them the empty tomb is not just the fulfillment of that history, but is the focal point of all history, not only what came before, but all that comes after, including us. We are grasped by this event, caught up in it and through it find the source of our hope, the because it is God’s future that now pulls all of us forward.
Perhaps the saddest part of returning from the empty tomb is looking around and seeing the Disciples (the Church and churches) still afraid, still unsure of what has happened or what it means. Locked up in their various upper rooms, they do not want to accept that what has happened is what Jesus always promised would happen. We continue to live as if Easter, the freedom that is ours through it, and hope that moves us forward, the love that flows through it to us and through us to the world for which it all occurred, never happened.
I look around, this day after we celebrate our collective remembrance of the Resurrection of the Son through the Spirit for the glory of the Father, and see the same fear, the same divisiveness, the same bickering, and wonder if these folks experienced the same event I did. How is it possible for us, particularly we in the United Methodist Church, to move forward if we do not understand ourselves grasped by the Spirit of the Resurrection, renewed, claimed each day by the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
We still have so much work to do, making Disciples of Jesus Christ. We have so much work to do for the transformation of the world in the name of that same Christ. All the other talk that distracts us – the insistence on crisis, the threats of breaking our particular small part of the Body of Christ, the claims of persecution within that same Body, the demands for silence, the quest for worldly power rather than the power of the raised Jesus Christ which is the power of submission to death on the cross – streams from fear and a desire to remain in sin, and it hurts and galls me.
We are, as John the Baptist said at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, a generation of vipers. We live in the time after the glorious event of Easter, yet continue to live as if it never happened. We declare ourselves those grasped by the events of the Passion and Resurrection, yet continue to live as if the world determines our fate. We tell the world we are bearers of Good News yet all we offer is bickering, mutual denunciations, and ongoing demands that ours is the only true way, when in fact the only true way is the way to, through, and from the Cross.
We are a faithless people, unclean, needing to hear each day the Good News that Christ has risen indeed, so that we might yet renew our strength through the Lord, be lifted up as on eagle’s wings, held in the palm of God’s hand. All of us, each of us, need to remember that Christ died and rose again so that our faith would not be in vain. We need to remember that all creation groans as in childbirth for the completion of the work begun on that first Easter. That work is not about figuring out who says the right words in the right way, or who does baptism the best, or whether or not experience or Scripture or tradition determines what and how we understand God’s actions through Easter to our lives. We are those called and given the strength, the confidence, and the courage to do that work.
I am tired of our collective cowardice. I am tired of the voices that tell us who is right and who is wrong, as if any of us will ever get any of it right in any way. We have work to do, because our world, the world for whom and which all this was accomplished, is hurting, bleeding, terrified and terrorized, and all we do is demand to know who is in and who is out. My hope and prayer is this Easter will not remain just another Sunday. My prayer and faith is that we United Methodists in particular will remember whose we are, what our specific gift from God has always been, and be about living that gift for the world. We need to stop being afraid, stop being a club, stop telling others they are right or wrong.
Christ has risen. Let’s start living like it matters.