The resurrection of Jesus Christ has always been a kind of struggle for me.
Theologians, philosophers, poets, and novelists have for two thousand years wrestled with it. Even the New Testament writers didn't agree in their accounts of it. In spite of misconceptions about how the Gospels were put together scholars have shown that none of the Gospel writers were actual eyewitnesses to the resurrection. And St. Paul, who writes about it the most, never mentions an empty tomb, the stone rolled away, talking angels at the grave site, or Jesus reappearing to meet with his disciples. Paul's interpretation of the resurrection seems to be in a spiritual sense only.
Many would argue that without a resurrection we knock down all of the pillars of the Christian faith. But do we need a resurrected Christ in order to be inspired and perhaps even transformed by the life of Jesus? Wasn't it his life after all that captured the world and still influences followers everywhere?
The whole resurrection thing seems to strain after some kind of ultimate victory. Why do we always have to have a winner, as though life and faith and religion and everything else, is a competition like some kind of sporting event? Are we that frightened, that insecure, that incapable of accepting a final end of things?
Why isn't the amazing compassion and grace of Jesus enough for us? Can't we simply allow his life, his beautiful influence and example, his unending love for all people, be the real thing that lives on after him? This neurotic need to win, to overcome, to triumph; what is that? Why can't love just be enough; and struggle, and courage, and the effort to grow into a better person?
And actually, death isn't defeated in the resurrection anyway. We still all die. Even the famous Lazarus somewhere down the line succumbed. Why can't we die in love, bravely, open-hearted, big with gratitude that we were here no matter how much difficulty we had to put up with or how many sorrows came our way? We felt things. We saw so much. We were alive. We learned. We loved. Why isn't that enough?
There are these lines from a Wendell Berry poem:
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Yes, that seems to be the idea. We live life fully and take it all in--the good, the bad; the beautiful, the ugly. We make lots of tracks and sometimes go in the wrong direction. We turn around. We change directions. We fall and rise again. Parts of us die here and there and new pieces of us are created to replace them.
But it's all done here and now. We're not waiting to be put in a tomb and then later rise above it all in triumphant victory having won release from this. Oh no. This, is what matters. If this, here and now, doesn't matter then nothing does. And this matters most.
Isn't improving our love for others, resurrection, too? Coming into a new depth of being, of caring, of sharing. Love enables us to rise out of our grief, our losses, our hurts, our illnesses, our failures and mess-ups. We cannot wait for this on some other side of things here. Now is the time to let love help us practice resurrection.
The news recently carried the incredible story of a group of survivors of superstorm Sandy in New Jersey who decided to build 26 playground parks along the Jersey shoreline in honor of the children and adults murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut. They didn't know any of those children, but they knew their own loss and deaths and hurt. And they wanted to find a way to move out of all of that in some healthy and loving way.
Funds were privately raised and volunteers from around the area have committed to building each playground. The first one was dedicated a few weeks ago in the town of Sea Bright, New Jersey, while fireworks dazzled the sky and bagpipes played on the beach.
Whenever a child and their parents come to enjoy one of these parks and playgrounds the child it is dedicated to lives again. And the singing voices of children in play and laughter help everyone remember to treasure what is now.
Memory. Feelings. Love. Sharing. Here. Now. In this life. That, I think, is what Jesus wanted us to learn from his life and his death. What could be more winning that that?
(c) 2013 Timothy Moody