The resurrection is not an intellectual puzzle. Rather, it is a living theological reality, a distant event with continuing spiritual, human, and social consequences. The evidence for the resurrection is all around us. Not in some ancient text, Jesus bones, or a DNA sample. Rather, the historical evidence for the resurrection is Jesus living in us; it is the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, bringing back to life that which was dead. We are the evidence.
I love the heart of what she is saying and I got tripped up by the word evidence because I’m not one who feels my faith is something that needs to be proved or defended. When we studied apologetics in seminary, I never got past the idea that we were somehow saying we were sorry for something, even though apology has more than one definition. I think of evidence, first, as a courtroom word, but it, too, has more meanings: the etymology of the word from the Latin means “obvious” and “clear.”
We are those who make the Resurrection obvious or clear.
Here is what was clear to me today. I woke up this morning thinking about the last time we celebrated Easter. Ginger and I were in Athens as a part of her sabbatical on Orthodox Easter.
About ten till twelve, the priest went behind the doors and all the lights went out. Then he emerged with a big candle — a torch, really — and those closest clamored to light their candles from his and then began to move through the rest of the congregation. When all the candles were lighted, we all began to file out into the square in front of the church. The priest followed, chanting the whole time, until midnight came. He cried out in a loud voice, the bells rang, and fireworks went off in the street behind us. Everyone began to turn to one another:
The translations are (according to the guy at the hotel):
“Christ is risen!”
“He has really done it!”
(I kept imagining a Greek teenager translating that: “He is so resurrected!”)
The day here was clear and cold. The winds of resurrection had a bite to them, but that didn’t stop my favorite tradition at our church. We have two services on Easter: a reflective service with Communion at nine and a family service at eleven. Ginger introduced the second service by saying, “If you came for a reflective service, this is not it.” After the service comes the best part: the egg hunt in the cemetery. In a tradition that long proceeds our time here in Marshfield, the children pour out of the church building and into the graveyard looking for the brightly colored eggs the youth group had hidden, if by hidden you mean left in fairly plain sight. Even in the cold, the parents and other adults stood as the children let life loose among the tombstones. (Note to self: ask for a good digital camera for Christmas.)
Many of the names on the markers are pivotal to the history of our congregation; some can still be found in those who fill the pews. The children in the cemetery made clear what’s been handed down, what is alive among and within us. We live among the tombs, well acquainted with death. We have all come, as Julie Miller sings, by way of sorrow. The graves are real and they are not the final word. Life goes on beyond the grave, beyond ourselves, beyond all we can imagine.
One of the kids was baptized today. In our UCC tradition, one would normally assume I was talking about a baby, but the little girl is almost ten. Her family was not in church when she was born and she asked to be baptized. I had the privilege of sitting next to her during worship. I, too, was baptized on Easter Sunday. When Ginger asked her if she wanted to follow Christ, the girl nodded her head energetically before she remembered she was supposed to speak the answer: “I do.” Her actions made her heart clear before she even opened her mouth.
Easter is the one holiday I don’t cook at home. The day is so full Ginger and I have not figured out a way to do everything and get home and eat before we fall asleep for the afternoon. Our intentional family here in Massachusetts is a little scattered, so we met in Boston at Stella for brunch. The food was yet another testimony to life (if you live anywhere near Boston, go eat there. Really. Quit reading and get to eating), as was the Easter Hippo I got in my basket. We sat at the table for a couple of hours, as is our custom, eating and drinking, talking and laughing, marking another moment in our lives together that makes clear we are better together than any one of us would be on our own.
I closed my Ash Wednesday reflection with these words:
One of my favorite benedictions in church is “The Lord bless you in your going out and you’re coming in.” When you think about it, that’s pretty much what we do on a daily basis: we go out and we come in. Either way, we’re blessed. I like the image of God in that blessing because God’s presence is infused into every small and seemingly insignificant move we make filling our lives with the substance and flavor of Love, over and over and over again.
The truth in those words is clearer to me now than it was some forty days ago. Here are a few more words I wrote this morning before church, at Ginger’s request:
In the Garden
“He is not here,”
the angel said —
speaking of Jesus —
the only time those words
held any comfort.
“Where did he go?”
she asked, confused
and mostly afraid
that things had gone
from dead to worse.
“Mary,” he said
and she came to life
among the tombs,
the stone rolled away
from the door of her heart.
Christ is risen. He really did it!
PS – for those of you who found this blog during Lent, my writing continues beyond the season, usually five or six days a week. I hope you’ll continue to check in. Peace.