We Are Risen, Indeed
Christianity’s story, and the Jesus story, of resurrection from the dead is both triggering and valuable. And this is the challenge of the resurrection as a whole.
In terms of triggering folks, it can open up the idea that violence, blood, and death was the intention and goal of God, from the very beginning. Jesus died violently at the hands of the Empire, and the Religiously Pious, and this - evangelicals will say - was necessary. But was it?
Jesus comes as a reflection of the fullness of life available to us as human beings created in the image of the Divine. He comes as a model, not simply an untouchable, beyond-our-experience Messiah. And yet, we - human beings - chose to kill him, and we still do. In John 3:19-21, it talks about how we choose darkness over light when Jesus comes into the world, and that is our judgement. We chose, and choose, to kill Jesus—even as we meet him [or her, or them] today.
And yet, the hope of the resurrection story, the vitality of it, is that even as we choose death and violence, God does not stay there. God choose new life, renewal, and healing in place of the violence of our choices and stewardship of one another, our communities, and the earth.
Christianity’s resurrection story is also triggering because we have lost loved ones—and while the promise of resurrection is a hopeful one, it feels distant from our experience. We only know full tombs; where do we find empty ones?
But the promise of this story—often used to justify violence and bloodshed in the name of a conquering “god”—is that it is our story. Resurrection is not necessitated by violence or death; but when we choose violence, or experience the cycle of death, God says “This is not the end”.
The promise of resurrection—the promise of positive change, and renewal, and the enduring of a life beyond the years it walks the earth—is that it is ours too. In 1 Corinthians 15:13, it says that if there is “no resurrection of the dead”, as in the collective experience of resurrection for all of us, then even “Christ was not raised”. This means that resurrection wasn’t just a lone miracle for this one divine being; it is boisterous and full invitation to all of us.
But what does that mean?
Well, when Jesus died, he didn’t necessarily get a physical body back and resume his life. He did return and visit disciples and the women of his group, but then he ascended to heaven. The loss of physicality is a part of the process; and the grief and tragedy we feel as we process the loss our loved ones is wide and deep.
Jesus, too, is not “here” in the physical sense. But; something endures of him—an energy, a Spirit. And so, too, with our loved ones.
The story of Trayvon Martin is tragic. He was killed at 17 years old at the hands of police, in 2012. The following I’ll quote from the Black Lives Matter website:
In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. Our members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
In the midst of grief and an empty space that will never be filled, there is also — somehow — an energy, and Spirit that lives on. So it goes with God; with Jesus; so it goes with Trayvon. So it goes with you.
The resurrection story is not a place to justify violence; it is a place to ask forgiveness of the violence we choose, to commit to choosing differently, and to know that even when violence or death reaches us, God, the Universe, the Spirit does not leave us there. There is a new way that we live into; that we live in expectance of; and we still see today, even amidst violence. It is the world shown in Isaiah 65.
And even as death and violence continue, God changes the story.
An Energy—a Spirit—endures. Jesus is not the tall-tale of a lone miracle. This is our story. You rise too.
We are risen, indeed. Amen.