Year A, Easter
As we would expect, resurrection proclamations ring throughout our texts this week.
- “Jesus is Lord!” – Peter at the home of Cornelius
- “I have loved you with an everlasting love;” [says God], “therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, … Again you shall plant vineyards.” – Jeremiah, the prophet
- “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” – a psalmist giving thanks for deliverance
- “… your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – the writer of the letter to the church in Colossae
- ”‘I have seen the Lord!’” – Mary Magdalene
- “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. … go quickly and tell his disciples…” – the angel at the empty tomb
How are these proclamations landing on your ears this year? Do they bring comfort and hope? Does the situation of your congregation, community, or country clamor and threaten to drown out these cries celebrating new life? The situation of your family, of your own soul? Are you struggling to hear them anew? Or are they sharpened, the ringing louder and clearer, because of your situation and relationships in the world? I confess that these are the questions I ask myself as I read our texts and prepare to preach on Easter.
In their book, The Last Week the late Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan tell us that Easter is “God’s vindication of Jesus’ passion for the kingdom of God, for God’s justice, and God’s ‘no’ to the powers who killed [Jesus], powers that are still very active in our world. Easter is about God even as it is about Jesus. Easter discloses the character of God. Easter means God’s Great Clean-up of the world has begun –– but will not happen without us.”[i]
What an image – “God’s Great Clean-up of the World!” And Borg’s and Crossan’s imperative that we are called to help with the clean-up! God’s work of redemption and transformation go before us. Yet it does not happen without our participation. No one would know that Jesus had risen from the dead if the women at the tomb had not returned to tell their story. They did their part. What is our part now where we live in this still early 21st century?
In life Jesus adamantly affirms that the Kingdom of God is already among us. God’s Kingdom is the big clean-up of the world that has fallen into the traps of “me and mine behavior” rather than the sharing of “we and us behavior.” God’s Kingdom is made of compassion, of life stronger than death, of love stronger than hate, of justice that distributes abundance for all, of peace created from non-violent resolution of issues. In death Jesus stakes his whole being and purpose, his very life, on God’s Kingdom being more powerful and pervasive that the empire of Rome. The work of God in his resurrection reveals the truth of Jesus’ claim, “the Kingdom of God is among, already present with, you.” AND the Kingdom is made manifest and on-going through your participation. Jesus led the way, modeled, the Kingdom as he embodied God’s no to the powers of violence, greed, deception and peace through the warring conqueror in his life, death and resurrection.
Once again, what is our part as we embody the resurrection way Jesus modeled for God’s Kingdom here and now? According to our model, the way leads through prayer and intimate relationship with God, through proclamation and justice action, through healing presence and joyous fellowship. It also leads through non-violent resistance to the violent powers of this world. It leads through death before it leads to new life. We know through Christian history that sometimes this death is literal, sometimes it is literal imprisonment or exile or marginalization through persecution. It leads to the internal death of egoism as the soul fuels the body’s external actions in life. But always there is the cycle in powerful literal and metaphorical experience of active participation in God’s non-violent, loving justice, death and new life.
As I consider my participation in God’s Kingdom and the participation of my congregation, I am remembering the recent vandalism of our church’s neighbors, the Islamic Center of Fort Collins. Large rocks were thrown into their worship space shattering their doors and disrupting the sacred peace of that space. The rocks were followed by a Bible. The perpetrator has been apprehended and we are learning that he seems to be a military veteran who may have PTSD and mental issues. Our congregation immediately went to the aid of our Muslim neighbors standing in solidarity with them, vowing that persecutors will have to come through us to get to them. How will we be called by the Kingdom of God to stand with the perpetrator who is suffering in ways we do not know? Wouldn’t Jesus be both places? In the clean-up of the mosque and visiting the perpetrator in prison?
Where is God calling me and my people through Jesus’ resurrection to participate in God’s Kingdom? Where is God calling you?
The best story to tell on Easter is of course, the God’s Easter story! Our lectionary texts also provide commentary stories from Hebrew scriptures, the psalms, the Acts of the Apostles and an early Christian church. How can the stories of Peter preaching to Cornelius’ household, Jeremiah prophesying to exiles, the psalmist rejoicing in entering the Temple in thanksgiving for deliverance, the small church in pluralistic Colossae struggling to keep the faith enhance your Easter storytelling? Could one of these stories serve as a the children’s time?
I leave you with the story for this Easter in Year A from my storytelling mentor, Robert Bela Wilhelm. “Two Pilgrim Friends” is a story adapted from a short story by Leo Tolstoy. It is about the participation of two dear friends in the life of Christ. The external pilgrimage of one in intertwined with the internal pilgrimage of the other. Each serves in his own way. You can find the story in Bob’s ibook, In the City of Spice and Gold through your iTunes store. In the book is an audio version of the story, a short written version and a longer one, as well as commentary on the story, its source and context and theological imagery. You can listen to the story here at Bob’s Storyfest Journeys website. And you can find his brief commentary on the story on Bob’s YouTube channel.
Blessings on your Easter story journey,
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2017 and beyond. Commentary and photos may be reprinted by permission only. Please find and tell the stories!
[i] Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem, (NY, NY: Harper San Francisco, 2006), 210.