Year B, Easter Sunday
Every year at this time preachers and worship leaders wonder how to resurrect the story of Jesus rising from the dead. How do we communicate the story in song and word, in visual spectacle, in prayer and liturgy so that it comes alive once more for our listeners in worship? Resurrection is the central theological affirmation of our Christian faith. Jesus proclaimed the saving grace of God’s realm of justice and love where new life is the modus operandi. Jesus gave his life in living and in dying to bring about new life. As Peter preaches in Acts, “… he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear…to us who were chosen by God as witnesses…He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify….”
How do we tell stories of resurrection, of The Resurrection, with fresh new perspective? Perhaps we begin by trusting the story and trusting our experience with the story even if it doesn’t seem fresh and new to us. I confess that as a preacher and storyteller I can succumb to the false advertising pressure of needing to be new and different in order to be heard! Perhaps we trust that as others hear our “witness” as those first century people heard Peter, new life happens in the midst of their hearts and lives, in their circumstances and context, through the power of God’s Spirit.
My prayer for us as preachers and storytellers is that in the midst of all the Easter preparations we will discover resurrection deep within. Not because we finally have our doctrines of resurrection all figured out, but because we are willing to admit our deep longing for personal resurrection to God. I pray that we willingly open our hearts and minds, especially the most painful, doubtful, hidden parts, to God’s resurrection Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and set him loose in the world, “recruiting for the Kingdom,” as our scholar friend, the late Marcus Borg once said.
I pray that we take our own experiences and personal testimonies of resurrection more seriously than we ever have, even if we think we have proclaimed the same thing time and again. And wonder if anyone is listening and if it makes any difference! The most important stories always bear repeating. May we take our telling of the resurrection so seriously that the mystery of new life unexpectedly catches us off guard and makes us laugh out loud with joy. I pray that resurrection power bubbles up past the places in us that still feel “dead” and spills over them with surprising new growth.
May God bless you with the inner knowing that your experience of our core story is what people in your community need and want to hear! Take to heart the message, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here … go, tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7)
Seeking to take my own advice from above I share with you this week a couple of resurrection stories that are dear to my heart and have lived with me bringing new life in dark times since I was ten. They both come from the Narnia Chronicles of C.S. Lewis.
The first is from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is the story of Aslan’s resurrection in Chapter 15, “Deeper Magic from the Dawn of Time.” The description of the grief of the two girls after Aslan’s death, their terror and amazement when he returns, and the joy of the playful romp they have with him in the meadow at dawn bring the biblical story of Jesus’ death and resurrection into focus for children. The chapter is too long to read in worship. However with some careful meditation on the chapter you can retell the story bringing the ambiance of Lewis’s writing into your words.
The second story from the Chronicles that comes to mind is found in the last book, The Last Battle. It is in Chapter 13, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In.” This book tells of the “end” of the kingdom of Narnia as the children have known it and its birth into a new and even more “real” world. Aslan and his followers have just defeated the false “god” Tash. They come upon some of Tash’s followers, a group of dwarfs, who believe that they are still imprisoned by their enemies, the followers of Aslan, in a dark, dirty and smelly stable. In reality they have been set free and are sitting in the midst of a beautiful, sunlit, spring-fresh meadow. Aslan offers them a feast of sumptuous food and sparkling wine but they believe they are eating rotten turnips, moldy bread and drinking dirty water. They cannot see the grace of new life in which they are living.
The story of the dwarfs came to mind as I pondered our text from Isaiah 25:6-7.
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.”
How might imagery of the dwarfs who refuse to see new life in the Lewis story connect to the work of God in the Isaiah text? God is continually making all things new in Christ. We see new life when we trust the work of God in our lives. Never doubting that our “small” revelations of resurrection are any less miraculous than the Big Story. Ponder the dwarfs, Isaiah and the quotes below. What new story is coming from your resurrection experiences that you can tell?
Blessings on your story journey this Easter, Jane Anne
*”Power consists in deciding which story shall be told.” Carolyn Heilbrun, 20th century
“Miracles… seem to me to rest not so much upon… healing power coming suddenly near us from afar but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that, for a moment, our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there around us always.” Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, 20th century
*These quotes are courtesy of Rev. Kate Huey’s Sermon Seeds Lectionary Reflections. Kate is the Dean of the Amistad Chapel at the United Church of Christ National Office in Cleveland, OH. She writes and facilitates weekly preaching reflections. Her work for Easter Sunday 2015 can be found at http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_april_5_2015.
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2015 and beyond. Please reprint text or photos only with permission.