Sunday, April 12, 2009


So, I actually preached an Easter sermon in which I never once asserted that the resurrection took place. And the crazy thing? I don't think anyone (other than Craig) noticed.

I have no problem with the resurrection story. It's a powerful story. And there is truth there - truth that the message of one who broke down barriers of class and ethnicity, who preached justice and and the end to oppression, truth that this message cannot be contained , even by death.

Here is the text I used:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. - Mark 16:1-8a (NRSV)
What I love about Mark's version of Jesus' resurrection is that we never get to see Jesus risen from the dead. Instead, the women are told to return to the beginning, to go back to where Jesus commenced his ministry, go back to the Galilean poor, continue the work he started there, serving the poor, working for justice. And there you will see him.

Mark's version allows more room for myth. And when I say myth, I don't mean an untrue story. Rather, I agree with Dr. Tony Nugent, Presbyterian minister, who describes a myth as "a story that, at least at one point in time, had a very powerful spiritual resonance." With the other gospel accounts, it's easier for folks to read the accounts as literal, historical fact instead of "theologically constructed history". But Mark's abrupt ending (the likely original ending, not the two that were added later by folks who couldn't stand the ambiguity the author seemed to intend), "and they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid", is actually one that allows the readers to interpret various layers of meaning for themselves. And it can be read as an opportunity, even a imperative, for the reader to finish the story, to answer the call of discipleship and to do as the man said, to go, to tell, and to follow.

  • from our places of comfort
  • into the hurting world
  • to the people
  • to the authorities...
And tell...
  • of his death (at the hands of the empire)
  • of his life (lived serving the "least of these")
  • the message of hope, of love, of justice, of reconciliation
And follow...
  • his teachings
  • his example of living and loving
  • to Galilee, to live and serve among the Galilean poor in our world
To Galilee. There we will see him.

Do I believe in the resurrection? Absolutely. I have seen it again and again when people (the body of Christ?) rise up and speak truth to power, work for peace, fight for justice. As Carlos Mejia Godoy writes, "I believe you are resurrected in every arm raised against injustice." So yeah, I believe in the resurrection.

Do I believe the man Jesus was physically raised from the dead? I don't think it matters.

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