"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." (Luke 24:5)
Resurrection is a faith practice. On Easter we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, a history-making, history-breaking event in first century Palestine with implications for all time. We sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," and "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," and "Now the Green Blade Rises," and all our favorite Easter hymns. We fill our churches with symbols of new life, renewed life-flowers and greens, butterflies and rainbows. And if we are not careful, our craft enthusiasts will fill in with bunnies and chicks and eggs and chocolate.
Easter is the high feast, the high holy day on the Christian calendar. And it remains so, no matter what the sentimentalizers and the merchants come up with. In the northern hemisphere spring dovetails so beautifully with Easter that it is easy to forget that it is not a pagan rebirth holiday. I have written in my calendar "Easter is not spring." And maybe some day I will spend this holiday with one of our companion synods in the global south.
Actually, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus every Sunday, the day of his resurrection and of his appearance to his followers. Resurrection is central to our faith story, our understanding of what it means to be Christian. When we recite the Apostle's Creed we say, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." It is a central doctrine in Christianity. Resurrection is an event, and it is a doctrine.
I want to think about resurrection as a faith practice as well. In 1973, Wendell Berry coined the phrase "practice resurrection" in his poem, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," in his book The Country of Marriage. It is a phrase that has intrigued many authors, including Eugene Peterson in his 2010 book Practice Resurrection; A Conversation on Growing up in Christ.
Melanie May, in her book, A Body Knows: A Theopoetics of Death and Resurrection, writes:
"Resurrection has been terribly tamed or relegated as one more relic of a religious worldview long since worn out. Too many of us are dead while we breathe: dead to feeling, to imagination, to truth telling. Too many of us live satisfied with a shallow seriousness-sanguine or sober-since we assume what we now know all there will be."(p. 15)
Peterson writes: "The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life. This practice is not a vague wish upwards but comprises a number of discrete but interlocking acts that maintain a credible and faithful life, Real Life, in a world preoccupied with death and the devil." (p. 12)
May writes: "I practice resurrection, for God who came to be with us in the One who went to the cross, went down to hell, and then to glory, is the God of surprises by human reckoning. Amid the mysterious and often tragic mingling of grief and ecstasy, dying and rising, God brings down the mighty and lifts up the lowly. God's surprises are most often more unsettling than settling reversals of the road on which we have set out. The more I have to lose the harder it may to be alive, to let go what is, to leave the predictable 'as a sign to make the false trail' and thereby to awaken to new life abundant." (p. 19)
And finally, from Wendell Berry:
"Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA