Resurrection Without Window Dressing

Friends, as we journey into the weeks following Easter (what some of our traditions call Eastertide), rest assured that we may continue to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection with the same joy and celebration that many of our ministries exhibited on Easter Sunday. We are free to continue to proclaim the resurrection without qualification, without apologizing for its outright cosmos shaking hopefulness.  “…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6). This is, (quite appropriately during the opening week of baseball) the whole ball game.

There is indeed death and darkness, powers, principalities, and evil spirits, wars and rumors of wars, famine, and oppression. Let’s directly name and address these affronts to God’s work of peace, justice, and reconciliation. Identify avenues of solidarity, mercy, compassion. And proclaim the resurrection of Jesus without reservation. This is the nature of living in the tension of God’s “already here but not yet fulfilled” kingdom. The tension only makes sense if the “not yet” of final resurrection continues to be proclaimed and pointed to.

And proclaim it broadly, in sweeping fashion. Most of us with the best of intentions have at some point, perhaps inadvertently, reduced Jesus’ resurrection to a utility for some other agenda, some specific ministry effort, in service to the “really important” issue of the day. Certainly, the resurrection has vast implications of all sorts of things to which God calls us, and by all means we rightly contextualize along the way. But let’s not forget that the resurrection is in first place already about everything, and there is always the risk of losing sight of this basic fact. I’m reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s way of framing it, that death, decay, and destruction are actually the suspension of the laws of nature, and that the resurrection of Christ is the basic principle of reality, not the other way around (see O’Connor, Habit of Being).

By God’s grace we are free to let the resurrection be the resurrection, to let Easter be Easter, to celebrate the ultimate defeat of sin and death, to be sustained by joy and hope, and in the weeks well after Holy Week to keep pointing to all of the above without reservation. Amidst all the ministry complexity we have before us, what if we could nevertheless maintain that the top priority, the sine qua non, is that we keep returning to a simple, clear, proclamation of resurrection life, or as  Karl Barth summarizes, God’s “first and last word is Yes and not No.”

Our society remains awash in hopelessness and despair, longing for a simple, clear, sustained announcement that death and darkness is not the end, or as Frederck Buechner once put it, “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.” So, what if we just let Jesus’ resurrection be Jesus’ resurrection, nothing more, nothing less? Let it speak for itself. Show yourself some grace. Announce and repeat the good news, and watch the Spirit work as individuals and communities encounter and internalize the power of this proclamation right where they are, right now, as God reconciles everything through the risen Christ. It doesn’t need our window dressing, thank God.

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