Thursday, April 1, 2010
It's Not ALWAYS Good Friday
The good news is: Chocolate Bunny has risen. The bad news is: He melted on the dashboard.
Easter is coming. Chocolate rabbits, Easter egg hunts, and a man claiming to be God and vowing that he would raise from the dead three days after being crucified. Such a quaint picture, isn't it? I confess that often the chocolate bunnies and the Easter eggs that are dyed seem more "real" than the man who died and rose from the dead.
Christ's resurrection promises power. Victory over evil is implied in resurrection. There wasn't merely a bodily resurrection (as if that in itself might not headline CNN), but the Scriptures attest to a moral and cosmic resurrection. All things are made new; the "principalities and powers" have now been defeated; personal transformation is now possible because sin has been overcome. That's pretty bold terminology and as I look inside myself and around me at the current state of affairs it would appear that the sin principle still is predominant and that not only our culture but the global community in its entirety is morally and socially disintegrating. I might go Easter egg hunting on Sunday but you can bet I'm double-bolting and triple-locking my doors on Monday. Where, exactly, is all this resurrection power that Christ has unleashed upon the earth in light of his own resurrection?
I often don't see it. Maybe the issue isn't the authenticity, the actuality of Christ's resurrection; maybe the problem lies with my sight. I'm not seeing "it" because there is an eyesight problem, not because "it" is suspect. Scripture certainly attests to this as a possibility (e.g. Isaiah 26:11, "O Lord, your hand is lifted high, but they don't see it."
Even if my sight weren't flawed, maybe I'm seeing only the immediate or apparent story. Could it be that Christ in his resurrection penned a completely different story that only eyes of faith glimpse and participate in by reading between the lines? In the gospel of Luke is recorded a moving incident. Jesus has been crucified and this his followers know. He has also risen from the dead and this a number of his followers don't know. Two such Christ-followers are walking together and talking about all that led up to Christ's crucifixion. Their hopes died when Christ died. If his death was final then he was certainly a dynamic spiritual leader--but nothing more. Their hopes have been entombed with Christ. Jesus joins them on their journey and Luke states, ". . . but they were kept from recognizing him." He converses with them, and they pour out their lament to him. "The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one. . . " (Luke 24:13-35.) We had hoped. Past tense.
Present living often plays out in the past tense, doesn't it? I had hoped. . . I survey the global scene around me and scrutinize my own internal landscape and I don't see much evidence of Christ's resurrecting presence and power. Like those two Christ-followers, I say to myself, "Well, I had hoped. . ." But,that's not the end of their story, my story, history. There's tremendous irony here: they were plodding along sadly acknowledging to the risen Lord that they'd given up hope because he's dead--so they thought. Similar to President Obama going incognito, and as you're sitting at Starbucks you happen to strike up conversation with him, and telling this new acquaintance you wish you had an opportunity to meet the President. These two Christ-followers were living in a new era (post-resurrection) and didn't even see it or know it. Add a third follower.
Maybe what we see and what we often conclude aren't the end of the story. Maybe there is, indeed, another story the risen Lord continues to tell. Dare we believe that heartbreak isn't the end of the story. Is it possible the unspeakable tragedy isn't the end of your story? Is it possible that though thousands of innocent people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (which we term "collateral damage" in order to justify our military conscience), it isn't the end of the story? In the March 23 issue of The Christian Century, in an article, "Now Can We Sing?" William Willimon is astounded by the typical Haitian's attitude about life in Haiti-hell. He comments, "On two mission trips to Haiti with undergrads, there was widespread agreement that the most disarming thing about the country was the laughter of the children, along with their raucous singing. . . . How dare they sing?. . . Was their laughter an escapist respite from the unmitigated tragedy of their lives, or a smart rebuke to our assumption that their lives were trapped in tragedy? As darkness fell upon Port-au-Prince after the earth heaved that January night, people danced in the streets and sang hymns. On CNN, Anderson Cooper was incredulous."
I, too, respond as Willimon does. "Those singing-through-their-tears Haitians make me wonder. . . " He doesn't so much wonder about them; he questions himself. What am I missing? What are we missing? Could it be that those children get it? Are those children aware of and living in a story just as "real" as their tragedy but a story that has and will overcome their tragedy? A story that transcends tragedy?
Willinon concludes his article, "Dare we risk defiant delight? Listen, in Port-au-Prince they are singing: Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!"