He Is Risen?

Photo by Geralt / pixabay.com

By Benjamin Capps

"He is risen," cries the preacher, eliciting the nearly automatic and yet enthusiastic response: "He is risen, indeed, Alleluia!"

As someone who is tied into a more liturgical wing of the church, the Easter season is marked by its length. After forty days of the lament-filled season of Lent, we get fifty days of celebrating the hope of Easter, the resurrection event that sits as the bedrock of the Christian tradition. The event that catalyzed the church in Acts into motion, and the event that continues to impute purpose and meaning into our churches today.

And yet, amidst our celebrating, amidst our overjoyed cries that declare our risen Christ, what difference does the resurrection actually make? I suppose many know the answer immediately: "Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death, and love wins!" That's what the resurrection means. But it seems to me that I had just as much trouble waking up in the morning on Easter Sunday  as I did on Good Friday. It seems to me that the evidence of the bent and broken nature of our world is just as evident today as it was on Good Friday. It seems to me that the scars of violence, racism, sexism, and hatred plague our communities just as much today as they did on Good Friday.

What do we do with a church that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday and watches chemical warfare in Syria scroll across our news feed just a few days later? In the midst of our broken and tired world, what difference does the resurrection actually make? To celebrate the resurrection without taking a hard look at the world that we live in seems like simply paying lip service to a metaphor. By living our lives within this metaphor, we allow the doctrine of the resurrection to penetrate our brains without allowing its radical message to implicate our hearts.

To celebrate the resurrection without taking a hard look at the world that we live in seems like simply paying lip service to a metaphor.

One of the first accounts of the resurrection of Christ came to a group of scared and worried disciples sitting in a room with a locked door. The disciples, who had seen Jesus Christ triumphantly march into Jerusalem, and turn over tables in the temple…and just when they were thinking, "Here we go, it's time for the swords," they watched their friend and leader go as silently as a lamb to the cross. Their teacher, their leader, their beloved friend, was dead, and with him went all their hopes for what might be. Everything they had imagined, everything that they had sacrificed so much for. Can you imagine the emptiness? Can you imagine the darkness? Can you imagine the fear, the shame, and the hopelessness? What could all of this possibly mean? Why did it have to be like this? 

It is in this moment of despair that Jesus shows up, declares the peace of God and shows the disciples his wounds—the wounds of Good Friday still present with him on Easter Sunday. Jesus then breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples and commissions them into the ministry that he has been about in the world. The disciples, even with their fear and their shame, even with the wounds they were still tending, were invited to be agents of the resurrection in the world.

The wounded disciples are approached by a resurrected Christ, who is wounded enough to understand their pain, their loneliness, and all of the darkness in the world, and victorious enough to lift them up out of that place. This is the kind of activity that launched the church we see in Acts. The book of Acts does not describe a Church that had been simply convinced by the metaphor of the resurrection, but rather, a church that had been profoundly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit to live as agents of resurrection in the world.

Gathering all people with this message of wounded power and radical grace, the disciples were feeding those that were hungry, clothing those that were without clothes and boldly redefining the distribution of wealth and power. This was not a political exercise or a human revolution, but a rather a demonstration of the work of the resurrection. These were wounded people acknowledging the broken nature of their lives and their community, being lifted up and empowered to spread the love of Christ to the darkest corners of the world.

These were wounded people acknowledging the broken nature of their lives and their community, being lifted up and empowered to spread the love of Christ to the darkest corners of the world.

The difference the resurrection makes is the difference between a dormant church entrenched in metaphors, dogma, in-fighting, and "correctness." and a Church that is on the move, compelled by the Holy Spirit into the bleakest and most painful parts of humanity and offering the light, love, and grace of our risen Lord.  The Church is God's agent of resurrection in the world. This is what the resurrection means. This is what we celebrate.

How can this be a marker of the church today? How can we embrace this call to be a spirit-empowered community of wounded people reaching out into the darkness and proclaiming light, rather than existing within a dogmatic metaphor that sits within abstractions?

Will we, like the disciples, bring our wounded selves, battered and beat up by the world that we live in, to our resurrected savior, who is wounded enough to understand our pain, and victorious enough to lift us up out of it?  Will we allow the spirit to blow over us, commissioning us as agents of resurrection? Will we allow the resurrection of Christ to be a tangible call to action, surpassing the realm of metaphor and reaching into our very hearts?

Benjamin Capps is a postulant for Ordination in the Episcopal Church and serves with the Pastoral Staff at Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA. He is a graduate of Bethel Seminary (M.Div), is currently pursuing a post-masters certificate in spiritual formation from Boston College, and a Sacred Theology Masters from United Lutheran Seminary.

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