Threatened with Resurrection

 

*Special thanks to David Henson, who challenged us to be poets, not preachers during Holy Week. I wasn’t brave enough to write/share my poetry like he was, but I have found the following poem particularly fruitful. Thanks, David.  


Join us in this vigil

and you will know what it is to dream!

Then you will know how marvelous it is

to live threatened with Resurrection!

To dream awake,

to keep watch asleep,

to live while dying,

and to know ourselves already

resurrected!

These are the closing lines of the poem “They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection” written by the Guatemalan poet, Julia Esquivel.

This peaceful poet was witness to the unspeakable political violence that dominated Guatemala during the later part of the 20th century.

She writes of the systemic oppression, the massacres and murders that made Good Friday an everyday reality for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala, as well as those who stood in solidarity with them.

“They have threatened us with resurrection,” she says. What a provocative statement: to be threatened, with resurrection.

The more one contemplates the words of this poem, the harder it can be to decipher who the “they” is; the harder it can be to discern whether it is a good thing, or bad to be “threatened with resurrection.”

On the one hand, by threatening us with degradation and death, the powers and principalities of this world unknowingly threaten us with resurrection by testing our convictions. Their dogma “Might Makes Right” fails to see beyond the grave, while we, as people of faith cannot help but hope for new life.

On the other hand, we also find that Jesus, and all those who have followed him to the cross, also threaten us with resurrection. In breaking the bonds of death, Jesus threatens to take us out of our comfortable cocoons of self preservation, pulling us up out of our personal hells to experience life anew, to realize resurrection. As theologian Parker Palmer has written, “Death in various forms is sometimes comforting, while resurrection and new life can be demanding and threatening. If I lived as if resurrection were real, and allowed myself to die for the sake of new life, what might I be called upon to do? What strange and difficult tasks might be laid upon me, what comforts taken away? How might my life be changed?” – Threatening questions, if we take them seriously.

We are threatened with resurrection because we, like Peter, have our doubts. We are threatened with resurrection because we, like Peter, have our hopes.

We want so badly for this Good News to be true, but our cognitive reasoning just won’t. quite. get us there.

I know that you, sitting there in the pews, have your doubts. I do, too. I also know that you, sitting there in the pews, have within you a deep, deep longing, and can find it threatening to risk hope. I do, too.

We’ve had so many disappointments and disillusions. We’ve bought into so many empty promises that failed to deliver, that cynicism sometimes seems the safer alternative. And so we snicker and call it an idle tale.

Those who have seen the empty tomb and heard the words insist, “He is not here, he is risen.” They dare us to hope again, they threaten us as witnesses of resurrection.

In our instinctual fight or flight reflex, Peter bolts to the tomb to see for himself. His reasoning/logic/intellect just can’t believe it, but he also can’t help but hope it’s true.

The truth of the matter is that no convincing proofs, no persuasive words will ever erase all your doubts. If it is certainty we’re seeking, we’re going to have to look elsewhere – for there is absolutely nothing safe or certain, there is nothing predictable about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The resurrection simply cannot be explained. Rather, in order for the resurrection to be real, it must it must be experienced, it must be realized within you. We, too, must run to the tomb (to those places of death and decay) to witness how God can transform death into life.

I’m talking about those places of addiction or depression. Those places of oppression, selfishness, or self preservation – these can all be places threatened with resurrection. Our deathly despair and cynicism, our old patterns of destructive behavior, these too can be transformed by the power of the resurrection. These places of isolation and death will be found empty. “Through the bonds of community death is transformed into energy for life, and ultimately our losses are overcome.” (The Active Life, by Parker Palmer)

Notice how the Gospel accounts emphasize that resurrection takes place in the context of community, not in isolation. Palmer reflects on this theme of communal resurrection as he writes, “…there is no resurrection of isolated individuals. (I am) simply not concerned about private resurrections, yours or mine or (anyone’s). Each of us is resurrected only as we enter into the network of relationships called community, a network that embraces not only living persons but people who have died. Resurrection has personal significance – if we understand the person as a communal being – but it is above all a corporate, social, and political event, an event in which justice and truth and love come to fruition.”

In truth, the consequences of the resurrection are threatening, because it alters our perception of what’s possible, what’s really real. What I can perceive by sight, sound, touch, taste, and feel are not the only things that are real; but, perhaps, there is a deeper way of knowing, a deeper way of perceiving, a deeper way of living re-created in the image and likeness of God.

This deeper way of faith is what it means to dream God’s dream; to dare to hope that the hellish nightmares of this world are not an endless abyss, but that we will be awakened to a new reality – to know ourselves already resurrected.

So with our brother Jesus, with all those who have gone on before us in the communion of saints, let us join in this vigil.

Join us in this vigil

and you will know what it is to dream!

Then you will know how marvelous it is

to live threatened with Resurrection!

To dream awake,

to keep watch asleep,

to live while dying,

and to know ourselves already

resurrected!

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed. And so, too, are we.

 

The Rev’d Bradley J. Landry

St. Paul’s – San Antonio

Easter 2016

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