Friday, April 11, 2014

Why I Believe in the Resurrection

As I plan for Easter, resurrection has been on my mind, particularly after reading NPR's piece on Bart Ehrman's new book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.  Ehrman is a historian who has a religious background but is now agnostic.  He is interested in the parts of religion that can be evaluated from a historical perspective.  He discredits resurrection, along with other miracles, as they cannot by proven.  He is not alone.  Along with many scholars, some progressive Christians question the validity of the resurrection story.  But there is something powerful in this gospel that keeps us hanging on, as it is the essential crux of our faith.  What is the point of Jesus' death if we can't look beyond it to the victory of "O Death, where is thy sting?"  And how do we make sense of the many deaths in our own lives without holding on to the hope of something beyond it?  After all, we see resurrection all the time, in the changing of seasons and the life cycle of a butterfly.  We see it in the way life reorganizes itself, and in the dawn that always follows the darkness.  Diana Butler Bass tells a story of visiting a liberal Episcopal church one Easter and hearing a parishoner ask the bishop, “Bishop Corrigan, do you believe in the resurrection?”, with the assumption being that surely he could not.  The bishop responded firmly and without pause, “Yes, I believe in the resurrection. I’ve seen it too many times not to.”

Don't we witness resurrection every day?

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

We all long for resurrection:

-from the winter chill and darkness that still sneak in
-from the fear of change and the fear that things will remain the same
-from our relentless work ethic that pushes us to exhaustion; that makes busyness a status symbol and rest a tool of the lazy
-from our reluctance to accept accountability and our ease at pointing blame
-from the critics that overpower the small voice telling us that we are beloved, that we are enough.

But resurrection is possible.

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

John 11:38–45

Many believed, but not all.  They were all witnesses to a something that defied explanation.  Some were moved, just as we are when we:

-see our connectedness through shared stories
-understand that hope is greater than fear, and love wins out over hate
-take a difficult step and the earth holds steady beneath us
-embrace our humanity, in all its strengths and weaknesses
-believe there is more than we can ever understand, and find that freeing

I believe in the resurrection.  I've seen it too many times not to.

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