A Tangible Resurrection
In these dazzling days after Easter, we’ve had time to think about what we proclaimed with joy last Sunday: Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! God has acted, death is vanquished! The Lord is risen, indeed!
That’s a pretty wild claim, isn’t it?
I remember, looking back on Easters past, how my mother always made me a special Easter outfit. I remember the way my patent leather shoes squeaked and itchy crinoline petticoats; I remember egg hunts in the green grass and fuzzy cheeping baby chicks and sweet jelly beans and a soon-to-be sticky chocolate bunny. I remember singing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."
The Easters of my childhood were full of sensory experiences - sounds, smells and touches.
What I don’t remember is any explanation for all of this. No explanation of what chicks and jelly beans had to do with Jesus coming out of the tomb. I don’t remember conversation about what resurrection might mean to us now. As I grew older, I found that I had a lot more questions than I ever got answers for about how or why the Lord is Risen indeed.
Perhaps you’ve had this experience yourself. And if you have, don’t you wish Jesus would show up at your house one day and invite you to touch his wounds the way he did with Thomas? Because in these dazzling days after Easter, it is difficult to get our heads around such an idea as resurrection. We haven’t had the kind of encounter with Jesus that Thomas, and all the rest had with him. And so, even more than Thomas, we may have trouble understanding and believing, ourselves.
What we do understand is that when we look around the world this week, we still see devastation and death. Earthquakes and continuing racial strife. People are still shooting one another. We know that children are still dying from malaria, that people are still suffering from lack of work, and basic necessities, and lack of love.
We know that people are still receiving scary diagnoses and suffering from abuse or mental illness that isolates them from friends and family.
As much as we may deplore these things, we believe in them. We can see with our own eyes that they don’t seem to have been transformed by the resurrection. We or those we love have been touched by them and we can understand hiding behind locked doors in the face of a frightening world. And so, like Thomas, we want to touch something ourselves - in this world - so that we, too, may believe.
This is where the other part of today’s Gospel story comes in: the part where Jesus commissioned his gathered faithful ones, saying, “As the father has sent me, so now I send you,” and he breathed on them, just as God breathed life into Adam, just as God breathed life into the dry bones of Ezekiel’s valley.
The gift of the Spirit that Jesus bestows is the gift of power that inspires - breathes into - new life, not only for those gathered there but us gathered here who participate in this story thanks to both the witness of the Gospel itself and the witness of faithful people ever since. This gift, this commission, is the consequence of the resurrection, it’s the aftermath of the resurrection, and it powers the part we need to get on with.
And that part is this: we can’t touch Jesus but we can touch others. Ours is an incarnational faith. It needs to have skin on it, eyes and voices and hands and feet. Our faith needs expression through touch and smile, through food and clothing and sanctuary. Stuff you can see and feel and smell and hear. Jesus commissioned his disciples, and through the Gospel commissions us, to continue his ministry after him, tangibly.
Remember what Jesus told Martha when he came to raise Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Remember how Jesus told his disciples, “I came so that you all might have life and have it abundantly.”
Throughout his life, Jesus showed us what abundant life is like. It’s like wine overflowing at a wedding; it’s like never ending baskets of life-giving bread, and nets so full of fish that they can hardly be hauled out of the sea. It’s like breakfast on the beach after a long night of nothing; it’s like a well of living water for an abandoned woman; it’s like the restoration of sight to a blind man; it’s like giving back life to a dead man.
This is what resurrection is about - abundant life, now!
There is so much life that God wants us to have. And now, because Jesus is on earth no more, it’s up to us, and our children, and their children after that, to proclaim that abundance, and to touch others and allow them to touch us so that they and we all might experience abundant life, even in the midst of a world full of misery. Resurrection is what comes out of devastation because of love.
And this is what believing in the resurrection looks like: that we, having been forgiven and freed, are inspired to come out of our cozy and safe rooms to become part of something much larger than ourselves - to get outside of our own selves and beyond our own concerns, to look around in our community and beyond.
And to see need and meet need and become a vessel for God’s love by touching others in the midst of this broken world, bringing to others the abundant life Jesus came to give us all. Resurrection is what comes out of devastation because of love.
And so in these dazzling days after Easter, let us make the resurrection something real and tangible: something as soft as baby chicks, and warm as lambswool; something as fragrant as lilies; and bright as colored eggs and shiny as patent leather shoes; something we can hear like beautiful music and running water; something that sustains and heals like bread and wine and love.
Let us make the resurrection something real and tangible in the world again.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed!