When did it happen?

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When did it happen? Did he wake up in the middle of the night like an old man who has to pee and step outside his cave scratching to see through half open eyes the full moon lonely above him? Or did he become a kind of night light, himself, the dead cells of his bio body switching one by one into something more serene, already gleaming before the dawn outside arrived? Did angels see it happen or were they sleeping, too? Did a band of rebels break in to steal him so rumors could foment? Was it a surprise, even to him, the way abandonment had been surprising, too? Was there urgency? Relief? Was it like the way you wake up on a day with nothing scheduled? The story doesn’t say. The story only shows a hole where the body had been, a real absence staring back into the one these three women had already been walking around with in their hearts for three days, a gap in the expected, attended by a young man dressed in white. Any renaissance painter worth his salt has offered his own suggestions to fill it in. Piero della Francesca’s resurrected Jesus stands with one foot in the grave, one out, like a miner on his break. Paolo Veronese’s pirouettes from death while scattering a choir of soldiers to the ground. But these are not the kind of details which matter to our author. He only has the young man dressed in white tell the women that the one whom they are looking for is not there, that he is where he always said he would be: raised from death and gone ahead of them. The first women to receive this news do not know when it happened. Or how. Or even what it means. Their evidence is an absence. Their guide is trust. The one who was God with them always said it would turn out this way. Now they’re left to believe him or not. It’s the same for us. He is not here. And you get the same thing they did: a young man -youngish- dressed in white telling you that it all went down the way he said it would. That violent death was inevitable for someone like him in a world like ours and that death is not the end. Death died with him. He is raised. I do not know when or how or even why. There is no intellectual trick to trust. There is no clever story to tell or convincing argument to make. It is, however, easier to trust what one knows. The women knew Jesus intimately. I have a few friends whom I love so dearly and who seem so clearly close to the heart of God that sometimes I imagine them telling me that they cannot be contained by death, either. We know Christ communally. We’ve meet the incarnate heart of love here regularly. We’ve know Christ in the wounds and resilience of those of us who have faced sickness and addiction and divorce this year. We’ve know Christ in the honesty of those facing death. We’ve know Christ in the insistence of those who call our societal bluffs and greed. We know Christ as the one we’re always speaking with about our fear and singing to with our joy. We have learned to see Christ in the stranger who shows us pain bigger than we know how to fix and grace more rich than we could have imagined partaking in. We know what Christ Jesus said about life and death. So when did it happen? The better question may be when does it happen still? I, for one, would not know faith in God’s power for resurrection if you weren’t here to proclaim it now. Our experience to trust or leave is the steady repetition of this strange faith back and forth to one another through the centuries, a question of whether we can look into the absence and see life, an answer that beyond all reason we have. It happens in hymns which reach for the impossible with a language only the heart can understand. In happens in whispered confidence that love will have the final say. It happens every time we answer the acclamation of our faith, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!”

Easter Day — April 1st, 2018 — the Rev. James Joiner from Christopher Craun on Vimeo.

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