There is little agreement regarding the spiritual or physical resurrection of Christ. We use our minds to look at the event only as a theological issue. But people often gather around a common set of values and not theological beliefs.
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus and in Easter grace. I know there are others who have doubts. But doubt brings question, and that is good. With the questioning comes listening and that opens our minds to possibilities to discover truth. It is through questioning that our beliefs are formed.
So where does my truth of the resurrection live? Searching the four gospels offers different outlooks. I prefer the gospel of Mark because it is historically first-written and passed down first through oral stories. According to Mark, near the end of that gospel, the young women did not tell anyone about Jesus meeting them in Galilee because they had their doubts. The person dressed in white inside the tomb gave instructions to tell his disciples and Peter that he was going ahead to Galilee where they would see him. They didn’t do as instructed. So their doubt and fear were perhaps greater than their belief.
Paul compares the resurrection of Christ to a seed that dies in order to bring forth grain. In 1 Corinthians 15:39, 42-44a he says:
But the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. So it is with the resurrection. It is sown in weakness and raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. Accordingly resurrection of the physical body then becomes a spiritual body.
Paul believes there is a physical body and a spiritual body in the Easter story. The question about the Easter grace more than 2,000 years later is: How do we see the resurrection story and what does it mean to us? What does Easter say to us? And what new insight can we proclaim through Easter grace?
The need for Good Friday
To get to Easter Sunday you have to visit Good Friday. Even as the story begins in death, Easter and the glory of resurrection will come. Why would we call it Good Friday when Jesus is crucified, if not for the hope of Easter rising?
Good Friday brings this notion of death. It may be the physical death of the human form of Jesus, or it may be the spiritual death in a spiritual dilemma. Either way, this physical death of Jesus leads to a transformation.
This is the true story of Easter. We can see the resurrection represents death’s transforming power of birth out of the death of the old. This brings us the hope that even though we die a physical death, we can be spiritually reborn.
We are transformed and renewed over and over again in our lifetime. We are reborn when we accept Christ, and we continue to be reborn each time we renew our covenant with Christ. When we leave home and go out into the world, we die a little bit. Sometimes we leave the pain of childhood memories, or our friends. When we move from the faith of our upbringing or a job, we realize what dying means. We leave unfilled hopes and dreams and accept failures that take life away. Following every type of change we go through, death brings a potential for resurrection.
Resurrection happens everyday. We have all seen them. We may have even experienced them. You look into the eyes of someone fighting a life-threatening illness and see a smile of renewal when their T-cell count doubles or their cancer disappears. That is resurrection.
When you see the serenity of a dying friend’s acceptance of disease and feel the changing power as they let go, that is resurrection. In every death lies the possibility for resurrection. That is the truth I see in Easter grace.
Through the suffering and death of Jesus is the faith-filled view of the suffering in the world. We see a mother watching her child die and the agony and suffering that surrounds the event as it progresses. We see tears flowing down her face, unable to understand the suffering, but keeping faith in the one who looks down on us.
The rebirth of hope
We all depart in silence and in the dark. The truth is we will all sit in the dark of our own despair. And when we can sit no longer, cry and grieve no longer, then we hear that cry of “No!” No, we are not left in the dark tomb. No, this is not where Easter ends. Easter grace ends with a resounding “Yes!”
We realize that there is a yes even after the final no to despair, after the letting go, the final good-bye, the final death — there is a “Yes.” And the future of the world sees that resounding yes. For it is on that possibility that rebirth begins. Yes, I am willing to leave. Yes, I can let go. Yes, I can live through this. Yes, I will die this death.
Jesus died on Good Friday so he could be raised on Easter Sunday. That is the mystery of resurrection. It is that rebirth of new hope and new life and new visions. Your ties to this earth bind you, but wings set you free. We want to stay bound on earth raising tomatoes when we should be helping raise Lazarus or ourselves.
Easter grace invites us to celebrate in the message of resurrection of hope. There is new life after each death. At the moment of our darkest hour of sadness over the leaving, the resurrection of new hope raises us from the depths of our sorrows. In that moment of renewal we praise that day of joy and gladness. That is what Easter grace invites us to believe.
Do I believe in Easter grace and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I do! To me it is a story of our victory over a physical death and it is the story of our spiritual renewal from despair. The resurrection happens every day. The future overcomes the past, faith wins over sadness, and the grace of the new rises above the rubbish of the old.
Be forever thankful for Easter grace, however we may see it, as it brings hope of that physical and spiritual renewal in the days ahead. As we continue to look into each day, they are the days of light and peace, joy and hope, of what Easter represents.
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Ordained in August 2006, Rev. Suzie Chamness served as Senior Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC of New Port Richey, Fla., beginning in 2009, having served as volunteer clergy for the congregational care ministry at King of Peace MCC and as chaplain at Bon Secours Maria Manor senior care facility, both in St. Petersburg, Fla. In June 2006 she earned a masters of divinity degree from the Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami, followed by a doctorate in ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary.