From Sick, and You Cared For Me
“Think of what is above, not of what is on Earth.”
Don’t you often wonder why so much of human life seems so futile, so tragic, so short, so sad? If Christ has risen, and we speak so much of being risen with Christ, then why do most people experience their life as tragic more than triumphant? Why is there nonstop war? Why are there so many people unjustly imprisoned? Why are the poor oppressed? Why, even in Christian nations, is there a long history of deceit and injustice? Why do so few marriages last, even among those of us who say that we believe? Why are there so many children born with disabilities? Why do we destroy so many of our relationships? Why?
What are you up to, God? Why is there so much suffering if Christ has risen? It really doesn’t make any logical sense. Is the Resurrection something that just happened once in Jesus’s body, but not in ours? Or not in human history? When and where and how is this resurrection thing really happening? Is it only after death? Is it only in the next world? My guess is that it is both now and later, and just enough now to promise you an also infinite forever.
The Resurrection of Christ is telling us that in the Great Story Line of History, in the mind of God as it were, the Final Judgment has already happened, and it’s nothing that we need to be afraid of. Instead, the arc of history is moving toward resurrection. God’s Final Judgment is that God will have the last word, that there are no dead-ends, that our lives and human history is not going to end in a sad and tragic list of human crucifixions and natural disasters. When we look at life in its daily moments, this is almost always hard to see. We can only see in small frames. Yet over and over again, here and there, more than we suspect, a kind of cosmic hope breaks through for those who are willing to see and willing to cooperate with this universal mystery of Resurrection. I am never sure if the promise of resurrection creates an intuitive hope in us, or if people who grasp onto hope can also believe in resurrection. All I know is that both are the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
In this part of the world, Easter coincides with Spring-time. I hope that you’re noticing the leaves and the flowers being reborn after months of winter. I went out this April morning to watch the sunrise which I was told would rise at 6:30 a.m. But on the west side of the Sandia Mountain Range where I live, it takes a little longer for the sun to make an appearance. I found myself waiting, and waiting. But sure enough, at the very moment of 7:00 a.m., the sun again, as it always inevitably does, peeked over the mountains.
I thought, “You know, this is not so much like a sunrise as a groundswell coming from the Earth.” It was coming from the world in which you and I live. It was coming, not from the top, but from the bottom. It was saying, “Even all of this which looks muddy and material, even all of this which looks so ordinary and dying will be reborn.” Sunrises and springtime cannot be stopped, even when winter holds us with its desperate grip. Maybe this is why ancient people almost worshiped the seasons, and why they themselves became spiritual teachers.
This is the Feast Day of Hope. As the poet, e. e. cummings, put it, “I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth day of life and love and wings: and of the gay great happening illimitably earth.” Jesus is the stand-in for everybody. He gives history a personal, a historical, and a cosmic hope. His one life tells us where it is all heading. He is the microcosm of the whole divine and human cosmos!
This is the feast that says God will have the last word and that whatever we crucify, whatever we tragically destroy, God will undo with his eternal love and forgiveness. This feast affirms that God’s Final Judgment is Resurrection, that God will turn all that remains, all the destruction and hurt and punishment, into beauty. The word on that usually blank white banner that we see the Risen Christ carrying in Christian art is simple and clear: LOVE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH! God’s love will always win! That’s what it means to be God.
Without such hope why would you keep living and believing when you see that everything passes on and passes away? Everything is here and gone, here and gone, here and gone. If you haven’t noticed that yet, just wait a while. Everything passes. This becomes overwhelming for most people as they get older, and it is often just denied because it is so painful. Without such cosmic hope, we all become cynics. Yet the Christian promise is that God will replace everything with his immeasurable and infinite life. Jesus is the standing promise that this is the case.
What the Resurrection is saying, more than anything else, is that love is stronger than death. Jesus walked through both life and death with love, which becomes an infinite life, a participation in God himself. Surprise of surprises! This cannot be proven logically or rationally, and yet this is the mystery that we now stake our life – and our death – on: nothing dies forever, and all that has died in love will be reborn in an even larger love.
So, to be a Christian, brothers and sisters, is to be inevitably and forever a person of hope. You cannot stay in your depression. You cannot stay in your darkness because it’s only for a time. No feeling is final. It will not last. God in Christ is saying, “This is what will last – my life and my love will always and forever have the final word.”