Resurrection is an absolutely terrific theological idea. It's a God thing, though not unique to Christianity, nor particularly historical at all. The meaning is simple: God brings life out of death of any kind. It’s a spiritual phenomenon, a mystery of course, but so what? You can choose to hope in resurrection, or not. You can choose to believe in God, or not. So far there ain’t no proof.
Although.......I will say that, from biblical times and all through history, there has been a ceaseless flow of witnesses to resurrection power.
I choose to put faith in this mysterious energy I call God, and because I do, I tend to look for resurrective happenings everywhere at any time. I figure that’s my spiritual vocation.
Just today I got an Easter card on line. It featured a beautiful song, sung by the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. The song lyrics come from an A.E. Hausman poem, “The Lent Lily.” Tradition has it that the daffodil’s yellow trumpet opens on Ash Wednesday and dies on Easter day. The last stanzas of “The Lent Lily” go like this:
And since till girls go maying
you find the primrose still,
And you find the windflower playing
With every wind at will
But not the daffodil.
Bring baskets now, and sally
Upon the spring’s array
And bear from hill and valley
The daffodil away
That dies on Easter Day
I already knew daffodils did not last very long. A week ago my husband brought some home for our indoor easter garden. They sat bright and beautiful in a vase, trumpeting the good news of spring. Slowly and surely, they wilted— much faster than the tulips. On Easter day they went to compost.
Resurrection is a daffodil, brief and fleeting and life-giving—like Easter. The only way to keep the brilliant hope of resurrection alive is to watch for it to come in small fragile doses and let it lodge in your heart as hope—springing eternal of course.
I observed one such resurrective happening at our parish where adults and children were rehearsing for the Easter liturgies. Everyone was stressed, just trying to follow all the complicated instructions about who followed whom and what was read when.
It was time to practice the readings. A young boy, ten or so, was practicing his reading for the Easter Vigil liturgy. He is an earnest soul, smart and full of life, plus drop dead handsome. As he read from the Bible he stood on a pew kneeler in order to reach the high pulpit. He wanted to see and be seen. He read perfectly, until he came to one place and stopped cold.
“There’s a mistake here,” he said, pointing to the text, which was a reading from the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel, about God’s promise to give us all new hearts and new spirits and to enjoin us, once again, to follow God’s ordinances and statutes.
“See here,” the boy pointed. “There’s an extra T in this word. It’s supposed to be statue.”
No one laughed. This day the boy learned a new word and those few of us present felt resurrected.
P.S. People have sent me poems, YouTube renderings, and simple opinionations about resurrection. I conclude that resurrection is still a hot topic, one we care about enough to deny, affirm, or discern over and over. That is good. Theology evolves like history and here is what I, and I’m not alone in this thought, feel sure happened after Jesus died: his Jewish brothers and sisters, fans and followers were radically disillusioned by their own theology. It was insufficient.
They could not let it rest given the teachings of Jesus about his idea of God as love and their own experience of this kind of love in their lives. They shared memories, stories and perceptions. Together they discerned a new theological direction, a new idea about their one God: that crucifixion and other violent acts are not divinely engineered or inspired as they had thought; and further, that divinely inspired acts are resurrective not destructive — always.
Christians are not in agreement about this, but I suspect that a new theology is emerging, one that will allow God to be “love alone all loves excelling” as the hymn line says. And perhaps humanity will finally accept that we are beloved of God, and that we too will be resurrected, daily and after our biological death. In meantime, it is our calling to notice and create, where we can, resurrective acts, and to live embodied lives of compassion, peace and justice toward all living things.