Sohaniís GrandpaEaster. Time for my inner cynic to shut up and stifle the hesitations and qualifications which inevitably arise in the mind and heart of anyone who dares to divine eternity.
Time to become a child again. (Didnít someone say that route, becoming a child, was the Kingís Highway?) Wondering. Believing. Hoping.
In this second millennia not a few learned Christian theologians choose reason over revelation as they look into the empty tomb. They readily agree that something very dramatic and unusual happened in the days following the Crucifixion; out of which arose a certainty that enabled the small band of believers to survive and flourish in a way no other religious movement, among the many of them in that same moment, managed. But that Thomas actually probed Jesusí nail wounds or Mary conversed with the Lord as gardener, sure, and John Henry drove spikes into railroad ties faster than a machine. Logical positivism trumps tradition.
When faced with those enamored of a scientific point of view about Easter, I have been heard to repeat (with emphasis on the last verse) the claim of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:
12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christówhom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.18Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
In short, no resurrection, no Easter, and Bill Maher can fairly lump together as fantasy the Mormon story of golden tablets found in a field in Palmyra NY and the rolled stone and empty tomb of Easter.
Consider Godís problem with those of us with a scientific predisposition, according to which there really isnít any new thing under the sun. What is is what was. No one who dies, truly dies, comes back to life. Lazarus, the synagogue leaderís daughter, the Shunammite woman's son Elisha revives, you name the redivivus and thereís probably another natural explanation. That is, if Jesus does indeed walk alive out of the empty tomb we couldnít, on the basis of our own rock solid scientific assumptions, believe it. ďInvincible ignoranceĒ Iíve heard it named in a totally different context.
But thatís the joyful news of Easter in a dying world: that he who died lives.
Please understand, the Gospel isnít celebrating an Easter dawn that is mere survival. Or more time. Or more life. As if the empty tomb somehow proves our own immortality. It doesnít. The lilies, the alleluias, the sheer joy of it (even the bunnies and, once upon a time, the outlandish hats) give tribute to a particular life, lived in a particular way, and it is that life, in all of its particularity, that is eternal. The one Jesus lived and died and was, by God, raised.
Take the Beatitudes for starters in listing the particulars of this particular life: humility; kindness; generosity; a sympathetic and peaceable spirit; a willingness to stand up for justice, and not just for yourself, for others; honesty; courage; persistence in the face of adversity... you get the idea, the hallmarks of that wandering preacher in Galilee a couple of thousand years ago. Live like that and death dies. Or as the catechism I prepared years and years ago for a few generations of confirmands would have it: the divinity of Christ lies in the completeness of his love for God equaled only by the fullness of his love for us.
Thatís who, thatís what, rises on Easter.
At Boy Scout camp long ago I learned to sing the song (there are, I discover on Google, scores of variations), ďYoung folks, old folks, everybody come. Come to the meetinghouse and have a lot of fun. Park your checks and chewing gum and raisins at the door, And youíll hear some Bible stories you never heard before.Ē It could be my theme song this Sunday, Easter Sunday. Updated and personalized, of course. What Iím going to leave at the door is my mindís nagging companion, by name of Rene Descartes (ask me someday about him) and all he signifies about modernity . Iím going to look and listen like our youngest grandchild, Sohani (ďbeautiful child of GodĒ in Urdu). Iím going to hope against hope that earthbound as I am I may reach for and grasp a wisp of eternity.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.