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What a magical day and amazing event! thanks to everyone who joined us for our largest and most successful Easter Sunday yet. After two sell-out brunches, we held an intimate Baptism Service back at our temporary meeting place, The Table. We had many people ask if there would be a video or transcript of the Easter Sermon. We have included both below in this blog post. Please feel free to share and use however it can be helpful to others.
What do we do with these resurrection stories about Jesus appearing miraculously after death as an unrecognizable gardener, an unrecognizable traveler, an unrecognizable brunch host. I think we can agree the brunch with friends story is the best Easter story - which places it high in the running for best bible story. But what do we do with these stories that inspire us but lack explanation?
We let them.
Easter is not a day for explanation, but for participation. Cuz, our concern with Easter today isn’t objective - what happened and how? But subjective - what does it mean for us, do to us, ask of us? We’re not invited to stand apart from it and consider it, but to be swept up in it.
Cuz we can try to keep Easter as an objective event or idea, as something other than us, but in these stories they don’t debate resurrection. It arrives to them, walks with them, speaks their name, shares a meal. This is the experience of resurrection. Not explanation, but participation...
So let’s try this…
Bring to mind some experience you’ve had of positive change:
Lemme give you some examples:
Couch to 5K
Putting a band together
Reaching a goal
Starting a team, completing a project,
Now, for how many of you was that positive change easy? Me either.
For how many of you, were you the same exact person on the other side of that change as you were when you started? Me either.
How many of you, did this change cost something, demand serious sacrifice, feel at times like it might take everything you had, like you were giving your life to it? Me too.
I don’t want to spend much time explaining resurrection because I am convinced that most of us have already experienced it.
Jesus of Nazareth is this powerful particular example of the universal truth, that dying and rising is not the exception but the rule. Dying and rising is how reality works. Dying and rising is what the universe has been doing for 13.8 billion years. Stars die and new worlds are born. The sun gives its life away in order to make us alive. Dying and rising is what the natural world does, which is why Easter is when it is, because Christianity borrows from the Pagan world the most obvious image of dying and rising, springtime.
The reaffirmation of life, light, warmth, the bloom and blossom; what we’ve been waiting for, a sign of life, rebirth, fertility. That what was dead, in the ground, under the cold dark frozen soil, might return alive. Not as before. But wondrously alive.
Richard Rohr puts it this way, “Resurrection is another name for positive change.” And he says, “Most of the time we only see this in the long run, cuz in the short run it just feels like death.”
But as with the universe and in the earth, and with people, plants and animals, this death is the engine of life. And you already know this! Cuz whether you’re Keto, Paleo, vegetarian or vegan, most of the things on that buffet line, and half garnishes in your strong drinks, had to die in order to bring you life! Calories, nutrients, their energy becomes your energy. Their life becomes your life… through their death...
And here’s the trip, ok? Death & resurrection is Christianity's version of the yin and yang in eastern religions. They are not opposites, they are not enemies, this is not a cosmic battle between light and dark, good and evil, death and life. Rather it is the balance of life and death, in and through which we experience the oneness of all that is, through which all change happens, and through which we can choose to practice positive change.
Like with your examples of positive change, very often it’s the death, the loss, the struggle, pain and adversity that pushes us to adapt. And maybe that’s another name for dying and rising
Especially when we bring this from the universal back to the particularity of your life, from the objective beliefs ABOUT resurrection to your subjective experience of it; You don’t need to be religious. You don’t need to use the word “resurrection” - it’s another name for this positive change. You don’t have use the word “Christianity” - it’s another name for this way of life that tries to practice positive change on purpose, to practice dying and rising with some intention.
And listen, for some of us, some huge numbers of us who identify with no religious affiliation or who are simply done with religion, some of us didn’t experience this resurrection in church. Our dying and rising came through yoga, our resurrection came through music, our positive change came through dance, cooking, starting a business or a family, our dying and rising came through recovery, resurrection came through parenting, dying and rising came through running, Crossfit, walk nature, sit beach, meditation. The point is, whatever prayer, practice, ritual or sacrament, as irreligious as it may seem - is whatever lets you move with the dying and rising rhythms of reality
When it comes to you, this positive change that is true of the universe - of stars and worlds, that is true of nature - of seeds, soil and seasons. This is true of the evolution of yourself. And you can choose to participate in this kind of resurrection.
We sometimes call this personal growth, maturity, personal development. In the church we call this spiritual growth or spiritual practice. The point is, who you are is always dying and rising into who you’re becoming,
And what the Jesus story illustrates so powerfully, far more than the supposed magic trick of reanimating cadavers, the life and teachings of Jesus the healer, mystic, friend, political activist. What it shows us is that when we do this on purpose: die to the self, hold our life loosely, surrender our attachments, let go of pride and ego and sink into humility and self giving love; If we can unsee that which separates us from one another and from all things. We could experience the God we know best by the name of love.
And we might rise into such beautiful creatures that some will say of us, “it’s a miracle”. And like in the resurrection stories, some of our closest friends won’t even recognize us. And perhaps like Jesus, as we live this life of resurrection, we’ll be drawn not to preach about it, not to found new religions on it, not to draw legalistic boundaries around it, nor require beliefs in it. Instead, we’ll be drawn to share meals with beloved friends and strangers, practicing the dying and rising that makes us most alive.
Modern mystics, Cynthia Bourgeault says it like this, “In the common understanding, Christianity has tended to view the resurrection as Jesus triumph over physical death. But for Christians in the wisdom tradition, its meaning lies in something far deeper than merely the resuscitation of a corpse. Jesus’s real purpose in this was to wager his own life against his core conviction that love is stronger than death, and that the laying down of self which is the essence of this love leads not to death, but to life.”
And the most beautiful part of how this universal resurrection becomes particular to you and me, is that its deepest experience is found in community. When we as the body of Christ - the community of resurrection - like Jesus on the road - walk together, talk together, share together, stop to have a meal together. When we set eucharistic tables that evoke not just the memory but the rehearsal of what matters most; What Jesus reminds us of as he prepares to die, “This command I leave you, love one another....”. When we empower one another to do the good work we’re already doing. When we ask each other these great questions like, “who are you?” Even though we already know. When we forgive one another, heal one another, ask for, give and receive freely our love for eachother.
This is how Jesus practices resurrection. He never once tries to explain it or defend it. He never once tries to codify it, credalize it, confine it to a theology or an orthodoxy. He doesn’t tell his followers to martyr themselves and follow him into some glorious afterlife. Cuz his assumption is that they can, and are, and should experience resurrection - dying and rising - right now, in the lives they’re already living. He says to his friends, “I was dead, I am alive.” let's have brunch.
what if the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, is the same spirit that has been raising the universe to life for 13.8 billion years, Is the same spirit that has been raising winter to spring every year for as long as we’ve had words to name that wonder, and is the same spirit able to use a brunch and a band and a community of belonging to raise even we who live, from death to life.
If we’re to take these resurrection stories seriously, this is how we’re invited to follow Jesus’ example of resurrection done right. So,refill your beverage, pick your plate clean, grab some dessert if there’s any left, and let’s practice resurrection around these tables. Let’s ask each other, not what do we think or believe about resurrection, but how excited and creative and inspired can we get about how we practice resurrection - the dying and rising that moves us toward positive change?
This is where the Easter work gets done and this story becomes alive again in us.
Amen! Happy Easter
We are a misfit faith community that gathers in DeLand on Sundays at 5pm. Come as you are.
We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.