Kristin's Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, April 12, 2009:
First Reading: Acts 10:34-43
First Reading (Alt.): Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Second Reading (Alt.): Acts 10:34-43
Gospel: Mark 16:1-8
Gospel (Alt.): John 20:1-18
Finally we move through Holy Week to Easter Sunday. At last, our Lenten pilgrimage draws to a close.
But perhaps you still linger back at Ash Wednesday. Perhaps you find the Good Friday texts more evocative than the Easter texts. It's interesting how our emotional lives aren't always in sync with the liturgical seasons or the Lectionary.
This year might be particularly tough with so many of us out of work, and those of us who remain employed in fear of losing our jobs. This year might be the year that the anniversary of a death of a loved one falls right smack on Easter day. This year might be the year that someone we love faces a tough medical diagnosis. The world offers so many impediments to our joy.
The stories we hear during Holy Week remind us of how to move from lives that have been reduced to ash back to lives full of resurrection. This year, the Maundy Thursday story speaks to me, perhaps because I've just read Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.
She observes, as many theologians have, that the teachings of Jesus revolve around the things we do, not the things we believe. The Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed came much later in Christianity. Long before we had creeds, we had Jesus saying, "Do this. Now do this. Now do this." We are to feed the hungry, care for the sick, protect the widows and orphans. Taylor comments on the Last Supper: "With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, he did not give something to think about together when he was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do--specific ways of being together in their bodies--that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when he was no longer around to teach them himself" (43). We have "embodied sacraments of bread, wine, water, and feet" (44).
I have an atheist friend who says she envies me my belief. I argue that my beliefs come because of my practice, and that she could enter into spiritual practices, and she would be a different person in a year. She proclaims not to believe me, but she also refuses to try my experiment. Marcus Borg, in The Heart of Christianity, says "We become what we do" (192). Holy Week reminds us of what we are called to do.
We are called to break bread together, to drink wine together. We are called to invite the outcast to supper with us. We are called to care for each other's bodies--not to sexualize them or mock them or brutalize them, but to wash them tenderly. Thus fortified, we are called to announce that the Kingdom of God is breaking out among us in the world in which we live, and we are called to demand justice for the oppressed.
Of course, Holy Week reminds us of the risk. Jesus was crucified--that was a capital punishment reserved for those who were considered a threat to the state, people who would foment rebellion, for example. The world does not often respond kindly to the call for social justice.
But Easter promises us that our efforts will not be in vain. N. T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, is a great Easter text (I've underlined something on almost every page), and Wright says forcefully, " . . . what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208). We may not understand how God will transform the world. We may not be able to believe that bleakness will be defeated. But Easter shows us God's promise that death is not the final answer.
Spring reminds us that nature commits to resurrection. Easter reminds us of God's promise of resurrection. Now is the time for us to rekindle our resurrection selves.