Two weeks ago, as so many of us gathered around tables to feast on the delicious Easter potluck, I sat down with Risher/O’Brien family to hear about the sunrise service they had been to earlier in the morning (such dedication!). Will remarked that he was struck by how every story of Jesus post-Resurrection is intimate – Jesus never just drops into the middle of the Temple, or the middle of Rome, he always appears to a smaller group of friends or supporters (Will then turned this into his own blog post).
So much of our Easter language (you can hear it especially in the songs we sing) is triumphant, conquering, militaristic. This language seems to have very little to do with the Easter stories in the Bible, and a lot more to do with Christendom, and Christianity’s relationship to war, conquest, and colonialism. Maybe another way to say this it is that Jesus tries to be intimate us, and we have been more interested in being intimate with Empire.
Since this was my first Easter as a Pastor, I had a personal sense of triumph that morning. This calling that I’ve been trying to follow since I was sixteen is coming true! I did it! I’m an Associate Pastor, and it’s Easter!
Except, of course, that I didn’t do it, God did. I feel so blessed that GMC took a leap of faith on a non-seminary-trained young guy to be an Associate Pastor. And getting the job isn’t the point, the point is that we will do the work of being church together, every day.
I can’t help thinking of where I was this time last year. Easter 2015 was the last day I spent in Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I joined members of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, climbing up the Mount of Olives to watch the sun over the hills from Jordan, celebrating Christ’s resurrection breaking into our lives on the physical mount where it happened. As a last memory, before I was banned from the country when I attempted to return once month later, I could not be happier.
For Palestinian Christians, the promise of Resurrection must always seem incomplete. The Mount of Olives is in East Jerusalem, site of constant Israeli military incursions and settlement expansion, maybe a mile from heavy Israeli military presence in Jerusalem’s Old City. Every year on Palm Sunday, the march into Jerusalem is reenacted by Palestinian Christians under the eye of heavily armed Israeli forces, and under constant threat of violent attack by far-right Israeli citizens. In Jerusalem today, this season is celebrated under circumstances disturbingly similar to what Jesus must have seen – military occupation, daily violence, and land theft.
There is very little that is triumphant about this form of the resurrection, or at least it is a triumph that looks surprisingly different from military conquest. It is an intimate and incomplete resurrection, one that requires ongoing relationship. It is a resurrection that Palestinians make real every day in acts of survival, resistance, and celebration. And it is a resurrection that we make real every day in our own lives.
I appreciated those thoughts on the non-triumphant resurrection from the Risher/O’Brien family, even though they made me uncomfortable with most of the hymns we sang this Sunday. They called me out of my personal triumphalism, and out of the assumption that the resurrection is complete, that we have it under lock and key. The intimate, surprising Jesus will continue to be resurrected in our life together as a church community. Now that is a happy Easter!
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