Not finished with Easter

April 20, 2009

We postmodern people are always trying to move on to the next project
goal or big idea. We check items off of our to-do lists—or even our "bucket lists"—and
then we're on to the next experience. This habit of mind does little to
help us engage the depths of the Christian tradition, and nowhere is
this more true than in the lections for this Sunday.

Easter was
and is about the resurrection, and many North American worshipers seem
to assume that now that this has been accomplished, it's time to move on
to the next thing—the next denominational priority or the next
controversy gaining traction in the 24-hour news cycle. It's
counterintuitive to go back to the resurrection—yet there are unfinished
implications.

In Acts 3, Peter gives a speech (his second).
Having healed a crippled beggar, he senses a teachable moment and speaks
to the Israelite leaders. He names their culpability in Jesus' death,
but his purpose is their repentance and restoration to God (verse 19).
The passage requires sensitivity; it has a history of being used for
antisemitic purposes. But our default response should not be to ignore
this text. Rowan Williams's reflection on it is helpful: the risen Lord is proclaimed first to his enemies.

Biblical
scholars distinguish between static and dynamic readings of scripture. A
static reading would see Christians as the gentiles who "get it" and
Israel as the community that does not get it but is openly resistant.
(Note Stephen's fate.) In contrast, a dynamic reading is more confessional: we
are the ones who resist the gospel, who neglect the voices of the
prophets, who have forgotten that the Messiah's vocation is suffering.
We are the ones who need to repent.

The epistle lesson again
requires us to move past the obvious inference that the "children of
God" are good and everyone else is bad. God's children do not always
live as children of the light. We are resurrection people, but in many
ways we continue to live in the darkness of the tomb. What was John
saying to his community in this epistle? Why the emphatic line of purity
and morality between the people of God and the outsider? Where is this
true today, and where is this contested? Perhaps a modest way forward is
to say that we are living into our identities as resurrection people,
as children who walk in the light.

This week's Gospel, like last week's,
is an appearance story. The risen Lord shows his hands and feet to the
disciples, and asks for something to eat. The text is marvelous in its
specificity (they remember that the meal included broiled fish!) and
materiality ("a ghost does not have flesh and bones"). Along with
serving as a witness to the resurrection, the text grounds its community
of readers in this world: they will eat meals together, they will
suffer as the Messiah suffered, they will forgive one another. All that
has happened is continuous with the law, the prophets and the psalms.

The
Sundays after Easter connect the resurrection with all that came before
it, especially the Hebrew scriptures. We reflect on our own resistance
to the gospel and consider how we, as children of the light, bear
witness to God's love—or fail to. We consider the material implications
of the gospel: the body of Christ, even now, is not a ghost but the real
presence of God. We are not finished with Easter yet.

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