The promise that restores our lives

Published 4:58 pm Saturday, April 7, 2012

In a previous essay for the Austin Daily Herald, I reflected on a question: Why do we call Good Friday good? An extension of my thoughts, moves to the Christian celebration many call Easter.

Based on the life, teachings, ministry, and attraction of the person of Jesus Christ, we can, I believe, see the importance of the resurrection, Jesus proclaimed as risen from the dead.

Why is this human being, among the millions of persons who have taken sustenance from a gentle earth, to be regarded as a person who “God raised from the dead? (Acts 2:24). Note that the miracle, and I shall honor the Christian tradition and call it that, was the action of God. Various explanations have been given: Not a human resuscitation parable, a rite of magic, hypnosis, a wild fantasy, witchcraft, auto-suggestion, a myth, the outcropping of fuzzy thinking, a fluke, the imagination of believers prompted by hyperactive thyroids, a story to make a point, or those rare cases in the medical arena where all “signs of life” are gone, but a wondrous response of breathing and movement commences. That we can celebrate as miraculous breakthroughs that reflect the mystery of life.

Email newsletter signup

Easter is, many would say, a once-in-a-lifetime event that establishes a positive view of all the kingdoms of the world, past and present. Through the lens of Easter, we project the transformation of all of life.

The author, Anne Lamott, has written: “How come you can hear a chord, and then another chord, and then your heart breaks wide open?”

Three chords

To guide our Easter reflection, I suggest three chords, expanding on Lamott’s experience, as a way of sensing and seeing what Easter can mean to each of us: Witness, Wonder, and Wisdom.

•One: Witness. To unscramble the various accounts of those who saw or reported on the resurrection of Jesus, is beyond my present focus. It is, I believe, the obligation of seeking persons venturing a spiritual journey, to note that the four Gospels of the New Testament have varying accounts of what happened to Jesus following his death on the cross.

I live with the conviction that the Bible reveals many divine instructions, history, patterns of life, and values to be taken seriously. The Bible is like the creeds and traditions that Christianity proclaims: Jesus is both human and divine. Parallel to that belief, is a faith statement that I affirm: The Bible is a collection of writings that is both human and divine. If the reportage on the manner, the exchanges that are made in the Gospels, lack complete agreement, we may respond to the various witnesses as they are written, acknowledging the human side of the reportage.

As Christians in a stream of lifelong learning and sharing, we may be confident, strong in conviction, that something did take place in the historical, providential time several days after the death of Jesus. It is not every single detail in the story of resurrection; it is the reality of God’s miracle to turn a burial place into a place of resurrection. We believe, because a life of one called the Savior, was put to death and now is alive, and by faith we say: “alive forevermore.”

•Two: Wonder — the beauty of changed lives. Among the various historical narratives of our country, a person can be edified by the spiritual strength seen in other persons. Our nation became home to thousands of persons who were brought to these shores, mainly from Africa, to be the “pick and shovel” men and women that would help build a country of freedom. Slaves. have you read about the Underground Railroad? have you studied the life of Thomas Jefferson and his plantation? Well, there are hundreds of stories and they tell of how multitudes of indentured servants, persons held in bondage, victims of the slave trade, were strong, sane and sincere in a sustaining faith.

Many of those persons of darker skin, lived out of an Easter faith, brimming over with choruses, songs, choirs, dances, and rituals that shouted and hummed: “Christ is Risen!”

This fact reminds me of the line by Henry Giles, “A song will outlive all sermons in the memory.”

•Three: Wisdom nurtured by hope in a positive vision. In some churches, a term is used to encourage members to find and embrace their true identity. The encouraging words are: We are Easter people.

A leader in our nation, especially in the 1920’s, was William Jennings Bryan. He was a presidential candidate and brought his convictions to conservative causes, both in government and religion. I can be thankful for his contributions in another era, but if I were present to his views, as my grandparents were, I would, no doubt, be a moderate.

Bryan’s ultra-conservative religious thought was grounded in a lively enthusiasm for the message of early Christianity. He saw and worked for the extension of the Easter message of Jesus that was empowered by a resurrection affirmation: new life! Bryan wrote what, for persons of faith, is still a conviction: “Christ has made of death a narrow starlit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow.” (Written in 1923.)

Easter faith is expressed in many forms. Numerous verses in the Bible are positive, life lived with hope within the “big picture.” The wisdom of our hearing is to note the words of Acts 11:35. “… in every nation whoever fears (has reverence) Him and acts upright, is acceptable to Him.” Brokenness, today’s sorrow, is NOT the final word.

Writings by novelists like Reynolds Price and Harper Lee, or an ordained Baptist pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr., will reveal the wisdom that sustained their lives by their belief that Jesus was/is a Living Presence.

The Epistle reading in many churches this past Sunday was Philippians 2:5-11. A reference is made to the death of Jesus on the cross and is followed by these lines: “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

— Marvin Repinski is a minister in the United Methodist Church, now retired. He is an Adjunct Professor at Riverland Community College and a volunteer for several community agencies.