Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Opposite of Resignation

5 April 2015 (Year B)

Mark 16:1-8

            What is the opposite of resurrection?

            For a long time, I assumed death was the opposite of resurrection. It seems fairly clear- someone was dead, now they’re now… (ta-da!) resurrection! Yet the more I grieve people who have gone to their rest- Pastor John, Les, Inger, Sandy, and other- the more I rely on the truth that they are resting in God’s eternal light… the more that I hope that  the world can still change, that peace is still possible, that justice will rule, that love will win…

            The more I ponder all these things… the more I come to realize that death is not the opposite of resurrection. Resurrection incorporates wholeness, renewal, breath, movement, liveliness, forgiveness, grace, and hope. The opposite of resurrection, then, would necessarily be about brokenness, sameness, stagnancy, dullness, listlessness, hardened hearts, resentment, and despair. That’s not death. That’s resignation- believing there no change is possible. Resignation is the opposite of resurrection.

            Resignation is what the women felt as they trudged out from Jerusalem to the place of the tombs. Resignation is what they felt as they gathered their spices and ointments, quietly the day before. Resignation is the look they saw in each other’s eyes as they met each other on the road- Mary Magdalene, Salome, and the other Mary. Resignation is the sound of their sandals in the dust. Re-signed. Re-signed. He is dead. He is dead. Re-signed. Re-signed. We had hoped. We had hoped.

            Resignation is the opposite of resurrection. If death were the opposite, they would have left the tomb, rejoicing. We thought A, but now B is true! Instead, they leave in confusion and fear. Do they dare to hope? What does it mean? Why did this happen? How?

            Resignation is a habit. It comes from days, months, and years of the same stories, the same oppression, the same fights, the same fears, the same lies. Habits are hard to break. Thus, the women leave the tomb- spices and ointments still in their hands- wondering, “What do we do now?” The habit of a lifetime does not change in an instant.
            Resignation is our habit as well. Many of you may have worked through Lent to try to instill new habits in your life- stopping something that was unhelpful, taking up something that was needed in your life. Forty days is a hard slog, but new habits take work. We have to wear them- learn them with our muscle memory, our reach and grasp, our head and our hearts. No matter how well your Lenten discipline worked out (if you had one), the season of Easter provides a chance to embrace a new habit.

            Resurrection is a habit. Resurrection thoughts, resurrection hopes, resurrection actions are habits. They cannot exist in the same space with resignation. Thus, on this day, on this day of forgiveness, of new life, of realized hope, of daring to dream… on this day we begin the setting aside of all our resignations.

            We are not resigned to physical death being the end of life. We are not resigned to religious terrorism having a permanent place in the world. We are not resigned to the idea that our jails must be full. We are not resigned to inequality and inequity between different races. We are not resigned to rejection and exclusion of sexual minorities. We are not resigned to the fading away of creation. We are not resigned to Jerusalem as a city torn apart. We are not resigned to rape and incest being the fault of the victims. We are not resigned to political systems ruled by money and power. We are not resigned to believing nothing will ever change.

            Either the death of Jesus Christ- as a blasphemer and political prisoner- and God’s raising him from the dead as the ultimate trump to the powers of this world means something or it doesn’t. If it meant something then, then it means now as much as it ever did.

            We cannot be resigned to the idea that the very life blood of Jesus was shed so that we could ignore our neighbors and the situations close by us and focus on the sweet by-and-by or what comes next. The empty tomb echoes back to us the sighs of resignation. It echoes them back until we realization that hollow sound is not our answer. And it cannot be our habit.

            We are Easter people. We are people who have been saved from the fear of death, from the fear of separation from the love of God, from the fear of being unable to be good enough for anything. We are people who have been loved enough to die for. That knowledge sets fire to the edges of resignation and out of those ashes is born our new habit- resurrection.

            The women walked away from the tomb, silent, confused, afraid. They did not tell anyone. Ever? Somehow the news got out. They had to work on their new habit- the habit of resurrection. The habit of saying “He lives”. The habit of saying “God is greater”. The habit of saying “We believe”. The habit of saying “We have seen the Lord”. The habit of telling what they knew to be true about God in the world- no matter how anything looked. They had to live into the power of the resurrection habit… a week, two weeks, 30 days, 50 days… and so on.

            Easter is a season, not just a day. It goes on even longer than Lent. It goes on because we need the time to develop the resurrection habit and to see how it shapes our lives. A resurrection habit says a prayer of hope in the face of a depressing news story. A resurrection habit offers to have coffee with someone who has a different political opinion. A resurrection habit takes a short walk, even with great effort, because that’s the path to healing. A resurrection habit picks up the phone and calls a long-time acquaintance. A resurrection habit forgives, loves, hopes, trusts, and keeps moving forward.

            The women at the tomb were resigned to bodies staying dead, being unsure if Jesus was the Messiah for whom they had hoped. They were resigned to Roman oppression, to inter-religious fighting, and to wondering if God would ever act in the world in the way God had done in the time of their ancestors. Slowly, they developed the resurrection habit and all they knew, all they experienced, all they trusted was transformed. Through that, so was the world transformed as more and more people came to know the story of Jesus and to walk the Way, in the habit of resurrection.

            Grace is true. God reigns. Christ lives. The Spirit moves. Nothing is outside of God’s power to transform, to heal, to redeem, to forgive, to restore. The Easter truth is not just a platitude, something nice to say. It is something that we live into- developing our spiritual muscles, voices, and abilities. The Easter truth, the reality of resurrection, is to be the habit of people of faith in Christ. We are not resigned to fear, to despair, or to stagnation. 

The opposite of resignation is…resurrection. This I believe. 

The opposite of resignation is…resurrectionThis is our habit.



Unknown said...

Powerful concept!

Unknown said...

I am Easter People. Forty days is a hard slog, but new habits take work. Thank you, Pastor Julia.