Sunday, 31 March 2013

He is risen? I'm confused

I remember when I first started going to church in my early twenties and I decided to visit the church where I had been baptised as a baby on what happened to be Easter Sunday. I entered the church and all the lights were turned off. After navigating the whole 'this is my pew' minefield I sat down somewhere unoccupied and waited for the service to begin.

The vicar processed in and lead the congregation, whom I followed behind dutifully, outside of the church where the he lit a candle and said 'He is risen!' to which everyone replied 'He is risen indeed!' I look around the garden, wondering if I had missed something and half expecting to see the risen Jesus amongst the shrubbery. That service left me utterly baffled as a church newbie and I can quite understand how all the pronouncements of 'He is risen' leaves much of the population equally baffled today.

The thing about the resurrection is that it all sounds rather barmy. We all know people don't rise from the dead so it must be a fairy story, right? Well for me, no. It's become the most important story I've ever heard. I'll say it once again, I am no theologian, but these are the thoughts that I bring to Easter Sunday and how I have made sense of 'He is risen' for myself.
Day 40 - The final of the Lent Photo Diary. Light breaks in.

I studied Biology as an undergraduate and, perhaps rather oddly given most people's idea of science and religion as utterly divided, it really set me up for eventually developing a belief in God. In what I saw in the natural world resurrection made perfect sense. The natural world is full of examples of things needing to die to truly come to life. Many Mediterranean ecosystems require fire to release health, vitality and new life into the plant life. The land looks utterly destroyed but the fire sets long dormant seeds into action and it springs back stronger than before. There is something irrepressible about life that I learned about while studying Biology. It is constantly evolving, constantly finding a way. I never found the Easter story to be that far from what I was seeing around me.

The disciples

The second reason I believe in the resurrection is the story of the early disciples and it grows more and more as I study the history of Christianity. Those early days were just remarkable. In the first instance the disciples of Jesus fled the scene and yet within a few weeks they were wandering the land telling a very peculiar story about Jesus having risen from the dead. Lots of reasons have been given for what might have lead to this intense and fast emerging movement. Perhaps they were just unwilling to let the whole movement go after Jesus died, perhaps they had a mass delusion.
The question is, if created, where did such a strange belief emerge from? There had been plenty of 'Messiahs' before who has been dispatched and whose followers simply moved on and found a new person to follow. In the Jewish context and religion into which Jesus came people were certainly anticipating a Messiah but not one that would suffer and die and certainly not one that would rise from the dead. It seems a strange belief to create and to have emerged as quickly as it did.

When it did emerged it raised A LOT of conflict. Nearly all of the first disciples were executed for the claims they made about Jesus. That seems an awfully long way to go for something you cooked up together from nothing rather than simply finding another 'Messiah-to-be' on which to pin your hopes.


My last reason comes from my own experience of living a resurrection life through this maddening and wonderful faith I've found. Through it I have found joy, purpose and a depth of life that I never imagined let alone thought possible. The Apostle Paul in one of his letters writes of the resurrection, 'Where, O Death, is your sting?' In my life this isn't just a nice thought, it is a reality that allows me to face up to the darkest places with the firmest hope. The resurrection is utterly central for me and at the heart of everything I believe and do.

So that's my resurrection story and what it means to me, I hope it adds some thoughts into your own mix.

Wishing you a very Happy Easter for you and yours.

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