- Theological Education
It’s resurrection Sunday. However, while Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, life out of death, this resurrection isn’t yet a reality for the vast majority of the world.
How can we celebrate Easter when women and children in Syria are the victims of brutal attacks? And the nations of the world debate what level of violence is appropriate to counteract their deaths?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when countries are bombarded and refugees are piling up on camps or dying trying to cross terrestrial or water borders?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when indigenous people are losing everything everywhere in the world?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when black people continue to be shot on the streets of the world, exploited and put in jail at the mercy of the state?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when agribusinesses are taking over people’s lands, privatizing lands and seeds, destroying the environment with monocultures, pesticides and producing food insecurity for millions of people?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter amidst poverty, racism, and militarism as Martin Luther King’s said at his last public speech in 1967 “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence?” Every year, MLK Jr’s speech takes more prominence and importance. (Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence)
How can we Christians celebrate Easter with undocumented people in this country? Though I am not undocumented myself, I know this community well. I was a pastor of an undocumented community and saw the hardships of workers giving their lives to the betterment of this country. For more than 8 years, deportation has been a brutal political movement destroying families and maintaining broken immigration policies. These precious people continue to be scared, shattered, abused, exploited, brutalized.
In the midst of so much death, how can we Christians celebrate Easter?
These questions can be paired with questions regarding our own sense of worship on that day. How much have we Christians replaced justice with worship, not taking one into serious relation with the other? Are we accustomed to worship in the total absence of justice? How much of our worship services are appropriations of a God who, acting in our favor, serves mostly to protect our class privileges?
Jewish theologian Marc Ellis has asked: “What if believers stop worshiping God until justice rolls down like a river?” Would such a commitment change our very sense of and urgency for justice? Is it honest to worship God and say God is good when the god that is good for us is clearly not good for the majority of the people in the world?
For the poor of this country and of the world, it is always Good Friday and Holy Saturday, always death and trauma. Far from welcoming new life every spring, instead we are caught in the cycle of post-traumatic stress disorder – wondering from where the next blow will come. The veil has been torn but the material is that of our social fabric that keeps families afloat and generations tending to the needs of the next. The working poor of the Baby Boomers are finding the survival they’ve earned from somewhat steady jobs and the collection of social security eaten up from the need to care for their children and for their children’s children. But even that level of sustenance will not be the same for future generations.
For my people, every day is a journey between Friday and Saturday with hope for Sunday. Perhaps it is this stubborn faith that keeps the poor going. Without resurrection. In many ways, they find resurrection in the midst of Friday and Saturday. Is Mary Magdalene, the one who has been called so many names, the one who can help us see resurrection better? She walks to the tomb for some reason. Why? Does she need to appease her pain? Be closer to the one she loved? She walks in the dark, when everybody might be asleep. Her love makes herself move. When she faces the empty tomb, what was desolation and loss turn into something else that places her whole self in a very different place and sends her forth to proclaim the possibility of resurrection.
Perhaps this is how the poor live. Living in the dark, walking towards something that might say and do something new to them. Moving their bodies to protect and feed those they love. They also carry the precious lives of their families. They carry the stubborn love and hope that expects nothing less than resurrection.
Perhaps Mary Magdalene is like the women today who see something else that not many people see. Like the women in our video. Perhaps all we need to do this Easter is to listen to the women. Mary Magdalene and many other women in our time are like John the Baptist, announcing something new, new forms of communal life, new possibilities to protect and empower people, the necessary call to justice with the news of love and transformation! Even life that can come out of death. As Nancy Cardoso, a theologian and Biblical scholar from Brazil says: “Resurrection, if there is one, will be in the materialities of a new world, communities of necessary revolutions the equalize people.” From Mary Magdalene we hear that there is resurrection and Jesus is alive. From the women of our times, we hear that Jesus is present, and is now living among the poor.
So, we hear the women today. Women and those who draw close to the dying are the first witnesses of the resurrection. What if we only heard the voice of women on Easter Sunday? What if men in the church listened to their witness, expecting to hear the good news of the resurrection? What if no men preached on Easter Sunday? If that happened, we might just see more clearly the hope that women of stubborn love will bring us the necessary materialities of a real world to deal with, to fight for. Real hope. Real resurrection. A resurrection filled with death.
Bible Study Questions:
1. Identify a place in your community that might be caught in the despair of Friday and Saturday without hope of resurrection. How can you engage in relationship here? How can you learn resurrection from their lives?
2. What does stubborn love look like in your life and community?
3. Do you find your church puts more resources of time, energy, and money in worship than it does in serving the poor and seeking justice? What could you do to shift the balance?
· “The Season of Easter: Imaginative Figurings for the Body of Christ,” by Cláudio Carvalhaes and Paul Galbreath. In Interpretation: A Journey of Bible and Theology. Vol. 65 (Winter 2011).
· I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body, Rubem Alves (Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2003).
Books by Rubem Alves
Books by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Books by Cláudio Carvalhaes
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