I heard a great Easter Sunday sermon this morning given by The Rev. Mark Jenkins. Hopefully, it will be posted here at some point, on the Sermons at St. James (Keene, NH) Facebook page.
Last week I finished reading Markus Vinzent’s “Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity” (Ashgate 2013) so I have been thinking alot about resurrection. According to Vinzent, early Christianity (to 140 CE) didn’t much care about Christ’s resurrection. Vinzent says that it only became an important part of the Jesus story around 140 CE, after Marcion “re-discovered” the letters of Paul. The Resurrection was very important to Paul: his claim to apostolic authority hinged on his having been commissioned by the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus. No resurrection? For Paul, no commission and no authority vis a vis Peter et al. Once Paul and the Resurrection are revitalized by Marcion around 140 CE, everyone (the early church fathers) start arguing about it. Pre-canonical “gospels” were written or revised to include resurrection accounts that attempt to “correct” Marcion’s version of the resurrection, and “epistles” are written (some of which become canonical) which modify or otherwise moderate Paul.
I have no academically worthy opinion on Vinzent’s thesis, but I found it plausible enough to wonder: If the resurrection did not matter for the earliest Christians, should it matter for us and if so, how?
First, I needed to be clear about what I thought resurrection was. For me, it is not the reanimation of Jesus’ several-days-dead body. It is not much about Jesus at all. It is about the disciples, (and later, about Paul) and the God-revealing and reanimating experiences that they had. And that hopefully we have from time to time.
Second, I have no idea what resurrection opinions are held by those persons, past and present, whose life and witness inspires me to continue to try to live a Christian life. I’ll bet they all have different opinions. I surmise that no single opinion or understanding seems any more or less likely to produce a faithful or inspiring Christian.
Third, I suspect that the idea of resurrection makes NO difference and the idea of resurrection does NOT matter. What matters is the testimony of those who know the experience first-hand, who have had an Emmaus moment — the feeling that God has been in their presence in a recognizable and transformative way. That matters, and that makes a difference. That is worth spending the season of Lent preparing for. It is worth celebrating with trumpet and flowers on Easter Sunday morning, and it is wondrous thing to dwell in for the next 50 days.
Here is a link to a 2013 essay by The Rev. David R. Henson who writes much more eloquently than I.
Christ is risen, indeed.