Easter 2: One’s own “Risen Christ” story

creation-of-man-1159966_1920John 20:19-31

A couple of years ago I was in a small group discussion with some friends, all of us church goers. The leader opened the evening by asking us to share our experience of the Risen Christ. Wow. You want to see a room get quiet fast? Ask THAT question.  No one had a word to say, me included.

No one had ever asked me that question before. Pretty amazing. I am an ordained minister. On my way to ordination I was asked all sorts of questions.  I was asked for my “call story” over and over again. But no one; no examiner, no bishop, no parish search committee ever asked for my Risen Christ story. I’m guessing I am not alone in this.

That’s an odd state of affairs given how important we say the resurrection is.

Two thoughts.

First, let’s be broad-minded when we define resurrection for ourselves. I know there are some who insist that it means a reanimation of the body, but I don’t see that in scripture. The biblical “Risen Christ” stories vary widely — from empty tomb to folded linens to angels to gardeners to people cooking on the beach to strangers walking down the road.  And then there’s Paul’s “Risen Christ” story. The variety of biblical resurrection experiences suggests that “resurrection” is less about what happened to Jesus’s body and more about something that has happened to us.

Second, our experience of the Risen Christ does not need to look like anyone else’s. Not like Mary’s or the disciples, or Thomas’ or Paul’s or some popular preacher or some famous theologian.  In fact, our Risen Christ story should NOT look like any one else’s. It comes out of our own lives. Mine came in an AA meeting.  Not everyone needs to go there!

Our story needs to come out of our experience and our lives. As one homilist Amy B. Hunter  said, “Mary can’t experience the resurrected Jesus for the disciples, and the disciples can’t experience Jesus for Thomas. Faith… holds out for one’s own experience of Jesus.”

Thomas had his own experience of the Risen Christ. It came out of his life, his need, his journey. If someone asked you about your “Risen Christ” story, what would it be?

Resurrection: does it matter? (Yes)

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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.

Happy Easter.

Christ is risen, indeed.