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.
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?