The Rev. Scott Murray
Resurrection is a practice, not a belief
Years ago, during one of my college classes, somehow the discussion got onto the subject of infant baptism. You know, should only adults who have made a "decision" be baptized into the faith, or can parents and god parents stand in for the child or infant for his or her entrance into the church. Someone asked the professor if he believed in infant baptism. "Believe in it? By God, I've actually seen it!"
After the first generation of Jesus' followers had gone to their reward, there was no one left in the church who could say this as well, in terms of begin witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. "Believe in it? I've actualy seen it!" And yet the church grew. Having actually seen or witnessed the resurrection was not deal breaker, so to say, for being a Christian. Why, even the Paul, numbered among the Apostles, was not a eye-witness that immediate post Easter Jesus.
What does seem to be of utmost importance was that the experience of resurrection continued. It continues and we have participated in it and will continue to participate in it. And I'm not just talking about our yearly celebration of Easter.
Resurrection is not an article of our faith, something we check off (which is what many understand the Nicene Creed to be-a check list… We believe in one God, check. And in JC his only Son, check. Resurrection, check. List done) However, resurrection, I have found, is at it's deepest a spiritual practice. Like prayer, scripture study, and contemplation, resurrection can be a practice, an exercise to experience the presence of God.
How do we do this? The key is in the requirement for resurrection. What is needed for resurrection? A dead body. And a life giver. Out of death God gives life. And needn't be a physical death. And it doesn't always need to be God who is the life giver. Perhaps Jesus' own words will help explain better.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son (also known as the Forgiving Father), you may recall the son has become stuck in a far land, inheritance squandered and spent, reduced to feeding pigs and wishing he could eat even that which he was giving them. This is his death. His way of living has reached the end. I give up. I'm dead. While preparing his funeral speech (I am not worthy.. yadda yadda), he imagines what resurrection will be like (better than now, but not like before, once a son/ now ahired hand), and heads home. And we recall how he was received. His prepared speech falls on his father's deaf ears. Hired hand? No way. Rings, best clothes, a party! In his wildest imaginings, his resurrection wasn't like this. His father, through that forgiveness, resurrects his son.
You see, the practice of resurrection, for me, is wrapped up with forgiving and being forgiven. The two acts balance each other, just like dying and resurrecting. Why forgiveness? At the deepest level, forgiveness is dying to one's self. You give up your need to be right/righteous (which hurts and sometimes seems like it is killing us) so when you forgive, your big ego dies a bit and gets a little smaller. And then that death becomes the power to give life to the person to whom you forgive. You participate in his or her resurrection. Isn't that great!
Final postcard. Two small points to ponder later on this week. When you seek forgiveness or resurrection, do you make plans on how it will play out. 'It's going to happen like this'. What would happen if you let go of that? You may find the actual experience far grander than you can imagine. And from the other side, when you forgive, don't be stingy, forgiving with reservations, or alittle at a time. Did the forgiving father put the son in the barn first to see how things work out? No, he went all out in welcoming his son back,. Forgive like it is the only thing in the world you want to do. Hand out the rings and throw a party! My son, my daughter, who was dead, is now alive. Alleluia.