by The Right Reverend Cathleen Chittenden Bascom
Sitting in the chancel of Grace Cathedral on Good Friday, listening to the Passion, I was struck by all that is stuffed into that tomb: love and heartbreak at the loss of son, brother, rabbi…political power struggles...Annas to Caiaphas, Pilate to Herod and back again…the empty religion or cowardice of those who look on, silent to injustice…above all, the wretched violence.
I was equally struck by how these things resonate today: since last Easter some of us have sat by hospital beds or at graves…we watch interminable power struggles of Republicans and Democrats, Putin and Zelensky, Trump and Biden, the Kansas Governor to the Kansas Senate. We recognize our own fear of speaking up when something is wrong. Russian missile strikes on hospitals.
It goes on and on…what was rolled up with the Body of Jesus, what He carried…all stuffed into that tomb! Is it any wonder that Easter opens with almost everyone just stepping back or hiding?
As Christians, however, we celebrate what emerges, what comes rolling out of that very same tomb! The Easter Gospel, describes the story, paints the picture. But the other lessons appointed for Easter tell us what it means.
What comes pouring forth out of that tomb? Isaiah knows: “I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth…”
What comes surging forth from that tomb? St. Paul knows: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died, all will be made alive in Christ.”
All that alchemy of human hurt and ugliness stuffed in a hole in a rock…and what does God do with it? Offers a new Way of Love: the way Jesus modeled on earth, but which is now infinitely magnified! A way of love that transforms what’s around it.
The first things transformed were those same human beings who had stepped back.
Resurrection power rolled out to them. Our current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry coins the phenomenon as “the Jesus movement.” The resurrection inaugurated a movement to make God’s dream of a new heaven and earth happen!
If we are honest, like the apostles, don’t many of us step back? Faced with our world, it is extremely easy to doubt anything can change. It’s hard not to just step back from the risk of love.
But the Resurrection Love — that came rolling out of the tomb straight at those messy, cowardly, unsuspecting followers — is coming for us! After all, the world of first-century Judea was equally if not more disease-ridden and war-torn than ours! But the Jesus movement happened and formed channels of transformation into it.
I remember traveling with our two sons, as elementary kids, for spring break to a hotel in Dubuque, Iowa. Right outside the hotel’s multi-storied windows, the Mississippi River was flowing by. Inside we enjoyed a large waterpark featuring a splash mountain and lazy river. I could relax and ride an inner-tube while the boys swam and clambered all over the place. All of that moving water (and people with it) had one big waterfall source! Not unlike the Life surging forth from the tomb. However, I also noticed that the channels of water were well-designed, using curves and gravity.
In 2022, the Council of Trustees and I are spending a lot of time studying and listening about the structures of our diocese. How do the four Convocations function? How do the new Minsters function? What are the strengths and purposes of each and how do they relate to each other and to our parishes and people? Our structures are like stream channels, and we hope to refine their design for greater impact. Pray for our efforts.
I also realized that the lazy river was replete with small jets, turbos of water, carefully placed on the side of the waterway to keep up the momentum. That is how it is with resurrection life! The Risen Jesus pours forth God’s love, but our lives are also meant to be conduits of it. Each one of us can be part of the momentum of transformation! Each of us can be like a small water jet, spreading the Jesus movement, ushering God’s new heaven and new earth into our own unique workplace, family, neighborhood, or school. The Harvest that follows is full of examples!
Don’t step back, step up! Who wants to spend life or end life with a shut-off turbo? Open yourself…maybe again…to the immersing love of God. Join the Jesus movement. Amen.