Before we can be raised to newness of life; first of all, we have to die. That’s the part we don’t like; but there is no other path to resurrection. Before we can be raised to newness of life, first of all, we have to die; and we know that. Many of us have been there. Many of us can say that we have died; some of us more than once; and all of us are dying. That’s the part we don’t like. But it’s an indispensable part of our Christian identity: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life. (1) That is our identity. We are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life.
This is not a once and done thing, and we know that, too. Recognizing our identity in Christ Jesus is a lifelong process: we die and we rise, we fall down and get up, we are buried and raised over and over again. Before we can be raised to newness of life we have to die, and we know that.
“God comes through the wound.” (2) Christ comes to us in our pain, in our brokenness, and our sorrow. We die when we admit that without help we are lost, that we cannot raise ourselves to newness of life, no matter how hard we try. We die when we admit we need a savior. We may cry out; we may weep; we call it a surrender. “God comes through the wound.” God comes to us in our pain, in our brokenness, and our sorrow, like he came to Mary Magdalene weeping outside the tomb. “Why are you weeping?” “Who are you looking for?” Shattered, distressed, wrought with grief from watching the death and burial of someone she loves, and now the body is tragically missing. Mary is searching for the body of Jesus, and the resurrected Jesus finds her. But she doesn’t recognize him at first.
Resurrection rarely comes in the form we expect. When we encounter newness of life we don’t always recognize it at first, often because we are searching for something else. What we really want is relief, and not to be raised, but if we have truly surrendered we are in no position to negotiate the terms of the surrender. Resurrection is on God’s terms. Jesus finds us. We admitted that we could not raise ourselves to newness of life no matter how hard we try; being raised will be on God’s terms, not ours, which is why we don’t like the part where we die because we are not in control. Being raised requires not only dying, but letting go of expectations about what resurrection might look like. It rarely comes in the form we expect, though it is safe to say we won’t be disappointed.
Jesus knows us by name. He calls, “Mary.” And she recognizes him; “Rabouni!” (which means Teacher) is her reply. Jesus is a teacher, he knows us by name. The deaths that we die, and the resurrections we experience are not to make us into people we are not, or even to make us “good” people, or “better” people. Through this lifelong process of dying and rising, falling down and getting up, being buried and raised Jesus is teaching us to become more ourselves than ever before. Growing us up, teaching us to love, being buried and raised are both essential for us to become the people God created us to be; but there is dying to do if we are going to be raised, and it’s going to take time to become who we are.
Resurrection takes time. We may suddenly realize we have been raised, but resurrection takes time: time in the tomb and time to ascend. The resurrected Jesus tells Mary not to hold on to him because he has not yet ascended, he is only partially raised, and we know that he still bore his wounds. Being raised does not mean we will be transformed overnight. Our problems don’t disappear in the blink of an eye. Signs of our brokenness tend to linger, our emotional scars rarely fade entirely out of sight. It’s the evidence of our transformation; a sign of our usefulness to others. The pain we have known, the brokenness we have experienced, and the sorrow we have felt are the greatest assets we own. It’s what makes us useful to others once we are raised. When we show our wounds, as Jesus shows his, other people feel safe to look at their own wounds, and our testimony of resurrection may even lead them to surrender and be raised to newness of life themselves. Out of this mutuality a community is created. “Don’t hold on to me,” Jesus says, “But go tell the others, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Community is created when we show each other our wounds, and testify to the reality of resurrection. “I have seen the Lord,” Mary tells the disciples. Jesus Christ was buried, and he has been raised! We are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, and we are raised with him to newness of life. That is our identity. We live it out for the rest of our days: dying and rising, falling down and getting up, being buried and raised to newness of life, over and over again; to become more ourselves than ever before on to the hope of eternal glory. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer pg. 292.
- Marion Woodman as quoted in “The Spirituality of Imperfection” Kurtz and Ketcham pg.29.
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