The Hope of the Resurrection – Br. Curtis Almquist
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We hear proclaimed in our Gospel account that Jesus is resurrected. But one thing has not changed. Even though Jesus is resurrected, Jesus’ heart is still broken. Just several days earlier, from the Mount of Olives, Jesus had wept as he looked upon Jerusalem, grieving his own people’s neglect of “justice and mercy.”[i] That wound in Jesus’ heart has not changed. And Jesus is also still wounded by the betrayal and abandonment of his closest friends, the disciples, who literally left Jesus hanging. And Jesus’ resurrected body is still wounded by the scourgings that preceded his crucifixion, and the horrific piercing wounds from his hanging on the cross, and the wound in his side. None of these wounds is yet healed. Other witnesses are also wounded. The women who were there when they crucified their Lord, witnessed it all, a horrific experience, leaving the women traumatized. And the disciples, wounded by their own culpability. On that first Easter day the disciples are hiding – hiding in their own fear, and guilt, and shame.[ii] On this day of resurrection, everyone in the Gospel story is wounded.
And so for us: the wounds of life. We can acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection and, at the same time, acknowledge somuch woundedness around us and within us: woundedness from the residual trauma and ongoing suffering and loss because of COVID; woundedness because of our own personal experience of loss – be it our own loss of health, or our loss of security, or our loss of dignity; or our loss of loved ones who have meant the world to us. Jesus is resurrected; however meanwhile we witness such woundedness in our world because of the appalling wars and political upheaval going on right now on every continent of the earth; the woundedness for so many people who have been displaced, who have fled for their lives in terror, having lost their homes or lost their hope. There is also, in our own time, the woundedness of the earth, our common home, in the face of the climate emergency. Saint Paul is speaking to our own day when he writes about “the whole creation groaning in labor pains… and waiting for adoption.”[iii]
Jesus’ resurrection is complete, but not without wounds: Jesus’ wounds, our wounds, the wounds of earth. This is why Saint Paul speaks of “the hope of the resurrection.”[iv] He says, we have hope in the resurrection because we do not yet experience it completely.[v] We have some early signs of the resurrection, and therein lies our hope. By the time we reach adulthood, all of us have already died multiple times, and it will happen again. Life can be such a killer, in many ways. Yet, miraculously, we’ve come back to life, which gives us an experience of the hope of the resurrection. And we have hope for the resurrection of the dead, those whom we have loved who have already died. We have hope that those who have died in old age, with disease, or diminishment, or in violence will be given new bodies.[vi] We have hope that they will know the healing in death that they did not know in this life. And we have hope that, in our own impending death, we will be reunited with those whom we love, and with all of God’s children.
In The Book of Revelation, which has the last word in the Bible, we are assured that in the final resurrection, our wounds will be healed: “God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”[vii] This is the ultimate hope of the resurrection.
Meanwhile, how do we tap Jesus’ resurrection power in the here-and-now for ourselves, for those whom we know and love, for the stream of suffering strangers who cross our paths and fill the media, and for our beloved earth? Here our two practices that can cultivate the hope of resurrection. First, to pray. Pray for yourself and pray for others who have your heart’s attention. Pray that the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection empower you and empower them today. The most amazing thing about miracles is that they happen. Pray from your heart for a miraculous intervention of Jesus’ resurrection power in the wounds you have, and the wounds of others who have captured your heart’s attention. Jesus understands wounds. Being a follower of Jesus does not spare us or others of suffering. Clearly not. We are shared, not spared suffering, along with Jesus’ promise of his presence and his power.
Pray from your heart. Also pray with your hands; pray with your body. Participate in Jesus’ resurrection promise “to bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to those who are bound… and to comfort those who mourn.”[viii] How can you, with your hands and body embody Jesus’ resurrected presence, and power, and provision, even in the midst of life’s wounds? What can you do to embody Jesus’ resurrected hands and heart which is alive within you? We pray with our hearts and with our hands, asking for nothing less than a miracle. Pray with all your life.
And then, here’s a second practice that can cultivate the hope of the resurrection in the here-and-now. Add a word to your daily vocabulary, a resurrection word: “Hallelujah.” You may remember the Academy Award-winning film, “Babette’s Feast,” which is set on the remote western coast of Denmark in the 19th century.[ix] One of the characters in the film is an elderly man who has seemingly lost his ability to speak… except for one word: “Hallelujah.” And he says “Hallelujah” all the time. Whether the conversation is about fish, or the weather, or a friendship, or a feast, his one-word response to life is always, “Hallelujah.” It’s actually a very good word: “Hallelujah.” If you have no other response to the unfolding of life, if you have nothing else to say, or, especially, if you have nothing good to say, say “Hallelujah.” During Eastertide, when we gather to pray and worship, we say “Hallelujah” out loud almost endlessly. Saying “Hallelujah” is also a very good word to take with you out of church, to say personally as you make your way through the day.
“Hallelujah” is a Hebrew word that means “praise the Lord.” The word does not appear in the Gospel according to Matthew, nor Mark, nor Luke, nor John. The word “Hallelujah” does not appear anywhere in the New Testament except in the last book, in one chapter of the Revelation to John.[x] There we read about “Hallelujah” as the chant of the choirs of heaven singing praise, and glory, and gratitude to God who is the beginning of life, and the end of life, and the way of life. Saying “Hallelujah” lifts us into a heavenly chorus.
Claiming the word “Hallelujah” in our personal vocabulary is an elixir from the delusion that we are our own God. Claiming the word “Hallelujah” spares us from thinking it is all up to us, spares us from taking life for granted, spares us from the myopia of seeing life as only an earthbound experience. Life on this earth is real, indeed, but it’s also a preparation and participation in the life that is to come. By saying “Hallelujah” we put ourselves in our place: creatures of God, participating in God’s mission on earth: God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Saying “Hallelujah” expresses our personal gratitude for the gift of life and to giver of life.
You might find it inviting to say “Hallelujah” under your breath throughout the day as you take on life. Amidst somuch suffering that fills and surrounds our lives, there is also the panoply of such beauty and wonder and in so many forms. Saying “Hallelujah” under your breath a myriad of times throughout the day is claiming your voice and claiming your part in what God is up to in sharing with us this mysterious, absolutely amazing, challenging gift of life. Saying “Hallelujah” expresses obeisance to God as we seek to find our way and help others find their way in life, back to where we began, and where we belong, and where we will end: in the company of God. Saying “Hallelujah” heralds the hope of Easter.
Lectionary Year and Proper: A
Solemnity or Major Feast Day: Easter
[i] Matthew 23:23.
[ii] See Mark 12:12; John 20:19.
[iii] Romans 8:22.
[iv] Saint Paul is quoted in The Acts of the Apostles 23:6.
[v] Saint Paul in Romans 8:22-25 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
[vi] Philippians 3:21.
[vii] Revelation 21:4.
[viii] Jesus’ words from Luke 4:18,Jesus quoting from Isaiah 61:1-3.
[ix] “Babette’s Feast,” produced in 1987, won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie is based on the 1958 story by Isak Dinesen.
[x] The word “Hallelujah” appears four times in Revelation 19:1-10. The word “Hallelujah” appears more than 22 times in the Psalms. (“Alleluia” is a Latin word derived from the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word, “Hallelujah.”)
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Alleluia! Thank you, Br. Curtis, for these eloquent words — for acknowledging the wounds of the world, which include everything from social breakdown to climate emergency, and for empowering us to pray with our whole hearts and lives, praising God as we go. Alleluia! Thank you, friend.
Thank you Br. Curtis. Alleluia! Alleluia Alleluia! Margo
Please have some rest.