The Hope of the Resurrection: What We Can Remember – Br. Curtis Almquist
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On this day of resurrection, we all share something with these faithful women coming to the tomb. We also share something with the disciples and with Jesus. We share woundedness. We are all wounded. Jesus is wounded by the scourgings that preceded his crucifixion, and the horrific piercing wounds hanging on the cross. None of these wounds is yet healed. And Jesus’ heart is also wounded by the betrayal and abandonment of his closest friends, the disciples, who literally left Jesus hanging. The women, who were there when they crucified their Lord, witnessed it all, a horrific experience. They are wounded with trauma, with grief, and with fear. Meanwhile we know that the disciples are hiding – hiding in their own fear, and guilt, and shame. So much trauma.[i] On this day of resurrection, everyone in the Gospel story is wounded, and this is likely true for many, if not all of us here. You are bearing your own wounds in body, mind, or spirit: wounds that have come at you from beyond your control, or wounds self-inflicted. You also may know the wounds of the cross, what it has meant for you “to take up your cross and follow Jesus.”[ii] Here we all are on this day of resurrection: Jesus, the faithful women, the disciples, and we ourselves alive, wounded. All of us. We acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection and, at the same time, acknowledge that everything is not all right in our world and in our own lives. We are wounded.
This is why Saint Paul speaks of “the hope of the resurrection.”[iii] He says, we have hope in the resurrection because we do not yet completely experience it.[iv] We hope for the resurrection of the dead: those who have died in old age with disease, or diminishment; and those who have died unexpectedly in tragedy. In the resurrection to come, we have the hope they will be given new bodies and a new life. We have the hope they will know the healing in death that they did not know in this life. We also have the hope that, in our own death, we, too, will be made new and will be reunited with those who have gone before us. In the Book of Revelation, the last word in the Bible, we are assured that in the resurrection, our wounds will be healed. As we read, God will “wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”[v] This is the hope of the resurrection to come.
This morning we have the joy of baptizing Eva Katherine Heaps. All of us who are witnesses of Eva’s baptism are invited to renew our own baptismal promises.[vi] This renewal is a living reminder of our own personal participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In our baptism, we believe that Jesus has come to live within us. We are no longer the sole occupant of our lives. In a very mysterious way, Jesus has come to make a home within each of us. Within you. We are being filled and formed from the inside out by Jesus through his death and resurrection. We are being conformed to Jesus.
The church calls this “the paschal mystery.” The word “paschal” comes from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words for the Passover, when death “passed over” the ancient children of Israel.[vii] Paschal. And the word “mystery.” A mystery is a hidden truth that is revealed. Paschal mystery: a hidden truth, revealed. The truth is that life is a paradox. Life comes out of death.[viii] Life is a recurring cycle of loss, then recovery, then transformation.[ix] The paschal mystery: loss, then recovery, then transformation. This paradox can be very difficult to believe, especially if you are now living in the midst of significant loss, if you are now walking through the valley of the shadow of death, if you are grieving.[x]Right now, if you are keenly aware of how wounding or devastating life can be, there is only one way to understand the mystery of how loss, then recovery, then transformation will happen for you. And that is by hope, the hope of the resurrection.
When I say “hope,” I am not talking about optimism. Optimism is based on what we can see. Hope is based on what we can remember.[xi] We draw our hope for the present out of our own past experience of loss, then recovery, then transformation. In the face of many odds, you are still alive. Your life has extended into this new day. It is not just Jesus who is a walking miracle; you also are a walking miracle. You can draw on the hope of the resurrection out of your own miracle memory from the past. We claim our present hope in the resurrection, not from what we see but from what we remember. What you remember.
This morning we arose in darkness. When you are in the middle of a dark night, there is absolutely no clue that a dawning will happen, no reason to even imagine light will ever come again… except if you can remember that, amazingly enough, the dawn has happened before. Out of a dark night, the dawn has come in the past. This memory gives hope that the dawn shall happen again, miraculously.[xii] The resurrection – your resurrection – will dawn on you, as it has before, and that is a promise Christ leaves with us this Easter day.
Franz Kafka, the great European novelist of the 20th century, said: “Everything that you love, you will eventually lose. But in the end, love will return in a different form.” That truth is a version of the paschal mystery, that life comes out of death.[xiii] Not the same old life, but a new life comes out of death. This is the hope of the resurrection. Hallelujah!
[i] See Mark 12:12; John 20:19.
[iii] Saint Paul is quoted in The Acts of the Apostles 23:6.
[iv] 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.”
[v] Revelation 21:4.
[vi] The Book of Common Prayer (1979), pp. 292-294.
[vii] “Paschal,” from the Aramaic pasha pass over,” corresponding to the Greek, pascha, and Hebrew. pesah: “to pass over.” The English word “Passover” was coined by William Tyndale (1530) in reference to God’s “passing over” the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when the first-born Egyptians were killed (Exodus 12).
[viii] “Mystery,” a religious truth known by divine revelation, a mystical presence of God, from the Latin, mysterium, from the Greek, mysterion.
[ix] “Loss, recovery, transformation,” a formulary of Bishop Rowan Williams, quoted from Rowan’s Rule by Rupert Shortt (2008); p. 152.
[x] A riff on Psalm 23:4.
[xi] See Romans 8:19-25.
[xii] The ancient prayer, “The Exsultet,” is sung at the outset of the Easter Vigil at the lighting of the Paschal Candle: “…How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and [humankind] is reconciled to God. Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this candle in your honor. May it shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find it every burning – he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.” The full text for the Exsultet is found in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), pp. 286-287.
[xiii]Quoted of Kafka in Bittersweet; How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, by Susan Cain (2022), p. 109.
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Brother Curtis, may God’s presence transform your suffering from one degree of glory to another. Thank you for your very heartfelt words.
This is great brother. “We draw our hope for the present out of our own past experience of loss, then recovery, then transformation. In the face of many odds, you are still alive” Living in Kenya (Africa) one must learn to live one day at a time and willingness to go through the process of loss,recovery then transformation.
Thanks Curtis. In the midst of the shootings in Louisville, the city that I love, this was a huge gift as I listened to it on my morning walk in that city. Your thoughtful sermon and your words, “Out of a dark night, the dawn has come in the past” are comforting. That is my hope. Again, thank you.