At the risk of being sacrilegious, or even offensive to my Christian friends, I would like to explore the word that has come to me this evening during this Saturday before Easter amidst the Covid-19 virus epidemic: “resurrection.” Jesus’ Easter resurrection commemorates Jesus' rising from the dead and then into Heaven following his crucifixion. It is a foundational event in traditional Christian belief as it marks the initiation of a missionary movement based on Jesus’ teaching and a belief in his continuing protective and guiding Presence among believers ever since.
In my personal faith and practice I don’t need to believe in Jesus’ bodily resurrection, but I respect those who do. For me the Gospel account of Jesus resurrection represents the enduring, eternal promise that our mortal life does not end at death, but lives on in memory of the power of transformative love we shared in our lives. Jesus resurrection in the Christian tradition seals his transformative, deathless witness to the power of sacrificial love offered through the life and death of Jesus to humanity on behalf of a transcendent God of love. The life and death of Jesus as a model of nonviolence and God’s love, whatever we are to believe, has been a transformative historical force when his witness to the sacredness of life, service to the poor and marginalized, and reverence to a transcendent God is honored as central in faithful individual and communal adherence. The resurrection, then, represents, among other possible lessons, the triumph of life over death, that even following death the love we have shared continues to model and transform the lives of those who follow us.
The tumultuous historical context of Jesus life - Roman occupation, political and religious corruption, brutality, and a populace seeking ethical and spiritual direction - was far more cruel two thousand years ago, but the basics of exploitation and the defamation of spiritual, civic and environmental life continues to define much of our worldly lives. The Covid-19 virus has stopped the current political and environmental messes in the contemporary world in their tracks with the threat and reality of universal, personal death. But it has also imposed a death-like halting of commerce, social congregating and institutional life across the globe. And we are largely helpless in addressing the situation. We are, in fact, dependent on the sacrificial love and expertise of the medical community and others willing to risk their lives to protect and serve the rest of us in spite of being so poorly supported and protected themselves. (Could be said that this sounds just a bit like Jesus’ life, doesn’t it?)
You can probably see where I am going with these thoughts. We are in a sort of “Saturday eve before Easter death grip” wondering how - or if - our still very uncertain “post-virus Easter resurrection” will unfold. Jesus’ resurrection is recorded as transformative for those who committed to following his teachings and his witness to love. The early church, until Constantine made it mainstream and militaristic, was largely reported as a paradigm of selflessness and communal sharing. Martyrs accepted death rather than deny the reality and promise of the new cultural creation they were experiencing based on their Christian faith in Jesus’ compassionate teaching.
Every day now someone seems to speculate on the possibility of a “new creation” resulting from the impact of the virus as we reevaluate all aspects of our cultural norms: economics, race, war, politics, voting…the list goes on. I will not offer my own speculation here. But the world is possibly at one of those “axial ages” that are pivotal in world history.* A transformative “resurrection” is possible.
Our Easter commemorations, however Christians are able to celebrate them during the lockdown, may provide a time to evaluate what kind of “resurrection” we may want or even choose when the virus hopefully subsides. And for all of us, we are reminded, encouraged and assured that nature “resurrects” from the winter cold with transformations and miracles we can scarcely imagine even before our eyes.
I must end by also honoring others in the Abrahamic tradition who are also celebrating their own versions of salvation and gratitudes for the renewals and promises offered by our religious traditions.
Blessings to all, and peace,
*Axial Age (also Axis Age, from German: Achsenzeit) is a term coined by German philosopher Karl Jaspers in the sense of a "pivotal age", characterizing the period of ancient history from about the 8th to the 3rd century BCE.