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Easter 2012

Resurrection Hope: Still Possible Today

By Harriett Jane Olson

The story of Holy Week is chaotic action, full of emotion. It is a mix of conversations between the closest of companions and the “wide angle” pageantry of festival season in Jerusalem. We even have musical settings that help us remember various events of the week, like a film score highlighting certain moments in a movie. But what do we make of the story’s ending?

We understand the religious leaders being in league with the colonial oppressors to eliminate a potentially disruptive force. We understand the disciples’ hurt and confusion as they are suddenly plunged from popularity to persecution.

How did those same disciples receive the witness of the women? How did they recover from the loss of all their dreams? How did they find the kind of confidence that got them back “on the road” with Jesus’ message?

As followers of Jesus in our time and in our context need to take a close look at that first Easter season as we wonder about how our plans and hopes for the church. We are followers of Jesus at a time when the influence of our church has all but disappeared. Religious leaders and power politics are raising questions. Revelations about sexual abuse and impropriety—not confessed and repented but litigated—are sapping the energy of some of our leaders and claiming resources that we had thought would be a source of security.

Is there a message of hope and resurrection that the church in the United States needs to hear today? How do we prepare ourselves to receive it? How can we make that hope the core fact of our planning and work? It’s not about empty church buildings all over the nation. It’s not about whether we can afford to educate our clergy and compensate them in the way we did 50 years ago. It’s not about who has the power to decide. It’s about resurrection. No matter how many plans we had and what sort of dreams we dreamed that have not come fruition, it’s about resurrection. God is still God. The question is: can we put our hope in resurrection this Easter season?

We know something about doing this in our own lives and in our families, such as after the death of a spouse, the loss of a job, early retirement or illness. We reach out to family and friends for support, we come to terms with the world we know being changed, and we begin to find our way forward. Sometimes people say, “Where there is life, there is hope.” What Easter ensures us is that with God, even in death there is hope.
Just as it did for the disciples, and as it does for us in families and communities, experiencing Easter hope for the church will require a certain amount of huddling in rooms together, coming to grips with what has happened. And just as the disciples did with the testimony of the women and the pair who headed for Emmaus, we must find ways to really hear testimonies that “don’t make sense.” It will require grieving together, enlisting new leaders and resisting external efforts to define us. But at the root of it all it will take hope—hope that God will surprise us again, hope that the risen Jesus will make himself known to us in ways and at times we don’t expect, hope that out of the collapse of so much that we had planned and dreamed, God will do a new thing.

Friends, let’s look for reasons to hope this Easter season and treat those signs as markers that call us to follow Jesus anew, the resurrected, scarred, betrayed Jesus who is still at work in the world.

Last Updated: 04/09/2014

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