Disruption and Defiance in the Resurrection

It feels as though we’ve been living in a year of Lent, Dan comments, let alone the past forty days as we near the end of Holy Week. So, Dan and Rachael begin a timely conversation about the reality, disruption, and defiance of the resurrection. The resurrection is not meant for only sometime in the future, but for the here and now. We need to remember that though death persists, it does not have the final say. This is why, as Rachael notes, we can hold onto hope and follow in the way of Jesus, doing the holy work of living in a way that stands at odds against the status quo structures of this world.

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Episode Transcript

Dan: Well, Rachel, we are on the precipice of the resurrection. Not quite there yet, but I’m just wondering if you’re going to be orienting east.

Rachael: Yeah, when you say that first thing that comes to mind is like, oh, yeah, you live on the West Coast, I live on the East Coast. Is that what you’re talking about? And then I’m like, no, you’re literally talking about the meaning of Easter. And it’s funny because I’m not a sunrise person. I’m much more of a sunset person. I find myself perpetually facing the west, which also is true in my vocational work to be more in the setting sun stories for people. So but you know, tomorrow, yes, Easter Sunday, I will be oriented toward the east looking for a new day to dawn.

D: Well, I did not realize that I was a morning person. I would never have said that about myself. In fact, the idea of it is offensive to me. But due to COVID and many other matters, we’ve been getting up early in the morning, hours before sunrise. And so that notion of being able to look to the light to instead have that sense of the rising morning that is going to illuminate and give a new freshness of softness, beauty to the day. No wonder we call it Easter. But as we step into talking about the resurrection, it’s so important that we name the reality that most of us have been living in a year of Lent, let alone the last 40 days.

R: Mhm. Yeah. I mean, it feels almost like anywhere you look right now, death is very persistent, and especially as Christians as we come to this conclusion of Holy Week, when so much of the death and the harm and the violence that’s being carried out is being carried out in many ways by those who profess to be Christian and to know something of the resurrected Christ. And, particularly, I just want to name the harm and violence that our Asian-American and Pacific Islander brothers and sisters are bearing in their bodies right now in the wake of the shooting in Atlanta, which was only the first mass shooting in a week’s time. I’m also aware of the people in Boulder who are grieving deeply this senseless loss of life. But there is a sense that hatred and evil that has in many ways been fused with these stories of our faith is reigning supreme, and I know I don’t know about you, but I know in my body it is, I think, this question of, like, what? Forgive my French, but what the hell does the resurrection mean? And I’m no longer comfortable with finding any kind of, not that I’ve really ever been this person, but I think at times I have, I’m no longer comfortable with the resurrection being talked about is something that’s meant to anesthetize us for the yonder someday, when will be resurrected and live in eternity, as if that is all that the resurrection is about. So I’m glad we’re pondering this question together

D: Well and again to go back to the reality that what we know of the shooter in Atlanta is that he would claim to be a follower of Jesus and was attempting to eradicate temptation. It is so abhorrent. It is so beyond comprehension that the Asian body that he would have fantasized about to think that his solution is death. And I think there is something in that to underscore that we are in a culture that has in one sense, been opened up to even greater fear, greater hatred and death. And that reality that we are living in is not meant to be ignored or escaped through a Sunday celebration of the resurrection. It’s meant to be engaged with even greater integrity because of the resurrection. What we’re going to say many times over is that the resurrection draws us to an emphasis, as Paul does in First Corinthians 15, where at the very end of this beautiful, beautiful chapter on the resurrection, he says, You know, O death, Where is your sting? He’s mocking it, simply saying that because of the reality of resurrection, we can look more deeply, closely at horror, heartache, to death itself, in a way that we couldn’t without the promise that our bodies will one day be raised as well. So as we deal with the resurrection we need to underscore, where does it take us? In some ways to the beginning of this discussion, I’m just reminded in that same passage, Paul says, If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are of all people, most to be pitied. He’s underscoring that If the resurrection is not true, we’re far more of a mess than we are, if indeed we believe. So as we begin this discussion, I’d love to at least ask of you, Rachael, to begin with that question of where does the resurrection meet you in the context of your day?

R: Mm, well, it’s interesting that we’re starting with this passage because I think in many ways this passage has been abused to say that the resurrection is only for some other life will live in some other dimension of eternity, and I don’t think that’s what Paul is addressing at all. I think he is speaking coming from a location of suffering and a church that is suffering, and the people who are suffering to manifest and join Jesus in establishing a new kind of kingdom and a new kind of family and a new kind of kinship in these very diverse bodies of different social location, of different ethnic background, of different gendered experience of the world. And there’s something about when this veil is torn, that is making a way for God’s true sense and purpose for creation to be made manifest in a way that stands against the powers and principalities of this world. So when I think about what does the resurrection mean to me? I cannot divorce it from this suffering messiah who joins us in solidarity, who joins the work of recreating creation making away. So I think resurrection is inherently about embodiment. I mean, Jesus didn’t overcome death and then come back as like a ghost, and we’ll talk more about that like Jesus came back in the flesh. So there’s something about how resurrection is lived out in the here. And now that I think, is so central to the Gospel and ultimately for me, this reality that though death persists and is very real, the crucifixion did happen. Holy Saturday exists for many of us in our bodies and our relationships, in the longing we have for four redemption. So the resurrection, it doesn’t deny death. It simply says death will not have the final say. And for me, that is the promise of hope that allows me then to follow in the way of Jesus, to say in the here and now we will do the holy work of of of living in a way that in many ways stands at odds against most of the status quo structures of this world. And I in no way claimed to be one who is fully following in the way of Jesus. But I do know for me I see signs of resurrection life where life is returning in the most unexpected places and it is usually a recreation that is connected two bodies and two experiences into relationships into communities. And it doesn’t ever deny the suffering. It doesn’t eradicate the suffering. But there’s something of life that is birthed, I mean, it’s this sense of these promises of our ashes will be turned into beauty. Our mourning into dancing.

D: Well, and to me, the category that you’re bringing is the notion that the resurrection is not something that first and foremost brings comfort. It brings disruption. Like what? You know, everything seems clear, but now you’re saying I don’t see clearly and in fact, what is dead will rise. What has become the expected will one day, and not just in the by and by that included, but now meant to be engaged in such a different way. So the question is, does the resurrection disrupt your marriage? Does it disrupt how you parent, does it disrupt the realities that are around you? If the status quo holds as the only reality, many ways you’re back to what Paul says, you’re most to be pitied. But there has to be the sense that everything will one day be other than it is. And as we pray the Lord’s prayer on Earth as it is in heaven, that sentence arises out of the disruption of the resurrection.

R: Mm. And I think we see this kind of embodied holding of the tension living out this disruptive, defiant kind of hope of the resurrection. We see it time and time and time again in many different communities of the church that are needing to flourish and find life in massive places of oppression, and I don’t say that to glorify what’s coming into the oppression. I think we’re called to be people who are dismantling every system that stands opposed to God and who were called to be as creations and Children of God. But there is, I think, it’s where I find myself these days really looking for discipleship from people who I think understand the nature of the resurrection and what it means for the both and of someday and today.

D: Well, even you were saying dismantling, I would we would tie this to the notion of defiance to ultimately be able to say whatever is oh, that bears something of the goodness of life, of flourishing of honor and delight, enjoy, but also be asking, how does the resurrection create a lens for where death needs to be not just disrupted, but stood against because there is life and life to come and life that is now a power that can be experienced? How am I to defy structures again in and I keep coming back to in my marriage in my parenting in my neighborhood, in my larger culture. So if we are not thinking of the larger role of death and how we defy it. Then we’re not living out the resurrection in the full power of what we’re meant to not only experience but to offer, and that has to be embodied and that sense of felt experienced. And really, I think, if I can bring another word here desired, there’s something about the resurrection that creates the potential for deepened, more expansive, more felt desire than what I often find in the community of God.

R: Mm. Well, I don’t think we’re not really fond of desire. I think in many ways, I think about this moment we’re in It is such a risky time for hope because there is potential. There has been such an unveiling of things that have been true of our culture, our country, our world, aspects of our Christianity. In the United States of America, there’s an unveiling, an apocalyptic unveiling of what has been true in a way that you almost have to actively look away, to not see it so similar to what we talked about. As we start to see potential light at the end of the tunnel in the midst of this global pandemic when there is a possibility to see and imagine a different reality. Hope is most risky because it would be so much safer to say in many ways you know what? Maybe death is more true, so why would we even bother? And there’s no judgment. And I think I I say that with deep compassion of the own places in my life where it just feels like, will anything ever change, will people change? Will our culture change? Will our systems change? And yet without this sense of believing that the resurrection is true in the most embodied ways then we do have that hope deferred makes the heart sick. There’s a kind of meaning to like cut off parts of ourselves, cut off parts of our capacity to love and to dream. I don’t think our desires not just are like personal desires, but those God that, like you, said the Lord’s Prayer, like on earth as it is in heaven. Those desires sometimes feel so costly, too costly, and it leaves us with that question of is the resurrection true?

D: I feel like we live in an era, but it’s also our unique work and privilege to work in the realm of trauma. And in this season, where we have predicted, many others have predicted that we are just on the border of seeing trauma rise. Not that it’s not there. It’s just that in the middle of it you can’t experience in your body what trauma generally brings greater fragmentation, greater sense of numbness and isolation, or another way of saying it more fear, more hatred and ultimately, more death. So the question of has my heart been lost to some degree in the midst of It’s bad and it’s going to get worse. Or am I willing to look and say yes, I think it will get worse, But this is where the resurrection frees me to weep. To in one sense, enter the despair of Holy Saturday, where often I feel wordless, indeed fragmented alone and in some sense, with no sense of life within me. So in some ways, what I’m saying again is because of the resurrection is coming, I can enter into the humiliation of Friday I can enter into the despair of Saturday and not feel like I’m indulgent or just negative. But this is reality. If Sunday is true than as a believer, I should be even clearer about the long history of violence against Asians and Asian Americans and so much clearer about the violence against indigenous people. And so much clearer about the 400 year use of Africans and African Americans for the financial wherewithal, the building of the foundation of our country. The very realities that sound like you’re talking about Eastern now. You know, Easter in the face of Treblinka and Dachau. And if not, then your Easter is a suffusing of some level of fantasy in the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs. But this is where I just want to scream at times. If the resurrection is true, then we above all people, ought to be able to sit Shiva with those who are in the middle of death and to be able to weep as Job’s accusers eventually did well for seven days. We need to trust if the light will come, we can bear being in darkness with a different level than what we have been. That alone is disruptive and defiant and in some sense of desire filled. And it’s where I say and therefore the resurrection is incredibly also linked to repentance, repentance as a resurrection act that we are not bound. We are no longer bound to the powers and systems of sin and death, whether that is corporate and collective or personal. So as resurrection people, we should be the most quick to be transformed to say this is harm I’ve done or ways I have participated in systems of death. This has been a part of my story, but I have been redeemed by the living God and resurrection is possible.

R: And I’m seeing this in my own home with my husband, who is aching, is aching, and he’s waking up, and his body used to harm that he’s known for a long season that his parents have known for a long season, and I’m watching him lean into the resurrection in crafting liturgies for himself. I think for his Asian American and Pacific Islander kin to create liturgies of ache and holy belonging. And there is a defiance in bringing the particular clarity of his face particular clarity of some of the harm that is familiar and collective and yet proclaiming there is something profoundly holy and sacred in his body and in other people’s bodies. That is part of being image bearers. And I think this is the realm of desire and defiance and disruption were in when we’re talking about the resurrection. As you’ve said, we’re just repeating the same thing over and over and over again because it’s important. Also, just so you know, if you want to check that out, you can find it @aapi.liturgy on Instagram. There’s a sense of resurrection does not deny suffering and death. It gets right in the midst of it and says something new can and will be treated here, and we get to be participants in that. So it is yes, that act of grieving and lament and entering the lament. It’s also about repentance and transformation and living as though the resurrection is true at any moment, even as we long and wait for the redemption and restoration of all things. But it’s almost like we’re pulling eternity toward us as an act of profound hope and Sundays that feels very true for me. And then a lot of other days, I will just confess

D: Absolutely absolutely. And that’s why I love Easter. But resurrection is meant to be so deeply integrated into each portion of our day. And yet I’m taken out as I was an hour ago by a computer that did not work and buy a printer that is malfunctioning every time I put paper in it. And I screamed at my inanimate printer words that I wouldn’t want to be on, you know, this podcast and knowing we were going to do the podcast, I’m thinking, I don’t think this sounds much like the resurrection, so it’s why I go back to this passage in Philippians Chapter three, verse 10. I want to know Christ, apparently, particularly when I’m raging at a machine. I want to know Christ yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead. But that notion of I want that power with that power systemic. I want that power with mechanics. I want that power with regard to every portion of my life. And I love his phrase somehow, somehow, in the engagement of death and resurrection, somehow, which means he doesn’t have a clue. I don’t have a clue, but somehow there will be for us personally, corporately, culturally an attaining of what it is to no longer be bound to the shrouds of death, but to be caught up in the Easter light of the resurrection. That’s enough to get me up in the morning enough to be able to say this is really good news Now how will I suffer death individually through repentance, systemically, culturally through repentance, restoration as we live out heaven on this earth that becomes then the great calling for how we indeed go forward in the future.