What the Resurrection Brings

As we approach Easter, Dan and Rachael consider the resurrection and the promise it holds for our own stories. The resurrection is not meant to dismiss suffering, but to give us hope that there is something on the other side of our suffering. 

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Episode Transcript:

Dan: Rachael, you put it so brilliantly, even in our initial conversation, a few moments ago, like we’ve been in Friday and Saturday. Uh, we do a lot of work there. Uh, we don’t do it without an awareness of Sunday, but we’re gonna spend most of today talking about the resurrection about Easter and that I’m, I, I’m just excited. There’s something about, look, if, if, if you’ve got the openness to address Friday, you need Sunday. You can’t, you can’t really deal with what Friday holds and that is humiliation and shame, unless there is something of the promise of something other, and you really can’t deal with the despair and silence of Saturday, holy Saturday, without something of the promise of Sunday. So I say to you, well, how is the resurrection… For you?

Rachael: Oh, what a big question.

Dan: Oh, I know. That is so unkind.

Rachael: Oh, I mean, I think being as, as I was saying to you, like good Friday, holy Saturday, like being people who work in trauma trenches, so much of our work is helping people acknowledge that Friday and Saturday are a part of the story and that we don’t get to Sunday by bypassing Friday and Saturday. It’s not like the resurrection is some magical kind of like finger snap that you can just put on your physical in-storied body that just makes all suffering disappear in the here and now, like we know we’re already not yet people like something has changed because of the work of Christ in our world, the, work of Jesus, the work of the incarnation, Jesus life/death, the holy Saturday work of, of entering wordlessness, you know, some articulate that as actually entering hell on our behalf, but without the resurrection, like I, you know, I, I will say to people a lot, cuz there’s a lot of, I think even the word resurrection brings up a lot for people. Um, it’s a loaded word. It’s meant different things to so many of us. And I think for myself growing up in a context where the resurrection was the whole point of the story, to the extent that sometimes it felt like a way to escape the realities of this world and to justify, um, looking away from this world kind of like the world’s gonna burn anyway. So it’s kind of like, let, let it burn because then we’re closer to, you know, the fruits of the resurrection. But I think also for so many of us, because like the way the resurrection is used to minimize or dismiss our suffering, but I will often, or people just don’t believe in the resurrection cuz it feels crazy. And like that’s so outdated and why do we need that? But I always say to people, no way in the world I’m entering the heartache and the trauma of Friday stories of our lives in my own life of Saturday stories, without some sense that I go because death does not have the final say. So for me, like it all hinges on this, this power of life in the spirit that is gifted to the son to overcome not just the power of death, but I think the power of evil, um, that means everything to me. And it wasn’t until I, I was a part of a more charismatic movement that like Easter Sunday actually really felt like a celebration. Like I think, oh, this should be like one of the biggest parties, like as Christians that we have in our kind of rituals and rhythms, it should be a day of just like such deep joy and celebration. So I, I love thinking about ways to embody the resurrection. I remember the first Sunday of COVID, you know, Easter came like what a month and a half into like a month, a month into this new reality in 2020, like in our house, in our quarantined house, we had a dance party and it just felt so appropriate in that kind of defiant joy, um, that doesn’t deny or minimize harm or suffering, but also says you don’t have the final say here.

Dan: Well, and two things that you brought up. If I can start with this rise out of, to me, the chapter, I, I, there are many passages. This is not the only, but if you’re going to go to the apex chapter on the resurrection, it is 1 Corinthians chapter 15. And you know, if I were you, if that’s not like, oh yeah, I would say, you know what? You got the technology, like, go get a pause, uh, go get. And because we’re talking about the resurrection, uh, I would say, you know, go get a refreshing adult drink, uh, and go read 1 Corinthians 15 and then come back. But if you don’t, that’s fine. We’ll still talk about it. And that’s the point? This, we’re talking party time, we’re talking, this is, this is the basis of all partying of all play of all humor of all humility. I mean, this is where like if, if 1 Corinthians 15 is not something you kind of come back to, then, uh, it might be a good place to like learn how to land into the movement of how the gospel takes us. But two things you said, one is often the resurrection is an effort to escape actually being embodied. And that’s what Paul’s addressing in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, because there are people who say the resurrection’s not real. And so the first eight or nine verses, essentially he’s telling this community, look, Jesus showed himself after his crucifixion too. And he goes through a whole bunch of people, uh, including 500, uh, and then, uh, says, and to the least of these me, uh, but not only am I the least and don’t deserve to be an apostle, but I also work harder than any of the other apostles. I… it just makes me laugh. Like, and again, if you will hear, that’s what the resurrection brings is a certain kind of humor. But back to when you don’t take the body seriously, the resurrection doesn’t mean much. And which is again, though, we’re not gonna spend much time in Friday and Saturday. Like you can’t engage the body, unless you step into the moments of your own humiliation. Like you must be in Friday to be in Sunday and to know what your body feels like when you want to be invisible, when you want to be erased, when you don’t want to be in your body, because shame is that phenomena that erases our face that brings us to a point where we despise what our body holds. And then if you add Saturday of despair of your in-between humiliation and what the resurrection may bring, which is utter wordless despair, where there is nothing more to be said, if, if that kind of loss. So we’re talking about two core realities of being in the body. If you’re in the body, you know, shame, you know, grief. And those are the bases that as you enter your own story, the question is, is there hope and what the resurrection brings is promise and power that we actually can be in our bodies and know that shame is not final, nor is despair. And if that’s the case, your second comment of death, doesn’t get the final word nor does shame nor does despair. Oh, it’s real. It just doesn’t get the final word because Sunday gets the final word. So as we step into this, I’m, I’m just curious what you are bringing to this current Easter.

Rachael: You know, I’m not gonna lie. I come to this particular Easter, almost, I mean, I, I would imagine many people feel this way with all that’s going on in the world, because I think another reality of like, what Paul’s saying in this text is, you know, not only our bodies matter, but something of this physical world we live in and our relationships and creation and this, it matters. It’s not like it’s insignificant until this one day when we kind of have this new eternity, it’s all a part of it. And so I come to this Easter weekend, like exhausted, like so tired. And I think feeling so much of that sense of futility that is constantly in our faces. Like it’s just been a season, you know, for the past couple of years. And I, this is probably true of just our larger world. Like we’ve used this language. We are in a very apocalyptic time where, just meaning like revelation of what is most true of like our hearts, our systems, our, our core values, um, like what’s true of the world and what’s true of systems of power and where they’re fused with religion. And so it’s this time where there’s just a lot of gravity and weightiness. I mean, there’s multiple wars playing out in the world, multiple atrocities, and it can feel almost like, does anything we do matter? Does, like, are we accomplishing anything, uh, in our labor? Are we like, will any of it remain? I mean, it’s been a season of like toiling in the soil to build really good and beautiful things, but also for them to be so easily toppled because of trauma, because of someone else’s decisions, you know, that come into the story. And so I think I come, I come to this Easter weekend, one needing a reminder that in many ways the resurrection of Jesus has already happened. And as a child of God surrendered to following Jesus, like I do have access to the spirit of God. That is like a resurrection spirit. So I kind of come needing just really needing like the encouragement and the infusion of new life that is like rooted in, in actual soil, not like kind of a narcotic, but that, that sense of like keep going, like keep loving, keep leaning in like remain when all my fantasies, right?

Dan: Yeah.

Rachael: Yeah. Like I just wanna quit everything and not like, I, I wanna like, not my family. I don’t wanna quit my family, but I just wanna quit work. I wanna quit caring. I wanna, I don’t know, live on an isolated island, which is not grow things, grow a beautiful garden, as if I…

Dan: Again, coming back from a conference, you know, we’ve not been on road very often. And it is really thrilling to be a physical body with other physical bodies doing the work. And yet the labor of getting somewhere and the labor of coming back, uh, this was a trip to Miami and coming back to Seattle was almost a 16 hour process. And each and every hour, I just, I felt something of almost the haunting mockery of this is just not worth it. This there’s. So I’m not even talking the benefit to me. I’m just saying, what good, what good does all this bring given what seems to be, and, and not grandizing my own sacrifice, but the fact is so little seems to occur for the labor of most of our lives, that when we then start with what does 1 Corinthians 15, uh, the brilliant, most brilliant chapter on the resurrection, Paul at the very end of the letter or of the chapter does the therefore, so let me tell you essentially why I’ve told you everything that we’re eventually gonna talk about with regard to the resurrection. Let me tell you why I’m telling you, and it, it boils it down to so that you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. That’s the last sentence. So for me, at least, um, this comes to say the small is the holy, the inconsequential. That seems so mundane. So daily, so earthly so much a matter of what will come to call humus, dirt, just the dirt of life. It’s actually the soil, uh, where the potential of what the resurrection can bring literally has the opportunity to bring not just newness, but fruit, that nourishes that brings life. So as we at least address the fact that the resurrection, uh, so often gets trivialized as just the happy day we dress up, uh, and, and particularly go to church for those who tend not to be ecclesially oriented. It’s the high holiday, along with Christmas, bottom line, it’s the play, uh, and the, and the party of God. And that I hope we can underscore what what’s happening for us, uh, in the power of the resurrection and the word I just used of humus. Um, this is where the gospel is dirty. Friday is dirty. Saturday is dirty, it’s in the dirt. It is not a, it, it is in some sense in the soil and mud of life. And yet the framework that Paul brings is one of mockery or humor that is, oh, death, where’s your sting. Uh, just, I think it’s one of the most powerful phrases that so, uh, often the spirit brings back to me, meaning you need to mock evil here. You need to know that the crucifixion is the upheaval, the radical turning of what would be expected in this humiliation. There is actually a humiliation, but not of God, not of Jesus, ultimately of evil itself. It did not understand that somehow in the crucifixion its power over the universe was radically changed. So in that sense, the humor of God, the foolishness of God that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 1, is that what looks like death and is death actually is the entry into a newness of life. And so when you think about the resurrection and, and humor, I, I just love for you to kind of walk through where does that take you?

Rachael: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a good question. And a hard question, because I don’t know if I thought much about the humor of the resurrection and I would be curious to hear more from you. Like, I mean, I understand it at a most basic level, but I want to hear, I find myself wanting to hear more from you.

Dan: Okay. I’m glad to do that, but before I do that, let me just ask another question. Do you, do you think of yourself as a, a really funny person?

Rachael: You know, I didn’t used to think about that, but then the more I, uh, public speak, um, I do have some comedic capacity, I guess.

Dan: Uh, like I, I would also say like one of the funniest people, I think on the, in the universe is my wife, but most people who know her, think of her as very, very, very kind, very, uh, open, sharing, kind, set, et cetera. But she’s hilarious. And so let me go back to…

Rachael: I would agree.

Dan: And, and to go, so how is it that you see yourself to be hilarious?

Rachael: Well, I’m not usually trying to be

Dan: I know that’s the point

Rachael: I’m usually, I mean, I think it’s okay. I see where you’re going. Um, it, it is the connection of like humor, humus and humanity. Um, it is the places of bringing just the, the real truth and humanity. I think it’s where I’m really just bringing really human size things and letting some of the hilarity and the absurdity and in our capacity to laugh and have joy, not mockery cuz in the think there’s a real, I think some comedy can really get into, you know, sarcasm and mockery as a way to, to bring forth laughter or to, you know, minimize something. So it doesn’t feel as powerful. Um, but I think, yeah, that sense of, of reversing something that could be meant for humiliation or shame. Um, but those places where if we can lean into it, it actually brings a different kind of freedom, um, a different kind of connection, a different kind of embodiment. I also just have really funny things happen to me that I think everyone has. And then when I tell the stories, people are like, no, that has not happened to me. Like a lot of Seinfeld moments in this world of just trying to navigate like really basic mundane things.

Dan: Yeah. And let, let’s not get too far, but let’s just say that in some sense, there is such an interplay between humility and humiliation. But they’re not the same. Humiliation is a degradation of, of one’s dignity, but humility is in some sense being unafraid to be human. And in that there is an essential, not contradiction, but tension and somewhat of a contradiction between there is such beauty in every human heart and such brokenness. But it’s also a reflection of what you put words to with the already. And not yet. I’m already saved. I am definitely not saved. Now. Can we hold the complexity of that? But humor allows us to experience tension, but in the tension to have a kind of relief because of surprise and you are weirdly surprising one just doesn’t know sometimes what’s gonna come outta your mouth. Would you not say that’s true?

Rachael: Oh, that’s true.

Dan: So in that sense, I, I, one of the reasons that I, I love being with you is that you are a reflection of the resurrection. You are a profoundly contradictory but compellingly, uh, in one sense, irreducibly, complex human being, but yet with an honesty and a simplicity of, of righteousness, do, do you see in that sense, that’s the intersection between humor, humus, humility, but also there’s not a bone in you that wants to mock another human being. Oh, but I’ve been with you when you have stood down ferociously and with mockery, the power of evil. So that’s why, again, what we’re putting words to is what are the fruits of the resurrection? Um, what are the things that in one sense become a way to taste? Are you a resurrection person? Not, uh, yeah, whatever, if you believe I’m all for it, but, but belief and living are not, uh, they should be profoundly intersecting, but it seems like there are many who believe where you go, oh, I don’t see that humus. And I don’t see that humility nor do I see that humor. I mean, for me, I, I, if, if we can’t laugh, we can’t work. Uh, if we can’t weep Friday, if we can’t be in some sense of despair together, but the ability to weep and the ability to bear despair has to have that kind of, and where’s your sting because you don’t get the final word. And that’s where we begin to say reversal and surprise opens up this intersection between possibility and probability. And that I think is the intersection of, do we actually believe that new things can actually occur?

Rachael: Yeah. And, and I think one of the things that’s so powerful about the actual story of the resurrection of Jesus is the newness is again, it is, it’s a reversal and a surprise and a newness that does not eradicate what was. So when Jesus reveals himself to people, he still bears scars. There’s some way in which they have even been resurrected and made new, but are, are meaningful and holy and powerful. And so there’s something about this newness and this joy that doesn’t, again, it doesn’t allow us to escape what was, but it brings it with us into this new future in a way that it’s most meant to be like that sense of turning ashes into beauty and mourning into dancing. And so I think there is a real joy, there’s a real joy present in the resurrection and, and a, a deep gratitude, um, of what is possible. And, and it’s a hard place to stand, right? Because there’s still so much that comes against us to say what a fool you are. Um, and you have to know that the first, the followers of Jesus who lived with him still felt that trembling of like something. I mean, you, you have this resurrected Jesus, who’s presenting himself to you. You can’t deny it in like the metaphysical world, shaking up everything, you know, to be true about like metaphysics and life and death. And yet, like he’s bringing a newness of the kingdom of God in a way that actually looks very different than what people thought the Messiah was going to bring. So I think that sense of surprise and play and possibility is still something that calls us to reversal even in our own belief of how and where, and when that will manifest and what it looks like when it does. So I find myself this Easter also wanting to look for signs of the kingdom, signs of life breaking through in the midst of death signs of reversal, signs of beauty. Um, but like, again, not disconnected from like our real mundane lives.

Dan: Yeah. And it, at least within that framework, it, it begins to say you are a fool if you believe in possibility. But you can have some degree of control if you’re operating in a statistical model on the basis of probability and probability leaves some degree of the X factor. But essentially it’s like, well, if I look at actuarial tables, uh, I’m gonna depart this world within the next seven to nine years. That’s the basis of probability. The fact is, uh, I, I, I might depart in the next day or be here for two to three more decades. So the realm of possibility always leaves us back with a kind of, we’re in the dirt. We don’t know what’s gonna happen. There is utter uncertainty. And can we now because of the resurrection, we can actually know that our labor’s not in vain and we’re meant to hold this intersection between what seems real, but is actually even more real. And what is more real than what the Shadowlands seem to indicate on the basis of probability is that the kingdom of God is in one sense, playfully going to intrude to the degree you want to bring goodness to this earth. So when we pray the Lord’s prayer,

Rachael: That’s right

Dan: On earth, as it is in heaven, that’s a frame of resurrection, anticipation, but also how do we want to play today with the reality, we get to mock death, but we also get to be in the dirt on behalf of one another to literally now we go back to that metaphor to grow a goodness, uh, on behalf of, uh, others and ourself.

Rachael: So I’m curious in light of these things, like, what does an Easter Sunday look like for you and Becky and how do some of these like realities we’re talking about get to be like tangibly marked or remembered or anticipated, or do they like, is it more of a unfolding over time?

Dan: Well, uh, here’s part of the, uh, heartbreak of COVID is that it, it hasn’t been as it was, uh, yeah. And so finding new ways in an isolated way. Yeah. Um, but for us, Easter was often the time that we would have some of our dearest friends who like labored together, love together, celebrate together, are there, you know, in illness, uh, but they’re in birthdays and parties et cetera, to gather for a really good meal. Oh my gosh. I, I think of Easter as the time where we eat well that day more than I think any other day, because again, it’s, this is a feast day and then it, it, it, it isn’t like we’re stand up comics, but we know one another’s funny stories. And I, the, maybe it’s just my age, but like I could almost do my friends stories and in some cases, uh, actually be more humorous than they, but nonetheless hearing them tell the stories that I know bear the intersection of humiliation despair yet also reversal and surprise. So what, what Easter tended to be for us was like a comedy show where we get to participate in stories we know well, but where we know that something of goodness has arisen in the reversal of what would’ve been our death, what would’ve been our humiliation, but actually, again, back to the resurrection, because of the grounding of the resurrection really remarkable, good fruit can occur. So often we would leave like so full, but also where, you know, when you’re laughing and it hurts, like, like they’re just such sweet times to be with people where you’re weeping, uh, and your body hurts because we are so desperate to laugh to a point where everything changes at least for a moment. And that’s what I hold. Uh, we haven’t had an Easter like that for quite a while, but enough of those memories suffice, even in the COVID era to be on zoom with some of these friends, um, to be in the place where it just ain’t the same to eat a leg of lamb, uh, and sees somebody digitize on the damn screen. And yet there’s still stories and they’re still laughter. But in some sense, it’s the anticipation of, there may be a day that we are together. And in that, it is the promise, oh, there will be a day. We are together. Yeah. Resurrected bodies. Splendor is how Paul keeps putting it in the context of our bodies. The perishable will be imperishable that which has been in some sense, humiliated will be full of splendor. And so this sense of contrast, but I go back to one of the images and that is Jesus bears, the scars, even in his resurrected body. We see that particularly in revelation, chapter five, where he’s seen as the lion of Judah, but also the slave lamb. And in that simultaneity of power and yet humility holding in his resurrected glorified body, the scars, it, it means that in some sense, even with Sunday, we do not forget Friday. And even in Sunday, we do not forget Saturday. So there’s also a, a place even on Easter to be able to hold, we have suffered. And in that we’re not mocking our suffering. We’re mocking that evil wanted our suffering to take away any sense that our lives matter.

Rachael: Well I, I think that’s, that’s something I’m really gonna be holding into tomorrow. Um, and then, you know, if you follow the, the liturgical calendar, you know, Easter tide follows Easter Sunday. So we have a whole season to get to ponder and, and be intentional. I mean, liturgy and and rituals are really a way to intention ourselves towards something. And I think this I’m really grateful. You brought 1 Corinthians 15 because I think that, especially that last admonishment and, and exertation that, therefore my beloved be steadfast. Immovable always excelling in the work of the Lord because you know that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain. I think think that’s something I’m gonna be pondering. Even when I think about what will it be when we’re not in the already, not yet, but, but the new heaven and the new earth, and again, not without the full complexity of our humanity and our stories and our, and what we’ve built. There’s something for me that actually feels really encouraging, felt like our labor is not in vain. And it actually makes me curious, not only for my own body, but for our world, for our communities, um, for the places where we feel powerless to change oppressive structures, like what will remain that has been labored for even if so much of our history feels like a reenactment that has the power to destroy. So there’s something about the tying of the resurrection to our good bodies, um, our capacity to love our capacity, to be with those who are in grief and joy simultaneously, which is so much what we’re called to. And I think it is like, this is challenging me to have a different kind of imagination in this season. It doesn’t feel like a bandaid or you, you know, like it fixes everything. It just, it reminds me to hold fast. Like I think that that language of be steadfast to not, I do feel like it’s been a season of feeling really discouraged and, and like it does. Yeah. Like that sense of like the futility, like, it doesn’t matter, like you can build really beautiful things and they’ll just getting torn down and to just stay steadfast and say, no, our labor is not in vain. Yes. And I don’t exactly know the mystery of all that, that means, but I do believe in the power of the resurrection and the hope, the hope of the resurrection and the play and possibility and of the resurrection.

Dan: Well, and again, not to tire our audience, but it, the book of Corinthians is a really heartbreaking book. In that Paul, right from the very beginning of chapter one is addressing the fact that the church is rife like freaking wildly rife with messes that include division. You’re of Cephas, you’re of Paul, you’re of Jesus, You’re of… I mean, divisions are so severe and they’ve got sexual violation, including incest in the church. That’s not being addressed. And spirits, spiritual gifts have division created division, eating, uh, food to idols has, uh, it it’s like it is a messy, you know, when people say, oh, what the first century church would’ve been like, it’s like, well, read the book of 1 Corinthians. Ain’t nothing new, their world or ours. Yet. What it feels like is one of the last issues that Paul’s addressing in Corinthians is, is the issue of how foolish we are. And he does that in the first chapter that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. Uh, but in this chapter, he’s coming back to the idea of foolishness or as you see the word vanity, and at least in the septuagent, the word he uses in Greek is the same word that’s used endlessly and the book of Ecclesiastes. And so that question of you can be wise in what value does it have? You can be faithful. What value does it have? You can be consistent and good. What value does it have? Ecclesiastes is a brutal letter exposing essentially much of the absurdity of life. And so Paul is in some ways coming radically to a playful category of saying the resurrection is foolish, uh, and in some ways it’s absurd, uh, a dead man rises. Prove it. And, you know, he does a pretty good job in the first 10 verses. But nonetheless, as we come into this, if we don’t address the fact that, um, much of what we’ve done in the Allender Center just feels like, what good have we done? And we don’t need honestly, uh, kind letters reminding us we’ve done good because the it deeper thing it’s, but fine. I would love to have a letter, but, but it’s not going to address that deep question. I mean, I remember at the very beginning of our work, um, we won’t go into details, but in St. Louis where we were doing our first narrative focus, trauma care conference, uh, at a lunch where we had all been, shall we say, beat to a pulp with regard to the futility of our labor. Uh, do you remember the sermon you preached?

Rachael: I do. To some extent.

Dan: Yeah. Well, what did you say humorist?

Rachael: I don’t really remember other than, I just felt like I was holding on to the small moments that were not small in insignificance, but, um, in the face of the futility felt small. Um, but so powerful to remind us that Jesus was doing good work and that it was worth it to remain. Even if, you know, it didn’t feel like it was gonna radically revolutionize and bring the kind of healing our heart’s most long for.

Dan: Yeah. And, uh, I could, I could tell you where you were sitting at the table. I could, I mean, all of us were riveted because we, we were in the midst of Friday and Saturday and the presence of someone who’s able to say, I don’t minimize how deeply foolish all of this feels. I’m not gonna try and wipe it away, but I’m gonna actually enter something of the foolishness of our labor and the vanity that it appears to be. But also to be able to hold within that, that there is someone who in dying on, our behalf and being raised on our behalf as the first Adam brought death, the fulfilling Adam, human goodness in a way that none of us have ever known a kind of humanity, like Jesus creates that reversal to be able to say, even in that moment. And I wish I could know what happened other than in a moment. Um, there was something of our own hearts that said yes, and I think that’s, uh, to some degree, what I believe the resurrection brings us to is that ability to say everything inside of me at moments just feels like I have nothing left. I don’t know why. In fact, I feel brutally cynical, but the yes is the fullness of possibility that if Jesus can be raised from the dead. So can I. Not merely at the point of my death, but at the point of my living that feels like death that’s right. I might actually be able to say, hell no. Um, and heaven, yes. And to me, that is what I wish for you and for our listeners that you can say your labor because of the resurrection as futile and at times absurd as it may seem well, there’s a deeper absurdity. God became, man, man, God became sin and death and became that, which has the power to say your shame, your despair. No, it will not be wiped away, but it does not have to have the final word. Hmm.

Rachael: Yeah.

Dan: Well, my friend.

Rachael: Hmm. And I think I just would say, and God is with us and God is with us. So may it be so, and likewise to you,

Dan: Happy Easter, Rachael,

Rachael: Happy Easter.