Friends, seeing that Easter is actually 50 days long, I prefer to think that this post is on the early rather than the late side. This will be the first in a series of Easter Season reflections in which I will think through what Resurrection means, both for the people with whom I serve, and for all of us.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen…” [Luke 24v1-5]
Easter has always been powerful for me. I loved it when I was a child, both for the candy and for the amazing stories. I also loved it when I was a college student falling in love with Liberation Theology. Since then, I have always connected deeply with this Liberating Christ who stood with the poor, the oppressed, the outsider, those forgotten and dismissed and trampled upon by empire, by capitalism, by greed run amok, and by those who desire power at the cost of life. Since then, I have loved this Christ who died as one of these wounded people, beaten down by an emissary of the imperial government acting at the behest of His mislead and equally power-hungry, insecure, and cruel religious authorities, who with His last words forgave with total nonviolence those so corrupted by their own unjust social systems that they would spill innocent blood to maintain the status quo.
In this way, Easter is not a simple symbol of God’s gift of eternal life to us, of the simple overcoming of physical death and the promise of an eternal, painless existence on a beach in the sweet-by-and-by somewhere else. It is a proclamation that all forms of death will certainly die, whether those deaths be literal, figurative, or as is often the case in abused parts of the world like the one I live in, both. It is a notice, nailed on the door of the universe, that nothing that destroys will live, no one who loves will die, and that there is no power of government or religion, no bully big or small, no market force, nor anything else in our broken world that can come between us and God. Absolutely nothing.
And all the evil in the world? It always loses. Oppression loses. Hate loses. Violence loses. Injustice loses. Empire loses. Every. Single. Time. Always.
I still believe all that. And living in a country where Oscar Romero, a man who died to stand up for this pacifistic, non-partisan Christ who loved the poor, the oppressed, and the victims of cruelty and violence, it is hard not to see that Liberationist gospel as still relevant. I do not want to oversimplify: not everyone here sees Jesus, sees his message, sees the world that way. But many people do. The Pastoral Team certainly does. And so do I.
But, funny thing…as many years as I have spent working with the people Romero and others have stood up and died for: “the poor,” “the oppressed,” “the disadvantaged,” I never quite caught on to the fact that the Easter message, that the journey from death to resurrection, a sealed-up and guarded tomb to an empty one, also applied to me.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that the Liberationist understanding of the cross and the resurrection, the Liberationist space between the trial and the he-is-not-here, serves to remind me, a white middle class American, that my role in the Gospel is to use what privilege I have been given to help others out of whatever form of oppression they are suffering from: racism, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and yes, all of the intersections between those oppressions. In other words, my own liberation comes from my participation in the liberation of others. Resurrection is indeed, on the one hand, a practice of living out the Kingdom of God a the macro level, at fighting big systems and big corporations and governments and organizations and attitudes and yes, sometimes churches when they hurt and torture and ignore and deal out all manner of literal and figurative death. Entire nations and peoples have been brought low, crushed under the weight of imperialism and colonialism and avarice and greed and lust for power, just as Jesus was. Jesus stands and falls and dies right along with them. He thirsts as they thrist, bleeds as they bleed, and hangs there asking why, just as they do.
But Resurrection is also a micro event. It started with one cross, one man, one tomb, one morning of Light. And sometimes it happens within each of us in the same way.
The thing that is remarkable about Holy Week is that we have all probably had one.
The real Good Fridays of our lives are deaths, big and small: a certain event, or illness, or problem, or trauma. And we have all had them. We lose a job, or fail to get one. We graduate with a degree we’re proud of and wake up the next day with nothing to show for it. Plans fail. Dreams die. People die. Godawful terrible things happen. Our lives contain a thousand tombs.
And worse, what follows is a thousand Holy Saturdays. Dark spaces that leave us no hope for a future, spaces filled with what was that leave us seemingly without a what’s next. The sun comes up and goes down and seems to have nothing to do with us. Then that happens again, and again, and again. We find the point beyond the why that looks and feels like total absence, total emptiness. Which is less a real absence and emptiness and more the presence of something quite present and quite dead.
Jesus walks out from his own dark, empty space and declares that our own dark spaces are consecrated, too. That life has been breathed into them again. That those million little tombs are no longer shut. That those places, once so full with all that death and absence, are now full with the presence of light and new life and God’s abiding love.
That’s the easy part of the Good News. Here’s the scary part: I am actually talking about you.
Yes, you. The GOOD NEWS IS YOURS, TOO.
I am especially speaking to you activist types, you organizers, you citizens of the Kingdom, you people that pray on the street corners, you seekers of tikkum olam, you hopers and dreamers and lovers and people who rage against the dying of the light, and yes, to you who cannot bear to bear the weight of the broken world on your heart any longer, and the most that you can do anymore is read the front page in the morning, sigh deeply, and move on: THIS MEANS YOU.
But really, I am talking to every single one of you.
If there is any part of you that does not believe that what happened to Jesus actually has something to do with you, if you do not believe that God loves you unconditionally today, tomorrow, and yesterday, whether you spent the last three days in jail for civil disobedience, answering email, or actually really just screwing up your whole life, if you do not believe that you are forgiven for what you have done and not done, if you carry a voice inside you, born of abuse or bullying or trauma or your superego or yes, or own oppression that is telling you that maybe God loves me, but not like God loves everyone else, because there is no way God would love this broken sinner that way, then you need let that go. Because it is only killing you. And a dying you is not a living you, and a living you is what Jesus wants.
Furthermore, did you actually think for a second that you could go preach resurrection to other people if you don’t believe in it yourself? Did you actually think you could preach forgiveness to people if you don’t believe yourself to be forgiven, practice healing if you have not been healed, or love if you do not feel worthy of a love that considers everyone worthwhile? Were you actually going to try to convince the oppressed of the world that they deserve better because Jesus loves them enough to place His own body between them and empire without believing that the same God actually cares about you, too? Because I warn you: you won’t make it very far carrying that whole planet on your shoulders if you don’t believe Someone else is holding you up.
Yes, God has a preferential option for the poor. I totally believe that. But it wasn’t until the day I woke up several years ago, realizing that I was about to preach a sermon about forgiveness of self and others and did not believe that God actually loved or forgave me that I broke open, rolled away the stone, and crawled out to find a world where the love I felt for others was grounded in a belief that I was loved, too, where the Stories I told were not just about freeing others, but freeing myself that I could free others.
This Easter, I hope you find that freedom, too.
 “Ah, yes,” I hear you say. “But you’re a woman, and feminist liberation theology would note that you are also oppressed.” True. As a woman, I cannot walk down the street at night without the threat of violence and I know that the churches that hire me will probably pay me less than they would pay a man with the same qualifications. But just as there are complicated intersections between oppressions, straight white women like myself stand at a very strange intersection of privilege and need for liberation. This is not the post for that important discussion.