Today I am grateful for resurrections. I remember about 7 years ago running into a dear, non-churchgoing friend right before Easter. He asked how my sermon prep was going and then asked: “You’re not going to preach on the resurrection, are you? Who believes that stuff, anyway?” (His language was a bit more colorful than that but this is a family friendly blog!)
It was a loaded question, and one that required more than a passing conversation on the street. But it was a question that, for me, was a gift. Because it started me thinking about how people see resurrection. It woke me up and made me go deeper into why I do believe in resurrection. I realized that I believe in resurrection because I have experienced it and witnessed it over and over again throughout the course of my life.
I’m not just talking about the actual events that happened early on a Sunday morning 2000 plus years ago. Some of the accounts of the resurrection in Scripture (there are four accounts by the way, and all pretty different from each other — check them out here, here, here and here ) have some pretty dramatic aspects to them — earthquakes, men whose appearances were as bright as lightning. My everyday life is not nearly as dramatic as that. But I learned something about 15 years ago when I was training to be a hospital chaplain. I worked for three yeas as the Oncology Chaplain at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY. During those three years, I accompanied dozens of people on the last leg of their journey on earth, helping them make peace with their lives and their impending death. It was a profound experience. When I started working there, I was pretty much of the mind that life was linear — you were born, you lived your life, and, at the end of the line, you died. But what I discovered was that life was not linear at all. Life was a cyclical series of life, death and resurrections. Over and over again throughout our lives, we go through difficult things, we suffer, we die to something within us or lose something or someone in our lives, and we learn how to live again in a new way, in the context of our new reality. We discover, if we allow it in, new life. And, I think, all of these cycles of life and death and resurrection are a dress rehearsal for the big final one at the end of our lives. It was quite a revelation for me.
My experiences of resurrection have been far less dramatic than the accounts of resurrection in Scripture. They have been more like blades of grass breaking through the concrete. In the midst of hard and seemingly lifeless situations, I have experienced or witnessed life, like those resilient blades of grass that remind me that the loss or pain or disappointment or grief is never the last word. There is always more life being given.
Lately, I have talked with many people at different phases of the cycle. Some are in the depths of grief. Others are anticipating a loss to come. And still others are those blades of grass, experiencing new life — different from what they knew before, but life nonetheless, full of possibilities. I find this process miraculous. It fills me with hope. And for that I am very grateful.