Hochhalter, Cara B.. Easter Morning, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=59270 [retrieved July 6, 2022]. Original source: Cara B. Hochhalter.
God did not create us for timidity, but for boldness, Jesus did not live so that we could live small lives, but so that we might live expansively and abundantly, and was not crucified and resurrected so that we could live bound by the snares of the world, but rather so that we could live free of the chains that bind us.
Isaiah 65 is a promise to us that God’s default is not dourness, but joy. We are called to rejoice forever in the world being created, and God affirms that we are not God’s shame, but God’s delight.
Lives will no longer be shortened by war, disease, or hunger, people will live to their full potential, enjoying the fruits of their own labor: The people will not only build houses, but they will also get live in them. The people will not only plant the vineyards, but they will also eat their fruit. The people will not labor in vain for the benefits of another.
These benefits will not only be for themselves, but for generations yet to come. We shall not bear children for calamity. But our psalmist goes further, using a metaphor from the natural world to explain the total transformation of society. Wolf and lamb will eat together, with the lion eating straw like an ox. The oppressor and oppressed will be reconciled, with no reason or means for us to do violence against one another. We recall the words of the prophet Isaiah that the people will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not turn against nation, and we will study war no more.
The tragedy of being Christian is knowing these prophecies, these promises from God have not yet been fulfilled in whole. Life expectancy still varies wildly, by nation, by socioeconomic status, by gender. People, especially here in South Florida, are deeply struggling with housing, with wages not keeping up with the rise in rents. People are not the recipients of their labor.
And worst of all, violence is still an everyday reality for millions around the world, whether through war, crime, poverty, or abuse.
So if these promises have not been fulfilled in whole, why might, why must we still believe?
Because the resurrection of Christ points us ultimately toward hope. Because the tomb was empty, the direction of our lives is no longer ultimately under the sway of the powers of oppression, sin, and death. If as Bob Dylan says, you gotta serve somebody, our somebody is not wealth power or jealousy, but the serving God, the prince of peace, he who conquered death.
I must say ultimately because the powers of sin and death, of oppression still abound. We are currently encountering a rising wave of homophobia and transphobia, with an increasing number of laws restricting medical care and freedom of speech passing in states across the country.
Nations are still lifting their swords and thermobaric artillery shells against nation and cloaking their wars in the language of nationalism and Christianity, even as they massacre civilians.
If that is the tragedy of being a Christian, perhaps the difficulty of being a Christian is seeing the present reality, warts and all, and still be open to hope. In our Gospel reading, the women are prepared to mourn their friend, their son, Jesus. They were prepared to anoint their body with spices.
Yet they are abruptly encountered with a new almost unbelievable reality: the tomb is empty. The women- and yes, the first ones to hear the gospel, to preach the gospel were women- were able to recognize the new reality in front of them, and proclaim it. They are open to hope and resurrection and the possibilities of new life in a way that the men hearing the gospel are unable to.
It's women’s idle chatter, gossip and malarkey, the men say, which is proof that things never change as much as we think they do.
But eventually they do get on board, and the church is born. They know that Christ is risen, and therefore they know hope in a time of despair. They know that Christ is risen, and therefore know that the promises of God are real, They know that Christ is risen, and therefore that they were not made for shame but joy. They know that Christ is risen, and that they will not bear children for calamity.
They know that Christ is risen, and that the wolf and lamb will eat together, with the lion eating straw like an ox.
May we know this as well as they did.