In just a few weeks, the Christian church across the globe will celebrate its highest feast, Easter Day. The dates and modalities of the festivities will vary based upon denomination, geography, and local custom, but the message will be the same: the tomb is empty. Jesus has been resurrected from the dead.
I find that despite our almost universal commitment to proclaiming resurrection, Christians are not particularly skilled at understanding, much less communicating, the paradigm shift that resurrection represents as a theological doctrine.
We live in a world that tells us (implicitly and explicitly) that preparation and preservation are the answers to the questions and challenges of life. We tell ourselves that if we go to the right doctor and eat healthy foods, if we listen to the best podcasts and find the most engaging physical trainer, we can live forever. And maybe we can even look good in the process.
To be clear, all of these things are important, but none of them will actually prevent death, at least in the long run. All of us will eventually return to our maker, and so will all of our loved ones. There will a time and place when all of our organizations, investments, programs, and even our relationships will cease to exist (along with every one of us). Yet, that will not be the end of the story. And that is a good thing!
Resurrection is not about the physical transformation of one person, one time, in one place. Christianity is not intended to be a museum preserving one experience of resurrection. More than that, resurrection does not eliminate death. Rather, resurrection transforms the grief of death into the joy of new life.
Whether it’s the joy of remembering a loved one who has died, or the hope that our individual and collective labors from this side of the grave will not be for nothing, resurrection proclaims that pain and loss can be transformed, not only transmitted. Resurrection proclaims that death does not have the last word—life does. Love conquers all.
No matter your beliefs and traditions this spring, I invite all of us to appreciate the fragility of our lives set beside the joy and depth found by taking a longer view of your life and death.