RICHLAND -- "For real?"
The 6-year old at the Easter service was hearing the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. An adult had tried to put the story into children's language, but the little girl boldly proclaimed her skepticism: "For real?"
The ripple of laughter through the church showed that many of us wrestled with our own understanding of the Easter story and were glad we weren't the man facing the "For real?" challenge!
"For real?" has been the question from the first Easter. The people who were there had a hard time getting it, that Jesus rose from the dead. Maybe someone stole the body? Maybe this person isn't really Jesus? Maybe his followers are making up the whole story?
The disciple Thomas says "show me!", not willing to simply believe his companions, needing to encounter the living Jesus for himself. Thomas knows that resurrection is not something to just hear about and believe. If it's real, it can be seen and touched.
It's obvious that Easter is almost here. Bunnies, flowers, eggs, all the pre-Christian symbols are in the stores. The blooming trees and flowers show that new life is bursting forth. But where is it obvious that Jesus rose from the dead?
Telling people the Easter story isn't enough. We are called to make resurrection something people can see and touch. How? Biblical prophets call us to restore the world to what was begun in Creation. Scripture is full of stories of generosity and justice that give new life to the poor and the oppressed, stories where forgiveness restores relationships, where healing bring hope.
Jesus ministered to the poor, the oppressed, the outcast and the sick. He died because of his faithfulness to God's passion for truth and justice. He lives to raise us out of self-centered, dead-end lives into lives of sacrifice and service. The meaning of his resurrection is, in part, about how we live in this world.
How could we make resurrection real to a little girl? Sharing God's abundance: healthy food at her school, a well-stocked food bank, community gardens and other programs to create food security. Peace-making: no bullying at school, no abuse at home. Healing: healthcare including dental care for all children. These are just a few ways to bring new life to her world.
Learning to see the signs of resurrection all around, and learning to be a part of God's plan to bring new life to the world, can help a person deal with a lifetime of losses and "little deaths." A dying woman told me that she'd been resurrected so many times in her life that she trusted the process and faced her death with confidence and hope. "It's always worked before," she said.
When justice, forgiveness, generosity, healing and hope are everywhere to be found, when the effects of sacrifice are more powerful than the effects of greed in our society, then the idea that God overcomes death and brings new life will be obvious, perhaps even to a child.
"For real?" For sure!
* The Rev. Jan Griffin is the Congregational Developer for the Southwest Region of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane. She is retired from parish ministry in Richland. Questions should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.