Being the Resurrection

March 10, 2010

Being the Resurrection

Late that evening a group of unknown disciples packed their few belongings and left for a distant shore, for they could not bear to stay another moment in the place where their Messiah had just been crucified. Weighed down with sorrow, they left that place, never to return. Instead they traveled a great distance in search of a land that they could call home. After months of difficult travel, they finally happened upon an isolated area that was ideal for setting up a new community. Here they found fertile ground, clean water, and a nearby forest from which to harvest material needed to build shelter. So they settled there, founding a community far from Jerusalem, a community where the vowed to keep the memory of CHrist alive and live in simplicity, love, and forgiveness, just as he had taught them.

The members of this community lived in great solitude for over a hundred years, spending their days reflecting on the life of Jesus and attempting to remain faithful to his ways. And they did all this despite the overwhelming sorrow in their heart.

But their isolation was eventually broken when, early one morning, a small band of missionaries reached the settlement. These missionaries were amazed at the community they found. What was most startling to them was that these people had no knowledge of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, for they had left Jerusalem before his return from the dead on the third day. Without hesitation, the missionaries gathered together all the community members and recounted what had occurred after the imprisonment and bloody crucifixion of their Lord.

That evening there was a great festival in the camp as people celebrated the news of the missionaries. Yet, as the night progressed, one of the missionaries noticed that the leader of the community was absent. This bothered the young man, so he set out to look for this respected elder. Eventually he found the community’s leader crouched low in a small hut on the fringe of the village, praying and weeping.

“Why are you in such sorrow?” asked the missionary in amazement. “Today is a time for great celebration.”

“It may indeed be a day for great celebration, but this is also a day of sorrow,” replied the elder, who remained crouched on the floor. “Since the founding of this community we have followed the ways taught to us by Christ. We pursued his ways faithfully even though it cost us dearly, and we remained resolute despite the belief that death had defeated him and would one day defeat us also.”

The elder slowly got to his feet and looked the missionary compassionately in the eyes.

“Each day we have forsaken our very lives for him because we judged him wholly worthy of the sacrifice, wholly worthy of our being. But now, following your news, I am concerned that my children and my children’s children may follow him, not because of his radical life and supreme sacrifice, but selfishly, because his sacrifice will ensure their personal salvation and eternal life.”

With this the elder turned and left the hut, making his way to the celebrations that could be heard dimly in the distance, leaving the missionary crouched on the floor.


I almost wish this parable were later in the cycle, since it is practically perfect for Holy Saturday.

The idea contained here is interesting to me, though, for the way it critiques the common reason people give for encouraging folks to convert. Seriously, how often have you heard/been asked the question, “If you died today, do you know where you’d end up?” I’ve heard conversion referred to as “fire insurance.” I think this is wrong-headed. It makes selfish what is supposed to be a selfless way of life. Following Jesus is supposed to be about serving others and sacrificing for the good of those less fortunate than yourself. Really, when you listen to what the people in the New Testament actually say about following The Way, the whole eternal life with your savior is an added bonus. It isn’t the point; it is a consequence of the point, which is to announce and inaugurate the Kingdom of Heaven.

The elder of the community, mourning the discovery of the resurrection knows this, and knows that the heaven temptation will irretrievably alter his community’s understanding of what Jesus meant. You see, in absence of knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death, this community modeled that victory. A friend once said to me, “Practice resurrection,” and it has become one of my favorite mantras, because resurrection isn’t just the one-time act we celebrate Easter Sunday, but the process started by the life and teaching of Jesus, bringing about Resurrection and Reconciliation into Creation.

Like the elder, I think it would be truly unfortunate to gain news of the event of resurrection and in so doing lose sight of the process of resurrection going on around us all the time. We can surely have both, but I think that an emphasis on the latter has been absent from our discourse far too often. It is important to be the resurrection, as the title reminds, just as it is important to celebrate it.


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