Tag Archives: Resurrection

Gospel Reflection for April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday

18 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34,37-43; Colossians 3.1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5.6-8; John 20.1-9 (10-18)

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and she told them he had said these things to her. “ – John 20.16-18

Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus’ resurrection to new life. This is the core of Christians faith: that God raised Jesus, who was crucified, from the dead. His resurrection promises that we who believe in him will be raised up to new life with God as he has been. He is the firstborn of a new humanity.

Jesus reveals that God’s power lies not in magic or military might but in love. Love is the power that gives life. Self-giving actions such as forgiving, sharing and welcoming strangers take us beyond the boundaries of ourselves and open us to God’s presence and power among us. The power of these actions in our lives and the lives of others gives us the same hint as spring does that we have the Spirit at work in us, more power than our own for building human community.

What do you see in the empty tomb? What do you hear in Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus that affirms your faith?

Gospel Reflection for August 6, 2017 Feast of the Transfiguration

31 Jul

Scripture Readings: Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14; 2 Peter 1.16-19; Mathew 17.1-9

“Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them u on a high mountain by themselves. He was transfigured before their very eyes. His face became as dazzling as the sun, his clothes bright as light.  Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.” – Matthew 17.1-3

In the transfiguration Peter, James, and John glimpse Jesus in glory, his divinity shining through his humanity. The three fall on the ground overcome with fear and awe. Words fail Peter. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary respond much the same way when Jesus appears to them after they find the tomb empty. The women hold his feet and worship him (Matthew 28.9).

Both the transfiguration and the resurrection are numinous experiences that take the witnesses beyond words. The creative love that lies at the heart of the evolving life of the universe touches the disciples on the mount of transfiguration and at the empty tomb.  The transfiguration embeds in the heart of the gospel narrative a post-Easter theological vision. The vision expresses who Jesus is and who we disciples are to be. We live in the future this scene envisions–Easter time.

How has a numinous, holy moment affected you? What have you carried with you from it?

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An April Sonnet

1 Apr

As spring makes its way even into chilly Minnesota, we share this poem written by a favorite teacher at the College of St. Catherine. May you be blessed by the beauty around you.

April Sonnet

Poem by Sister Alice Gustava Smith, CSJ.

Easter in This Life

24 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Anne Reeves

Photo via Flickr user Anne Reeves

“Hang on,” I wrote to my friend yesterday, “Easter is coming.”

A lot of people close to me are suffering. A friend’s transplant match fell through. A high school sophomore is having dark thoughts of hurting himself. My dad got a cancer diagnosis and is waiting to hear more about the implications. A friend was sexually harassed at work. My friend’s baby is in the hospital with pneumonia, not able to breathe on his own. Another friend’s dad died suddenly. We are sitting in Good Friday, waiting for Easter.

We know Easter is coming, but Jesus’ friends didn’t. Jesus, the friend they thought was the Messiah, died. He was gone. Can you imagine the grief and confusion filling those days between? Did their minds go to anger? Resentment? Betrayal? Hopelessness? They weren’t days of waiting because they didn’t know Easter was coming. I have to imagine some of them thought is was just over. Jesus was just really gone for good. To this day, we are always surprised at the permanence of death. Death from this place really is forever. It’s jarring. So I assume Jesus’ friends were dealing with this reality. In shock. Jarred.

In that way, I feel lucky to know the whole story, to know that Good Friday is not the end. Yet unlike Jesus’ friends, we don’t get to see Jesus risen. Not yet. Easter will come after Good Friday, and then our lives here continue. I do hope Easter gives the people I care for a moment of relief, but our pain here and now continues. We trudge on, looking for ways to claim mini resurrections in this life, our messy, broken lives. I asked the young people I work with how they know it is spring:

you hear birds singing

you see green breaking through the dirt

you can walk outside without a heavy coat, scarf, hat and mittens

Spring is coming. The days are getting longer. There is relief and renewal if we just hang on. With my son more stable these days, no longer a baby, I have felt a mini resurrection in my own life. I see friends, go for a run, find myself more emotionally available to other people. I sleep through the night and wake up refreshed. I choose to claim the beauty and new life in my days, in the midst of all the suffering. It is a daily decision to acknowledge the Easter and now.

Bukowski reminds us of the mini resurrections that happen in this life while we wait for the next:

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.

you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.

(experts from “The Laughing Heart”)

Happy Easter to you. May you beat death in life, sometimes. May you find your Alleluia.

Gospel Reflection for March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday

21 Mar

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34, 37-43; Colossians 3.1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5.6-8; John 20.1-9 (10-18)

Mary Magdelene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

(John 20.18)

The act of raising Jesus from the dead reveals who God is — the one who gives life. By accepting death, Jesus reveals that God’s power lies not in magic or military might but in love. Love is the power that gives life, especially its concrete forms such as forgiving, serving others, sharing. These are the powers death cannot defeat. These are the human actions that reveal God as people go out and beyond themselves.

Jesus’ resurrection calls us to trust ourselves to God at our own deaths as Jesus trusted God on the cross. Our Easter faith calls us to trust the life-giving Creator whose presence shows forth in all that is and the sustaining Spirit who holds us in being.

What affirms your faith in Jesus’ self-giving way of life?

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Gospel Reflection for March 22, 2015, 5th Sunday of Lent

16 Mar

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 31.31-34; Hebrews 5.7-9; John 12.22-33

“The hour has come in which the Son of Man will be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it will be bear much fruit.”

(John 12.23-24)

In John’s gospel the hour of Jesus’ death is the moment when God will glorify Jesus’ name. A dynamic process begins, a passing over, a planting that will bear fruit a hundred fold. In being lifted up — first on the cross and ultimately from the tomb — Jesus will draw all people to himself.

At the heart of Christian faith is Jesus’ life-giving resurrection from his self-giving death. In death Jesus entrusts his life to God, the same life-giving Creator that hides the promise of new life in seeds. Jesus’ imminent death will no more be an end than Lazarus’s death was or than the planting of a seed is.

What is the hour in which you are living right now?

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Gospel Reflection for November 2, 2014, All Souls Day

28 Oct

“All that the Father gives me will come to me; no one who comes to me will I ever reject.”

John 6.37

Death calls for faith. It is the ultimate threshold of human life beyond which we cannot see. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the heart of Christian faith.

The God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God of creation. The God of our first day is the God of the last day. The God in whom all that is originates and evolves is the God at the heart of all that the cosmos will become. All creation testifies to God’s life-giving power. All creation calls us to faith in the giver of life, the giver of our days. All that lives is a sign of who God is.

What does creation testify about your God?

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Resurrected Bodies

23 Apr
via flickr user bark

via flickr user bark

My memories of Easter are filled with clean, pressed pastel colored dresses and yes, even white spring hats with ribbons. The sun is shining in my memory, and everything feels new. I often think of the resurrected Jesus, then, similarly as glowing and pure like an angel. In PastrixNadia Bolz-Weber disagrees:

“Jesus didn’t look very impressive at Easter,” I said, “not in the churchy sense, and certainly not if Mary Magdalene mistook him for a gardener.” As I looked over the shivering crowd, I suggested that perhaps Mary Magdalene thought the resurrected Christ was a gardener because Jesus still had dirt under his nails….God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new….”God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the grave we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.”

I like this image of the resurrected Jesus with dirt under his fingernails. It makes sense after a few days dead in a tomb he may look a little haggard. And believing that resurrected bodies do not need to be gleaming bright helps me see little resurrections in my own story. My most dramatic resurrection story occurred when I was just thirteen. I was rushed to the ER after a horrible gymnastics injury. A double elbow dislocation and compound fracture in my left elbow joint had cut off blood flow to my left hand. I had no pulse in my wrist by the time the paramedics arrived. The ER doctor was prepared to amputate my left arm when he did some last minute jostling of the joint in a last ditch effort to get blood flowing through so the hand would not die. It worked. He put the elbow back together and casted me. I knew none of this until months later when I was frustrated with how slow and painful my rehab was. As an eighth grader, I had a resurrection moment. When he told me how serious the injury had been, I was made new. From that moment on, I have been grateful to have two arms. I was lucky. I was made new. It was not, however, a beautiful moment. I was swollen and sore. I still don’t have full range of motion in my left arm. My resurrected body is in rough shape. It was my heart that had been made new.

I’ve had other resurrection moments in my life where God invites me to newness. They are never my most pristine moments. I’m far from a clean, pressed pastel dress. It is my most haggard moments when I need God’s renewal the most. So this Easter, I’m imaging Christ a little rough around the edges, being mistaken for a gardener. I’m finding hope that in spite of having dirt under my nails, I’m still eligible for renewal through God’s grace.

Going to Get Life

26 Feb

Winter in Minnesota is not for the weary. The cold wind will not relent. The snow continues to fall. By late February, I am whispering to myself, “This too shall pass.” When my spouse goes out of town for work, I make sure to get things on my social calendar to feed my extroverted side. Last week while he was gone, several friends had to cancel because they had “the crud.” Yoga got cancelled due to weather. I cancelled twice on people because twice my little Prius got stuck– once in the driveway that I shoveled before venturing out and once in the alley that was, indeed, plowed. I was not going anywhere.

I was sore from shoveling icy snow onto the piles that are now well over my head. I was sore from falling hard on ice and driving my hip bone into the sidewalk. Sore, cold, alone and going nowhere, I let myself wallow a bit. Just a bit. Then, like every February in Minnesota, I knew it was time to decide to fight defeat and go out to get life. On Sunday afternoon, Dan and I bought more house plants. We walked around the big greenhouse full of thriving flowers and plants, warmed by the sun. I took off my scarf, unzipped my coat and lengthened my neck. We picked out a few indoor plants and bought seeds, too. We potted our plants and planted our seeds. We added water. I sat down on the couch, dirt still underneath my fingernails, took in my living room filled with new life, took a deep, cleansing breath and smiled. That was all it took to know it would be okay. If you can’t go to the mountain, bring the mountain to you. It was a simple gesture, really, but it made all the difference in the world. There are plants, sitting in the sun coming through my window, living and breathing. They are my sign of hope that spring will come.

via flickr user nelgdev

via flickr user nelgdev

In Pastrix, Nadia Bolz-Weber suggests that when Jesus appears to Mary at the empty tomb, maybe she mistook him as the gardener because he was still covered in dirt from laying dead in the tomb for three days. “And how, even after we’ve experienced some sort of resurrection, it’s never perfect or impressive like an Easter bonnet, because, like Jesus, resurrected bodies are always in rough shape.” And of course it couldn’t be Jesus. Jesus was dead and this man in front of her, covered in dirt, was alive. How could life come from death? How could something come from nothing? Nadia reminds us that nothing is God’s favorite material to work with. This beautiful passage from Pastrix came back to me as I basked in the presence of my new plants. We so easily forget that God can bring life out of death. God can bring something out of nothing. February will not have the last word. “God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.”

When I feel cold and despair creep in, I go check on my new plants and seedlings. Life wins. I thank God for daily resurrection and God’s ability to make me new, to love me back to life over and over.


6 Nov

“When you have kids, D-E-A-D is a four letter word,” a friend who is a mother of four once told me. I did not fully grasp what she meant until we had the first death in the family that my boys were old enough to experience. After my Uncle Paul’s funeral, when I was lying in bed with my older son going through our usual nighttime routine, he started asking me all the questions parents know they will have to answer some day but hope they can put off until their children are at least thirty-five. “Mom,” he queried, “Where do people go when they die? What does it mean to die? Will we ever see Uncle Paul again? Is he okay?”

Before I could even reflect on what I might say in response, I heard myself answering in the way that my parents probably had answered me when my great grandma Glynn died when I was five, and the way that their parents probably had answered them before that. “Uncle Paul is with God now,” I started. “He isn’t living on earth with us anymore now, but he is living with God. And since God is love, I bet Uncle Paul is getting to do all the things he loves the most, like walking dogs and eating French Silk pie, and I bet he gets to be with people that he loves, too, like his mom and dad. Uncle Paul is watching down on us, and we will get to see him again when we are in heaven.”

As I was reeling off that answer, I started to wonder if I was being honest with my son. Was telling him that his great uncle was with God akin to stories of Santa Claus, an untruth of which he would eventually be disabused, leading to a possible resentment of me for perpetuating such a fairy tale? Would it be better to offer him a more stoic philosophy along the lines of “Life is hard, and then we die, so make the most of life now”? Is propagating a belief in the afterlife anything more than selling false comfort in a time of need?

Like many modern Christians raised in this scientific age, I am comfortable with the aspects of the Jesus story that hold him up as an exemplar of ethical and justice-focused living. I appreciate using Jesus’ call to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves as a guideline for my own behavior in life and find myself challenged by his constant stance of reaching out to those on the margins to shower them with God’s acceptance and love. And also like many modern Christians raised in this scientific age, I am not always quite sure what to do with the more supernatural aspects of the Jesus narrative. Virgin birth? Changing water into wine? Casting out demons? These sorts of things do not fit neatly into our twenty-first century way of thinking about the world, and the idea of Jesus being resurrected by God and then ascending bodily into heaven might be the most preposterous part of the whole unbelievable story.

After more careful reflection over the course of a few days, I began to see how my answer to my son’s questions about death was a truthful reflection of my beliefs, put into words that a five year old might be able to understand. While I certainly do not know exactly what happens to us when we die, I do have hope in the fact that death (and its companions like violence, hate, and sin) does not have the last word. I do believe that there is something that is more powerful in the world than death, violence, hate, and sin, and this is life and love. And as a Christian, one way that I talk about the power of life and love is to talk about God. I do believe, like those in many cultures before ours have acknowledged, that our connections with loved ones are not severed by death. And I do believe that there is a spiritual realm that transcends our everyday reality (while also being immanently and intimately a part of this everyday realm).

So when I tell my son that his great uncle is with the God of love after his death, what I am really trying to offer him is a sense of hope; a sense that love is powerful, even more powerful than death; a sense that we are part of a communion of saints, which stretches back in time to those who have gone before us and reaches into a future that we cannot yet imagine; and a sense that there is more to the world than just what we experience with our senses and what science can explain. In this way, resurrection makes perfect sense to me, even in this modern, scientific age.

What does resurrection mean to you? 

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