Dear Refraction readers: This was a chapel talk I gave at William Jewell college in April. A chapel talk at William Jewell is to be under 500 words in order to have enough time for discussion afterwards. I liked this imposed limitation, as it made me compress my many thoughts about our post-Easter journeys.
Wendell Berry tells us we should “practice resurrection.”.
What does it mean in our post-Easter, post-resurrection journey to “practice resurrection”?
I just returned from Japan, where I spoke on the passage in John 11 passage that says that “Jesus wept.” It was at a missionary church in Tokyo. I noticed, as I was speaking, that there was a severely handicapped child sitting right in front of me. I am a former special ed instructor (see my previous Refraction post), and I felt particularly drawn to her. I went up to her afterward and simply held her hands. I had just spoken on “Jesus wept” and here, in front of me, was part of why he wept. I felt so keenly the gap between the two of us. What could I possibly do to encourage this person? Could anything get through? After about three minutes of trying, with no response from her, I was about to let go of her hand. Her father came up behind her and said to me, smiling, “Do you hear that clicking of her teeth?” I had noticed that while I was trying to communicate with her, she was clicking her teeth.
Her father said, “That means she is happy. That’s what she does when she is happy.”
The post-resurrection journey is a mystery. Biblical passages make clear that the resurrected Christ is often hard to recognize. He appears to Mary Magdalene as a gardener, and it is not until Christ calls Mary’s name that her eyes are opened. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples argue with the resurrected One without knowing that he is indeed the Christ. Our hearts burn when we have such encounters. My heart burned within me as I heard what the girl’s father said; it was a small resurrection moment for me.
N.T. Wright speaks of the post-resurrection journey this way:
You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are – strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself – accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. (Surprised by Hope, pg. 208)
Bishop Wright notes that the advancement of the Gospel will include beauty and mercy as key components of how Heaven can invade our old earth now. Often it is our awareness of the broken conditions of the world around us that lead us, strangely enough, to create beauty. We face the gap between the ideal, and grim reality. To me, in Tokyo, the chasm between myself and a severely handicapped teen seemed quite impossible to bridge.
But so, too, is the chasm between us and God. To God, we may seem handicapped, perhaps severely so. But he sent Christ to humble himself unto Death to reach us. Ever since, we no longer are defined by the chasms of limitations. Instead, we are to be defined by our post-resurrection journey of discovery.
As you journey, do you hear the clicking of heaven? The countenance and joy through the mundane and the limited? “Practice resurrection.”