Thanks for this timely input to our posts Rex. For personal or public use at Easter.
© Rev Rex A E Hunt, MSc(Hons)
9 April 2023
RESURRECTION PROVES LITTLE. A ‘PASSIONATE’ LIFE
WELL LIVED, DOES…
(Background) Today is Easter Day.
Today we celebrate life over death.
This day we celebrate changed possibilities.
And give thanks for the Spirit of Life visible in Jesus,
visible in each one of us,
visible in people in all walks of life…
As we do celebrate, we also acknowledge that all we have
are the stories, shaped and reshaped and told orally,
by people of faith from generation to generation.
No logical, scientific proof of a ‘bodily’ resurrection.
No videotape of an empty tomb.
No seismograph of an Easter earthquake.
Just the stories.
That in the midst of brokenness, healing stirs.
That in the midst of darkness, a light shines.
That in the midst of death, life is breaking forth.
That when all seems gone, hope springs eternal.
Easter Day is traditionally regarded as the most important day
in the liturgical life of the church.
Christmas doesn’t hold a candle to Easter!
But mention the ‘R’ word—’resurrection’—and immediately those
familiar with this term will assume we are referring to Jesus’ resurrection.
This is because we only ever hear about resurrection in relation to Jesus.
Well, maybe I had better modify that claim.
There have been sitings of Elvis out Parkes way, each year,
and for several years now!
Stephen Patterson, a biblical scholar, and from whose writings I have often quoted,
picks up this general notion when he says:
“The resurrection is unequivocally Jesus’ resurrection for us. This is because most of us do not really believe in resurrection from the dead, except, of course, in the case of Jesus. He is in a class by himself.” (Patterson 2004:104)
But then Patterson goes on to suggest that this way of thinking places us in a completely different mindset from those ancients.
“For ancients, resurrection is quite possible… The hard part would have been believing that Jesus, a nobody, had been raised from the dead…” (Patterson 2004:106)
Now over the years much ink and blood, sweat, and tears, has been spilt
over ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ considered
to be meant by the term ‘resurrection’.
And that includes all the problematic stuff argued by a bloke we call Paul!
And the thousands of trees chopped down in the name of an empty tomb!
And whether or not the ‘resurrection’ was a ‘bodily’ event in the life of Jesus!
All this, while noting none of the gospel storytellers
provide an unambiguous, totally convincing account!
Now according to the laws of averages,
you have probably heard much, if not all, of this before.
And now from me.
Which makes crafting sermons on Easter morning difficult to preach,
because I always feel there may not be much that can be said on this day,
that hasn’t already been said before.
So at some personal risk let me offer some of my thoughts.
Maybe they will gel with some of yours.
Maybe they will conflict with yours. Challenge you to the core.
But they are mine, gleaned over time, as a result of serious study.
And in the company of a group of 21st century biblical scholars
whom I trust and respect.
Indeed, some I am proud to call friends!
I invite your careful listening.
He was killed—murdered—because of what he said and for what he stood for.
Those close to him, we would claim, were both surprised and shattered.
Stricken with fear and grief, they were in no mood to be
looking for that ‘silver lining’
that supposedly comes with every cloud.
But some people did think about his death.
And all we have of that time and that thinking, are the stories,
shaped and reshaped and told orally by people of faith
from generation to generation.
Yet it is in those stories, I would also claim, they were saying something important,
not about his death,
but about his life.
True, his death mattered to them.
But only because his life mattered more…
Especially when they heard him say something,
or do something, that moved them, deeply.
So they began to speak of his death in ways that affirmed his life.
And they came to see he stood for something so important
he was willing to give his life for it. (Patterson)
That something was the vision of life called the realm or empire of God.
And they came to reaffirm their own commitment
to the values and vision stamped into his life
by his words and deeds.
They believed that “in his words were God’s words.” (Patterson 2004:127)
And that his vision of a new empire,
cultivated by him among them long before he died,
no executioner or cross could kill.
Jesus was dead.
But he was not dead to them.
His spirit was still coursing through their veins. (Patterson)
Likewise, when we believe in this vision of a possible new empire,
we too can reaffirm our commitment
to the values and vision, and a ‘resurrection’ invitation,
to live life deeply and with zeal.
To be embraced by life, not scared of it.
In all its particularity.
Because life can not remain visionary!
It must be concretely practised.
It must be ‘a way of life’.
Because resurrection is not just a collection of stories
about a so-called once-only event in the past.
Resurrection can and does happen every day!
Not in what happens after death, but what the knowledge of the
words and deeds and the way of the one we call Jesus,
does for our lives… before death.
Easter is all around us. We need Easter.
In the midst of a world and of humanity hanging on by a thread,
we need some Easter hope.
It isn’t hard to see, if we will see.
And in memory of a former colleague—who died way before his time, due to Covid—
let me share some of his Easter comments written nearly fifteen years ago…
I see Easter in those who daily battle the bureaucracies
on behalf of our creeks and old-growth forests.
They sometimes succeed.
I see Easter in those who make music, art and dance
and who draw out the creativity in others.
I see Easter in those who take time to notice the beauty of nature
and who invite others to notice as well.
I see Easter in those who use their minds to unlock the secrets
of our amazing planet and vast universe.
I see Easter in those who struggle with illness
yet engage life in the moment, as it is.
I see Easter in those who grieve deeply the loss of a loved one,
and through grief witness to the gift of love
that is more powerful than the grave.
I see Easter in those who despite the daily grind of it all,
educate our children and open their minds and hearts.
I see Easter when spirits are re-energised, commitments renewed,
and when we can see just enough light to take another step.
I see Easter in children who love bunnies and eggs.
Yes, Easter is also about bunnies and chocolate eggs and Easter lollies—in moderation.
And whatever it might mean to say today, ‘Jesus is alive in our midst’,
as traditionalists are won’t to aggressively claim,
“it must above all else mean that he somehow still offers us the vision of a new Empire, into which we are still invited in a real way… a real invitation into a way of life we can see reflected in his own life. When the life of Jesus no longer matters to those who would claim him as Lord and Savio[u]r, then the life that changed the lives of many finally will have come to an end.” (Patterson 2007:80)
Patterson, S. J. “Killing Jesus” in (ed) R. J. Miller. The Future of the Christian Tradition. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2007.
Patterson, S. J. Beyond the Passion. Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2004.
Shea, J. The Challenge of Jesus. Chicago. Thomas More Press, 1975.
(In memory if John Shuck… RIP mate.)
 John ‘Andy’ Shuck (1961 – 2021)
I was deeply humbled & touched by this reflection, which I had not encountered before. It reminds me of truths we have long known (and which the author voiced quite a few years ago!) but hardly – to be a bit ‘critical’ – much acted upon before and since in official theologies and doctrinal positions. Thus, about thirty years ago I participated in a discussion about stripping St Stephen’s Cathedral of (off?) more than a century of Roman Catholic sub-fusc, the cultural accretions of deep Victorian piety and Edwardian sentimentality that occupied a central space of focus in worship and celebration for Brisbane’s Roman Catholics. In attempting to strip back our faith to a more contemporary depiction of Jesus’ impact on us, our liturgists faced an insuperable challenge and much intractable opposition. Firstly, as per the decisions of Vatican II, the tabernacle was removed to a side altar of reserve, displacing it from its former central position in an outdated and by now moribund cultural stereotype of Roman Catholic spirituality (currently still practiced in parishes like Mary Immaculate, Annerley). And secondly, the Irish Jansenist crucifix, replete with graphic reminders of the gore of the crucifixion, was removed and replaced by a work of incredible art and beauty reflecting the Resurrection of Jesus from the cross…. thereby, dare I read into it, the death that we all face and the resurrection that awaits us all, many times over as we commit, stumble and recommit ourselves as followers of Jesus. Curiously, it has taken an obstinate refusal by Roman Catholic fundamentalists, for instance, to abandon a reading of the Way of the Cross as a literal commemoration of the Passion of Christ (to the extent of devotees in some cultures flagellating themselves and submitting themselves to bodily mortification and even mock crucifixion) to paradoxically occasion an abandoning by many of another Way of ‘reading’ the Cross of Jesus that this author so beautifully brings to expression in our daily commemoration of the Easter mysteries and not just in a Lenten experience that, for many around the world, still terminates on Good Friday. A Happy, Glorious Easter to All!