It’s the title of a favorite book by Jonathan Kozol, describing the lives of children living in one of the poorest parts of New York City. It could have been a depressing story. But in fact, it’s a hopeful witness to the ways that new life and possibility can emerge from apparently hopeless situations. Kozol spent a lot of time studying not only the community but especially the ministry of St. Ann’s Church in the South Bronx. This church has taken the call to pastor the community seriously. Through its work and witness, it has provided promise for many children for decades. Resurrections continue to happen, Kozol claims.
This morning, we move into the Easter season. Easter is more than just a day, which in no way diminishes the glory of yesterday when we welcomed the happy morning in celebration of the first Easter when Jesus was resurrected. It is a day when we claim history pivoted. But it’s more than history. Our tradition affirms that the first resurrection unleashes power for more resurrections, even ordinary resurrections to happen. So we observe Easter not only with a season of 50 days, but in all seasons. Every time we gather for eucharist on Sunday is a little Easter, maybe an ordinary resurrection.
St. Paul spoke about the ongoing power of resurrection when he wrote a letter to a complicated church (aren’t they all?) in the city of Corinth. He wrote to folks who were often in conflict with each other. He called them to live in a new way, to celebrate the variety of gifts they had, to treat each other with honor and love. He said that this call to a renewed common life had something, no everything to do with the resurrection. He spoke of the fact that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, we are of all people the most to be pitied.
The letter to the Colossians, attributed to St. Paul puts it this way: If you have been raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is. In other words, the resurrection changes the way we live now. Easter invites us to think about how resurrections might continue to happen among us.
So use this beginning of the Easter season to look for ordinary resurrections. Where might you see them? They can come in great variety. A new start on a relationship, forgiveness paving the way. A faithful response to an inexplicably tragic loss, a response marked by courage. A brave journey of recovery from the grip of an illness or accident. A new attitude toward a vocation which feels like a dead end, maybe an attitude fueled by gratitude. Churches in the area where I live working together to build a Habitat house, a project which offers the prospect of resurrection for a family. A group of people, even a nation, struggling for justice and peace.
What examples come to your mind?
Resurrection literally means to stand again. We all know something about being knocked down. By God’s grace, through the power that brought Jesus back to life, we believe that dead ends can be turned into thresholds. We can stand again. Even in the ordinariness of our lives we can experience resurrection. It’s enough to make you say “Alleluia.”
Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.-Martin LutherLet every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, “Christ is risen,” but “I shall rise.”-Phillips BrooksNow let the heavens be joyful, Let earth her song begin: Let the round world keep triumph, And all that is therein; Invisible and visible, Their notes let all things blend, For Christ the Lord is risen Our joy that hath no end.-Saint John of Damascus
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