What Makes Something True?

Christ is risen from the dead, 
Trampling down death by death 
And upon those in the tomb 
Bestowing life. Amen. 

Every year as we dyed the eggs for Easter, my grandmother would remind me of why we were dying eggs for Easter. 

 Mary Magdalene was at supper with the emperor himself enjoying a sumptuous meal which included a rare delicacy-- eggs.  She was telling the emperor that she had witnessed Jesus’s resurrection.  He scoffed and mocked her.   
“Jesus is dead,” he told her. “He is no more alive than you being able to take this egg and turn it RED.”  

With that, Mary picked up an egg and I could just imagine the sly grin on her face as she pointed to the egg and it turned RED.    

“His resurrection is true.  He lives,”  She said.    To this day, we dye our eggs to remember Mary’s witness to Jesus Christ and the resurrection as a deep and true reality.  

As I pondered this story of Mary, I kept returning to a question in my mind.  Given that we are the church that is free to question, we tend to love the questions as questions only deepen our faith.   The question I came to was this: 
How do we know something is true—not just accurate but really TRUE? 

I love the native American understanding that there are TWO kinds of True in our world. 
There is true that is accuracy: it is April 9th and we are in Stillwater, Minnesota where there is still snow on the ground.    That is all true within the realm of accurate facts. 

Then there is BIGGER truth.  That is the truth that is beyond accuracy and enters into the realm of true that is beyond the logical frame of our minds.   True that is the divine, the cosmic.  Mere words aren’t enough to hold that bigger sense of true. 

The notion of resurrection is not a new concept that belongs solely to Christians. Our cousins in Abraham- Jews and Muslims alike talk of Resurrection.  Turning again to indigenous faiths, stories of resurrection abound-- everything from Demeter and Persephone to Osiris to the Phoenix. In the many parables from the Buddhist tradition, the concept of resurrection comes up.   There is something about this concept that is universal.  A deity or creature rises from death to take up life.  Resurrection is a universal idea amongst many world religions. 

The universal story of Resurrection that so many ancient religions held as deeply true in the realm of the cosmic.   Resurrection is true because it is a  universal beyond us.  To quote my grandmother again, “Isn’t that nice?” 

But, beloved, that’s not enough. For Christ followers, this is not enough.  

Mary weeps at the tomb today over the loss of her beloved Rabbouni—her teacher.   And then it happens: Mary has this awkward exchange of mistaken identity and hearing her name she knows her beloved teacher—for Rabbouni is not just the word teacher it is a term of deep endearment—beloved teacher.   And off Mary goes to tell the others.  I’ve seen the Lord.  

Thing is, the story of Easter doesn’t end here.   What makes the story of Jesus’ resurrection so radically unique is that it’s not just about Jesus.  The story is about US.  ALL OF US.  This story became our story in our baptism in those waters of the font!  We take up the work and ministry and life of Christ together as a Jesus movement. We become Jesus each week in taking in the bread & wine.  Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t simply a tale to express why there is spring on the earth or how we can overcome adversity.  

Jesus’s return is a form of deep resistance against oppression and the forces of empire that took his life.  He is killed in the cruelest way—crucifixion was not simply about ending someone’s life.  Crucifixion was about humiliation so shameful that the symbol of death on a cross was one of saying you were never even born.  You didn’t exist.   Your life was erased.  

  Wearing a cross around one’s neck is a sign of deep resistance, a sign that says love is stronger than violence, empire and death. The kingdom of God movement will NOT be stopped.  

At the heart of the Easter story is a message that we are resurrected to harrow hell, to bring heaven to earth.  We say it every week --the Lord’s prayer is a mission statement of sorts. It’s how we live resurrection.   If the Easter story ended today, it would simply be like all those other universal tales of resurrection—but it doesn’t end today. It isn’t about Jesus alone rising—we all rise together.   Easter is a season of 50 days where we ponder how this is real, how this is true.  RIGHT NOW.   And we are called to ponder that work together as a church.   And church is the gym of our soul.  We practice resurrection here together. 

To ask what does it mean to make this story real RIGHT NOW. 

Throughout the great 50 days of Easter, we will ponder the practices and ways we know resurrection. We know resurrection on this side of the tomb as true and real.  We harrow hell together.   We know it in forgiveness, we know it in grieving, we know it when reconciliation is possible, we know it in healthy unitive laughter, we know it in healing—watching our woundedness become scars that we can tell stories about,  we know it in our tears, we know it as we make meaning from the chaos and ruins of our lives, we know it in creation and the cosmos as Christ rises in the Ascension.   We know when we find ways to bring heaven to earth and harrow the powers of hell.  

How do we know something is true?  We know it is true when we LIVE it, we make it real by the very way we live our lives.  And the truest reality is that we can’t do that on our own.  We can only do that together as a community a church a Jesus movement.   We rise together! 

So come beloved— let us empty the tombs of our lives together!  Harrow hell! Forgive!  Reconcile when we can!  Make meaning from the chaos and ruins, empty violence and death of its power!  
Resurrection is real!  It is true!  

Christ is risen from the dead! Trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.