Resurrection Sunday, Lenten Season 2019
Written by Michelle Higgins
“The whole of the Christian year stretches towards this moment when we reach back to acclaim the power of God over death manifest in the resurrected life of Jesus. The passion and pageantry of the eight days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday enable us to mystically live in these ancient holy moments across time. And at the same time we are very much present in a world that is anything but resurrected.”
-Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, Easter Sermon, WilGafney.com
Faith for Justice was founded in part to encourage evangelicals of all racial backgrounds to pursue Black liberation without fragility. One of the first spiritual formation habits we practiced collectively was confession and lament over the history of racial terror in the United States. Often, this lament triggers Black people and people of color. It brings up traumas we carry in our DNA, it reflects relevance to our current struggles like a mirror. It tempts us to despair.
Often, lament triggers rage and defensive posture in white people. It divides family members on opposite sides of anti-racism. It terrifies the privileged, confounds the poor. It tempts to despair.
This may be because there is yet more to confess, there is a need for active lamentation.
The church in the United States has not lived out the gospel that we claim to speak.
We have not wept for the Louisiana congregations whose gathering spaces were stolen by hatred and violence.
We have not wept for the congregations across the globe who lose their lives for publicly practicing their faith.
We have not wept for the survivors of spiritual abuse, sexual violence, church hurt, micro-aggression, misogyny and misogynoir.
We have not confessed Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, legalism.
We pollute as if there are hundreds more inhabitable planets accessible by plane or train.
We claim to be inclusively pro-life.
We segregate worship and ministries by labels of “urban” and “norm”.
We exploit the poor.
We don’t respect dark skinned women. We think being fat is a sin.
We think being married makes us more holy.
We serve men and money, we live by bread alone. We covet fame.
We need new life. And somehow God’s good news is that we are alive in Jesus already.
“Because He Lives” might be one of the cheesiest tunes I have ever heard.
But I grew up as a church kid in the 80’s and 90’s. So I heard it once a year in worship, or on the radio or around somebody’s house. At the end of every chorus comes the line “my life is worth the living just because he lives”, and another chorus changes to “This child can face uncertain days because he lives”. Without fail, every time I hear this song, I wail. I wail those lines like a big haired woman with an epic backstory. I sing them like I don’t care they are out of style, because I don’t care.
I am shattered by the history stacked against me, but I sing because he lives.
I am struck by the state of emergency in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, but I pray in hope because he lives.
I am unable to can under the current White House regime, but I protest because he lives.
I bear the blessed burdened of bringing Black children into the racist world, in one of the most segregated cities, but I mother daily because he lives.
I am fierce, but full of failures. And I steady myself with the practice of confessing my needs, because he lives.
Resurrection is proof that repentance will not kill you. In fact, it is the path to abundant life. You might lose a paycheck or a perk when you are honest about your failures (bullying leaders, gaslighting lovers, fair-weather friends), and I feel you. I am a witness of the life of loss.
I lost some things that I needed to let go, I lost people who remain precious.
But the pursuit of appearances is a prison, it’s death by lie. Only truth can liberates.
So, beloved believer, tell the truth and then you cannot die.
I am holding on to truth this Resurrection day.
Many Christians are so fearful of failure that we often commit the sin of refusing to repent. Oppressions deceive their so-called benefactors into believing the best of us can’t be free unless some of us are slaves. Plainly, supremacy begets fragility.
Today we glory in the victory of a man who is God, over the powers of evil and death.
Believe that Jesus killed the crazy in your history and in your heart, and speak plainly, proudly about the chains that have been broken. Sing sweetly, sincerely, about the pains you are working to see healed. This life of death - of uncertainty, stress and desire - IS worth living. Because he is risen, indeed.
Dr. Gafney’s full “Shadows of Easter” sermon can be found here: https://www.wilgafney.com/2018/04/15/the-shadows-of-easter/