Photo Credit: Becky Stevenson
When I think about the long list of things I need to practice, resurrection has never made the list. But I have been returning to the theme year after year in my writing. In 2017, I wrote about not being ready to rise. The next year, I was baking buns and reflecting on relaxing into the rising work of God. And then, the danger of daring to embrace joy. Apparently, I need more practice than I thought.
My (Catholic) faith tradition is really well-known for nailing Lent (pun wittily composed). And with our reputation for ashes and penance and giving up stuff, we have also received a collective inheritance of Catholic guilt and a tendency toward solemnity. Ashes and repentance are only one part of the Paschal story that is the heart of our faith: they are meant to lead us into resurrection.
We’ve all been walking through an exceptionally extended pandemic lent in the liturgy of our lives. This long season has asked us to enter into a sacrificial suffering, a humility of spirit for the sake of those most at risk. And in the process, we have practiced being especially discerning, sacrificial, and solemn about life. Because we become through our behaviour, the season of surviving the suffering has changed us.
For many, as the world opens up, the things we used to take for granted feel like miracles. Gatherings of more than small groups. Seeing smiles. Reaching out to touch or hug a friend. And at the same time, these things feel risky, and still are. For those receiving cancer treatments or living with autoimmune conditions, isolation has become even more necessary now.
We have been practicing caution for so long, joy can feel out of reach. It is time to practice resurrection.
Christians on the Roman calendar celebrate Easter for fifty days. Note that this is 10 days longer than Lent and the Christmas season barely hits the double digits. Most of us can hardly handle a celebration that lasts longer than seventy-two hours before we crave the rest of ordinary time. We rush home from whatever plans we have scribbled on the calendar and retreat into sweat pants and laundry and a good tv binge to recover from indulging in our over-the-top celebrations.
But what would it look like to practice rising, to live into resurrection in our every-day lives in a way that we can sustain? Is this not what the joy of the resurrection invites?
The restrict-and-binge cycle is not a healthy or holy way. There is a time for sacrifice and a time for abundance, a time for repentance and a time for celebration. And we can practice both as they are needed, moving in and out of one and the other, hour by hour and day by day.
Even while we hold our own and the world’s pain, we can practice resurrection. We can take a walk and delight in the signs of spring. Count the buds forming on trees, the flowers breaking through cold earth. We can set our prayers for the suffering in the arms of God for an hour and let ourselves laugh till our sides ache.
Salvation is something that God gives to us by working it out in us. In order to receive the gift, we have to cooperate with it. It isn’t enough that Jesus died for me if I insist on earning salvation by being a grouchy martyr; I have to receive the gift, opening it up and letting it change me.
God invites me to delight in joy, to receive it and wonder at it, to choose it over and over again. Will I practice setting down my misery, no matter how valid, to giggle with my toddler before bed? Can I practice seeing the miracle of the person in front of me even while they fold the towels differently that I do? Am I willing to delight in the absolute perfection of my favourite song on the lips of my teenager coming from her messy room?
What if the world knew the followers of Jesus as the joyful ones? Jesus’ resurrection is not just a day, but is actually our present and our future. May we spread the Easter candy and good news over all the days instead of just a select few. May we practice rising with the same tenacity as our repentance. And may the resurrection we practice bring new life out of the ashes of the last two years.