I think I mentioned some time back I was working on a personal journey writing, an extended journaling perhaps or a memoir. It is a personal writing and perhaps book bound if I ever get to that point, a reflective journey through my life and experience and how I have come to understand this path to the progressive theology and life I know and embrace.
I was writing a section on my experience of the days we lost my older brother to a tragic football accident when I was thirteen. The thing that struck me most about recalling those days was what I could not remember. There were huge gaps in my own memory only filled in by what I remember my family telling me about the days immediately preceding his death and the days directly following. I thought of all the memories I have of Chris and the things we did together, good memories and bad. We were typical brothers getting along with many good and fond memories as well as “fighting like brothers,” as my grandpa used to say.
I remember stories told by my mom and dad, my sister, and others who knew him well, even stories in my own mind that on one level or another I know are true and embellished. Sometimes it seems that the memory in my mind and the stories that have been shared over the years paints a picture of a perfect teenager at the age of fifteen when he died. Chris was an exceptionally talented young man, musically, athletically, and according to many of the stories I remember spiritually, and mature for his age. And at the same time I am very aware that he was fifteen, and there are no perfect fifteen year olds, in the sense of a model child who never did any wrong.
I am reminded of the cliché “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” which is often true; I also believe absence can fuel memories that can seem larger than life. That occurs, at least in part, because I want to remember just the good stuff that happened, but Chris and I were close enough to know neither one of us were angels and there were times we participated in less than angelic behavior …together. At his death it was opportunity to place him on a pedestal which I believe, at least to my recollection, we as a family and his closest friends were more than willing to do. Not that the stories do not contain truth, but sometimes I think if he were to come back, even he would have a hard time filling all the shoes we have put on him.
I mention this part of my journey as it is what came to mind as I try to read once again for the first time the telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As I ponder the stories we have sometimes I wonder about the telling and how time and fondness did and continues to have an effect on the telling. It is important to do the research to understand the time, place, social, and cultural environment the stories were written in as well as the original audience for whom the stories were written. Based on my own experience the stories cause me to wonder about the remembering of Jesus life years after his death finally being written down. Not that they do not contain truth, but how accurate they are and how much of them are statements of faith and life of the early community of believers as opposed to actual happenings, especially in terms of the resurrection story that we remember this next Sunday.
There are numerous resurrection stories and even more interpretations of the stories. There are those who believe the resurrection was a literal bodily resuscitation. There are those who believe Jesus did not really die but just appeared to have died. There are those who believe he was resurrected but it was a strange new body with special abilities. There are those who believe it was a spiritual resurrection and not bodily. Marcus Borg speaks of not a bodily resurrection but that the Disciples continued to experience the presence of Christ in a profound way. And those who look at the early followers as the body of Christ and this expression and community were raised up empowered by the Spirit.
Reading progressive theological language around the issue this statement appears most often, “Believe what you want about the resurrection, bodily, spiritually, presence, the community of faith, but how does it affect your life here and now, how does it shape your life and faith, does the story give you new life, what difference does it make in the way you treat your fellow human kind?”
I know the experience of my brother’s death and the remaining stories, be they entirely true or not, had and continues to have, a profound impact on who I am and on my own understanding of life, faith, and love, I know this is truth for me.
Here in lies the truth of the resurrection story in a progressive theological framework; does the story move you to love God and neighbor, does the story move you to act justly, kindly, and humbly?
I pray this week brings you hope in the midst of struggle, healing in the midst of brokenness, laughter and singing borne of joy, and moves you from death to life! Join us this Sunday as we celebrate Easter and New Life in and among us all!
It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.