It’s ironic that Easter is for many people the one day of the year they feel compelled to go to church, because the event that Easter is meant to commemorate is one of the most perplexing and difficult to understand ones the Christian tradition talks about.
Because of the presence of the “masses,” I could imagine it would be tempting for many ministers to say something accessible about resurrection, hoping to cast the net as wide as possible. For example, seeing resurrection as a metaphor for all the little moments of rebirth in life, from budding trees to new jobs to breakthroughs in stuck relationships. All obviously huge and important things, but not necessarily challenging to the way we tend to already look at the world.
Doing it this way is probably a smart idea. But since I’m not preaching on Easter and instead writing this thing that I’m pretty sure only my mom reads, I want to suggest a different approach: elitist.
There’s a Jewish agadah (legend) about four rabbis trying to enter pardes (meaning orchard and paradise, also interpreted as a mystical encounter with the Divine). When they’re almost there, one looks and dies, one looks and goes insane, one looks and becomes a heretic, and only one, Rabbi Akiba, enters in peace and departs in peace.
Sometimes an encounter with truth is not something we can just waltz into unprepared. Looking at it before we’re ready can make us feel crazy or lead to misunderstanding – trying to make sense of Jesus coming back to life has made me want to pull my hair out and made me question whether I can really call myself a Christian.
Maybe the reason that the resurrection of Jesus seems so weird and prehistoric and mostly irrelevant to our lives today has less to do with the insult it seems to present to our modern scientific minds, and more to do with the fact that we are not sufficiently prepared.
We haven’t had enough practice seeing the mind-blowing, glorious weirdness in even the most dead-seeming bits of matter, and the life-and-death difference an appreciation of that can make.
We haven’t had enough sustained experiences of a previously lifeless, undetected part at the heart of ourselves coming finally alive and warmly waking other lifeless corners inside us, leading messiah-like the hidden multitudes we already contain into a kind of aliveness that demands a different name than biological existence, touches more than an illusion of eternity, and drastically changes the way we look at death.
Does that kind of resurrection sound good? Does it seem fantastical and out of reach? My advice, which I stole from wise people before me, is to keep searching, keep churching, keep wrestling but also learn how to really rest where you are. The secret of elitism, like the Wizard of Oz tried to teach us when we were little, is that the truths it keeps guarded are usually ones we’re keeping from ourselves.