If you can’t stand messes, if you’re a neat freak or a systems specialist, the idea of resurrection may not set well with you. Apparently in its wake, what ensues is pretty much chaos. Sacred perhaps, but still chaos–then and now. We get a peek into the mess Jesus made in Matthew 28:8: “…they left the tomb with fear and great joy”–both.
- Mary and the disciples are left to deal with conflicting emotions
- The elders and chief priests are thrown into a panic
- Pilate is perplexed and angry
- Jerusalem’s everyman simply wants his more or less secure, if frustrated, status quo
And there’s Thomas. Always top-of-mind, is the sentimental reunion complete with emotional tears, standard issue in the sugary Easter musicals we choral director types appreciate. But it is so much more. It is the conundrum portrayed in NBC’s new series, A.D. The Bible Continues. In Episode 2, at about minute 21. Late-to-the-party-Thomas has an “Oh crap” moment when it becomes clear there is no running from the reality of resurrection and its corresponding chaos. There He is–flesh and blood looking back at him.
We may experience something similar along the spiritual journey in the condition Thomas Keating describes…the old anchors, our own programs for emotional success, the places and people we over-identified with for safety and security, power and control, esteem and affection are systematically if unceremoniously removed leaving nothing under us but reliance on Christ himself. Even with its promise of freedom from eternal death, resurrection presented those first followers with challenges and opportunites–in other words, a life–for which none of them felt prepared. Nor do we.
Freedom from slavery of any kind rarely resembles a clean cut, a sterile surgical incision. More often it is a blood-bathed battle to retain the control one wields over another. Such is the power and pity of evil. And the Freed are often left dazed and in shock at the carnage wreaked on their behalf, not at all sure in which direction to proceed once granted new liberties.
A fragile and raw condition is this freedom resulting from resurrection, and one deserving of both celebration and sympathy. We must wait for healing to come and numbness to leave, for the gift of reason and the ability to respond to be restored to battered-and-broken-but-now-bettered selves–realities still beyond comprehension. What’s more, it is tempting to return to defeated masters unless someone greater is present as a reminder of freedom and the commitment and resources spent on securing it. Ask any victim of perpetual violence or abuse. Thus the Eucharist, holy communion. Thus “Remember Me”.
So remember we do–with joy and fear, in *sacred chaos—a Church full of saints in scattered stages of being and becoming…some leaping, some limping but all leaning into freedom:
- The lady just over my right shoulder, whose oxygen tank labors to breathe so she doesn’t have to
- The bewildered mother of the child whose escalating frustration with having to be quiet is expressed on the back of my bench
- The effusive evangelist whose blazing eyes are ignited by the fire in his heart
- The faithful follower attempting to repair a 40-year marriage in hope that it matters
- The friend who can’t associate her sense of God with Jesus any more because of religious abuse
There is fear and joy—fear of what may lie beyond the known, and joy to be freed from what has been known. There is mystery, an invitation to this sacred chaos, the messy march from slavery to freedom. And there is Someone greater who is present at the center of it all. That, that is resurrection.–which, unfortunately, may require setting aside the need for neat.
*The term Sacred Chaos is borrowed from Tricia McCary Rhodes’ book by that title.