“Why do we seek the living among the dead?” – Easter 2023
Like most people, I have some bad habits. Some of them are lifestyle related, but many of them are more behavioral in nature – how I react to stress, anger, conflict, hurt, and even disagreement. In these situations, my tendency is to either lash out aggressively or totally withdraw within, even with those I love the most. As I get older, I have been better able to control these impulses, or at least realize when they’re happening, but they are still there under the surface. I have also come to appreciate that these tendencies not only interfere with my interpersonal relationships, but, more importantly, impede my ability to be my true self as God intends me to be. In other words, I often pursue death-like approaches instead of seeking life-giving alternatives.
We all seem to pursue death-like behavior even on a wider or global scale. Nations engage in aggression instead of seeking peaceful solutions to resolving conflicts. Our economic systems exploit people, places, and things for the sake of profit instead of creating market conditions that benefit all. Our elected officials pander to their political base rather than seeking compromise and concord. Even the church is guilty of these tendencies. In our own local faith communities, despite our claims of inclusivity, we often only fully welcome those who act like us, think like us and share our own world view. In our governance bodies at all levels, we often play politics and personalities or get bogged down with bureaucratic minutia instead of focusing on mission and ministry. Much more subtly, but equally unhelpful, we engage in nostalgic longing for the church of the past instead of exploring new and innovative ways to meet the changing needs of our communities and become the church of the future. We are all-consumed and overly attached to our buildings and other resources instead of using them to create a better world.
In the Resurrection narrative in the Gospel of Luke, the grieving women go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus from a sense of custom, respect and maybe because it seems to be the right thing to do. They soon discover, however, that the large stone had been rolled away and the body was gone. They are terrified and totally bewildered. Then two men in dazzling array address them boldly and unequivocally – “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” And to paraphrase – don’t you remember what he told you when he walked and talked among you in Galilee? When he said that he would be betrayed, scorned, and crucified? But didn’t he assure you that this was not the end of the story? Don’t you recall? Don’t be afraid. He is not here. He is risen. Now, get out of this place of death and tell the world that Jesus lives.
Yes, my friends, like the women on that first Easter morning, we need to stop looking for the living among the dead. Because Jesus is risen, we are called to turn away from our death-like patterns and behavior at all levels, and accept God’s promise of new life. Easter is a time when we get to start over. Death no longer has a hold on us and neither does our past – our fear, bitterness, anger, frustration and even our bad habits. The message of Easter is that we all get to live again with a renewed sense of purpose and with the power to transform ourselves, our communities, our church and even the world. The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!