I regularly check into a community discussion board called craigslist. On the morning that Baghdad fell, almost as if staged for the world’s all-seeing cameras, someone posted a message entitled “Wake up slacker, and watch history!” There’s a way in which these Easter morning readings can make us laugh in a similar nervous bemusement as well as fill us with a humbling sense of awe and responsibility.
The vigil is over.
The long night has passed into day.
Friends and family have been baptized and received into Christian community.
But when the long night of fear and chaos is over, or even when the rowdy joy of the party is over, then what? You mean there’s life after that? You mean I have to clean up and get on with things?
What now, O slackers?
The disciples who discover the empty tomb see what is left, believe, and rush the news to their semi-slacker companions (still asleep, after all), but they have yet to understand fully the significance and magnitude of what happened. Peter talks himself through the prophecy and evidence of resurrection, trying to piece it all together. At this point, he has an inkling—but only an inkling—that they are witnessing history, a moment that divides time into before and after. He has only the dimmest notion that nothing will be the same.
We all have momentous markers like that in our lives: weddings, funerals, births, graduations, other events both personal and shared. We are none too clear on what the future holds, but we can feel in the air, in our hearts, in our gut that something will be different. We wait for direction, inspiration, understanding.
These first Christians find themselves at a “now what?” moment. If they take their newfound knowledge and experience of Jesus’ resurrection as an article of faith—literally—and re-center their lives around it, then what are they to do? How are they to live?
At this time of the year, I am always reminded of a Wendell Berry poem which ends an exquisite piece of advice: “Practice
resurrection.” To me it means: do even the smallest things that affirm life, goodness, and hope amidst the dross of our existence.
As the history of the Christian people progresses, we find out how, for better or worse, we keep answering that “now what?”
Even now, over two thousand years later, we are not so far removed from that question of what our faith requires of us. If we take our baptismal vows seriously, we have to ask ourselves that. Living a Christian life (or any life informed by commitments) with any integrity asks that we take our most precious beliefs and plant them in the heart of our ordinary lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean we achieve perfection, but perhaps something shining and extraordinary will grow forth from our lives to shed beauty and truth into the world. Perhaps we will bear witness to the gift that is the resurrection and find it in all things.
So now you know
So now that you know what happened—and perhaps have heard that gospel story for the umpteenth time—now what? What does it mean to you, and what are you going to do about it? How will it change your life? What commitments and questions will shape the way you live with any sort of meaning in the world? How, fellow seeker, will you practice resurrection?