« Good Friday, Year A | Main | blog milestone »

Great Vigil of Easter, Year A

Romans 6:3-11 - link to NRSV text
Matthew 28:1-10 - link to NRSV text

Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly ...
    -- Matthew 28:6-7

At the end of Matthew's gospel, an angel of the Lord appears before Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, echoing the angel's two appearances to Joseph at the beginning of the gospel, in Matthew 1:18-24 and 2:13-15. And in the end, as in the beginning, the import of the revelation is "Get going!"

My three-year old niece, whose parents aren't churchgoers, was visiting us last weekend, and so on Sunday, she went for the second time in her life (the first time was for our blessing last year) to a church. When her mother dropped her off at our house, she made sure to explain to our niece as best she could what church and the nursery there would be like. She said it would be a little like when mommy went to the gym, and there was a special class for the children to enjoy some exercise while the parents worked out. Our niece immediately understood, and from that point on referred to going to church by the name of the children's class at the gym: she called church "Stretch and Grow."

Of course, "Stretch and Grow" means moving in ways we don't usually move. It means change. As A.K.M. Adam (better known as AKMA) wrote recently (in a post entitled "Speaking of Change":

If we live the gospel, then the gospel will always be characterized by change (at the same time that it remains recognizably the same gospel, not “another gospel”). In order to avoid our running aimlessly or beating the air, and to avoid our disguising our stubbornness as piety, church should be a place where we learn how to change. And how to disagree about how we should change.

This kind of language of what it means to be the Church would probably strike many in our culture as odd. The Church doesn't have much of a reputation as a change agent these days, and the metaphors I hear most often in popular culture tend to be along the lines of church as rock -- a metaphor that (to my recollection) appears only once in the New Testament. Rock is pretty stable, and that can feel comforting. Rocks are very easy to paint; you can do it with a limited pallette, and you can take as long as you like to capture them on canvas without worrying whether they will fly off. Rocks are also known for being unyielding, cold, and without nourishment.

I think Karl Barth was onto something when he quipped that doing theology is like trying to paint a bird in flight. I think it's like trying to paint the feathers on the wings of a hummingbird in flight. Has anyone ever seen what a living hummingbird's wings look like? I haven't, and I used to love watching them at the feeders in the back garden when I was growing up. And perhaps I'm not much of a painter, but I'd say that the best way to get across on canvas what a hummingbird's wings look like would be to show the arc of their motion. When painting a hummingbird's wings, blurring is more realistic than stasis.

When we're tempted to think of church solely as rock, I think it's worth reminding ourselves that while the church is referred to once in the New Testament as rock, there's another metaphor that's far closer to the center of what we're called to be. We are the very Body of Christ, and an angel of the Most High God has revealed that Christ and Christ's Body are very much ALIVE.

Christ is alive, raised by the God of Israel, and so we know that the Word of God is not dead and calcifying but living and lifegiving. Christ is alive, and so we know that God is still speaking, working, teaching, and healing. Christ is alive, and he's on the move!

We may have come to this place seeking rock, a solid, if not particularly comfortable, place to lie. But God's power has shown us just how empty that place is, and we're called to die to it. An angel charged Joseph to journey to Egypt not to settle there, but to bring new life out of that place of slavery. The angel charges Mary and Mary to enter the tomb not so that they can embrace the stone, but so that they may spur the rest of Jesus' followers on to Galilee.

Jesus is ALIVE, and as Christ's Body, we are called to experience the life of the Risen Christ too, freed from all that would keep us from that life. We're not to hang around the tomb to erect a shrine; that's what you do for the dead. We're called to follow him to Galilee. When we get there, we will find ourselves commissioned to bring the Good News and the new life of the Risen Christ to all. And when we're on the move with Christ, we can experience Christ's presence with us to the end of the age, even at the ends of the earth.

The Lord is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thanks be to God.

March 22, 2005 in Easter, Holy Week, Matthew, Romans, Year A | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c234653ef00d8343876a253ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Great Vigil of Easter, Year A:

Comments

I'm one of those people who thinks of church as a rock. Not as something upon which to cling, but as a foundation for everything else that must be done. Change cannot be made when one is unsure of one's foundation, and that's where the rock comes in. When placed on shaky ground, one is far more concerned about finding stability than learning to stretch and grow.

So perhaps a better metaphor would be roots. Like rocks, roots are stable, but they don't have the hard and unyielding qualities you dislike. And it has some Gospel precedent, as Jesus often refers to growing into faith within the metaphor of seeds and planting.

Again, however, roots imply a foundational principle. A plant that is planted and replanted and replanted will eventually wither and die. Continuity is important. Care is important, because without strong roots, there's no chance for anything more significant to occur aboveground.

Posted by: James | Mar 23, 2005 9:19:54 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
Dylan's lectionary blog: Great Vigil of Easter, Year A

« Good Friday, Year A | Main | blog milestone »

Great Vigil of Easter, Year A

Romans 6:3-11 - link to NRSV text
Matthew 28:1-10 - link to NRSV text

Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly ...
    -- Matthew 28:6-7

At the end of Matthew's gospel, an angel of the Lord appears before Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, echoing the angel's two appearances to Joseph at the beginning of the gospel, in Matthew 1:18-24 and 2:13-15. And in the end, as in the beginning, the import of the revelation is "Get going!"

My three-year old niece, whose parents aren't churchgoers, was visiting us last weekend, and so on Sunday, she went for the second time in her life (the first time was for our blessing last year) to a church. When her mother dropped her off at our house, she made sure to explain to our niece as best she could what church and the nursery there would be like. She said it would be a little like when mommy went to the gym, and there was a special class for the children to enjoy some exercise while the parents worked out. Our niece immediately understood, and from that point on referred to going to church by the name of the children's class at the gym: she called church "Stretch and Grow."

Of course, "Stretch and Grow" means moving in ways we don't usually move. It means change. As A.K.M. Adam (better known as AKMA) wrote recently (in a post entitled "Speaking of Change":

If we live the gospel, then the gospel will always be characterized by change (at the same time that it remains recognizably the same gospel, not “another gospel”). In order to avoid our running aimlessly or beating the air, and to avoid our disguising our stubbornness as piety, church should be a place where we learn how to change. And how to disagree about how we should change.

This kind of language of what it means to be the Church would probably strike many in our culture as odd. The Church doesn't have much of a reputation as a change agent these days, and the metaphors I hear most often in popular culture tend to be along the lines of church as rock -- a metaphor that (to my recollection) appears only once in the New Testament. Rock is pretty stable, and that can feel comforting. Rocks are very easy to paint; you can do it with a limited pallette, and you can take as long as you like to capture them on canvas without worrying whether they will fly off. Rocks are also known for being unyielding, cold, and without nourishment.

I think Karl Barth was onto something when he quipped that doing theology is like trying to paint a bird in flight. I think it's like trying to paint the feathers on the wings of a hummingbird in flight. Has anyone ever seen what a living hummingbird's wings look like? I haven't, and I used to love watching them at the feeders in the back garden when I was growing up. And perhaps I'm not much of a painter, but I'd say that the best way to get across on canvas what a hummingbird's wings look like would be to show the arc of their motion. When painting a hummingbird's wings, blurring is more realistic than stasis.

When we're tempted to think of church solely as rock, I think it's worth reminding ourselves that while the church is referred to once in the New Testament as rock, there's another metaphor that's far closer to the center of what we're called to be. We are the very Body of Christ, and an angel of the Most High God has revealed that Christ and Christ's Body are very much ALIVE.

Christ is alive, raised by the God of Israel, and so we know that the Word of God is not dead and calcifying but living and lifegiving. Christ is alive, and so we know that God is still speaking, working, teaching, and healing. Christ is alive, and he's on the move!

We may have come to this place seeking rock, a solid, if not particularly comfortable, place to lie. But God's power has shown us just how empty that place is, and we're called to die to it. An angel charged Joseph to journey to Egypt not to settle there, but to bring new life out of that place of slavery. The angel charges Mary and Mary to enter the tomb not so that they can embrace the stone, but so that they may spur the rest of Jesus' followers on to Galilee.

Jesus is ALIVE, and as Christ's Body, we are called to experience the life of the Risen Christ too, freed from all that would keep us from that life. We're not to hang around the tomb to erect a shrine; that's what you do for the dead. We're called to follow him to Galilee. When we get there, we will find ourselves commissioned to bring the Good News and the new life of the Risen Christ to all. And when we're on the move with Christ, we can experience Christ's presence with us to the end of the age, even at the ends of the earth.

The Lord is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thanks be to God.

March 22, 2005 in Easter, Holy Week, Matthew, Romans, Year A | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c234653ef00d8343876a253ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Great Vigil of Easter, Year A:

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.