Easter: Resurrection as a Spiritual Practice
On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, an event many consider to be the centerpiece of their faith. But Easter is more than just a day. What happens when we think of it as a verb? Then the resurrection becomes a spiritual practice in daily life.
Megan McKenna, the prolific and profound Catholic writer, saw it this way when she was leading a Bible study. She shares the following vignette in her book Not Counting Women and Children: Neglected Stories from the Bible.
“Once in a parish mission when I was studying this scripture (Luke 7: 11-17) with a large group, someone called out harshly, ‘Have you ever brought someone back from the dead?’ I had been saying that life happens when we are interrupted, and that some of the most powerful acts of resurrection happen to the least likely people; that we are the people of resurrection and hope, called to live passionately and compassionately with others, to defy death, to forgive, and to bring others back into the community, to do something that is life-giving, that fights death and needless suffering. And then this challenge from the back of the church.
“My response was ‘Yes.’ I went on to say, ‘Every time I bring hope into a situation, every time I bring joy that shatters despair, every time I forgive others and give them back dignity and the possibility of a future with me and others in the community, every time I listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time I speak the truth in public, every time I confront injustice — yes — I bring people back from the dead.’ ”
Let’s identify some ways we can practice resurrection in our daily lives.
• Give your full attention to whatever you are doing, and you’ll recognize the constant renewal of life all around you.
• Walk the path of beauty and notice the spiritual radiance in people, places, and growing things — more signs of rebirth.
• Leave the past to God’s mercy. Leave the future to God’s discretion. Living in the present moment, the only time when God brings forth new life, is a way of affirming your belief in resurrection.
• Whenever you with compassion open your heart, mind, and soul to the pain of the world, you help bring suffering beings back into the land of the living.
• When you cultivate the art of making connections, the walls of separation come crashing down and new life can spring up out of the rubble.
• When you regularly pray for others as part of your devotional activities, you are practicing resurrection.
• Enthusiasm is the mark of a life-giver. When you can laugh and sing and relish life, you are practicing resurrection.
• Faith enables us to live with confidence amidst doubt and paradox. When you can trust in your relationship with God, all kinds of leaps and rebirths are possible.
• Every time you forgive someone, another resurrection is in the making.
• Every time you accept God’s grace in your life and see it in the world around you, your own resurrection is in the making.
• Practice gratitude and you are slaying the death-dealing forces of boredom, despair, and taking-things-for granted.
• Bring hope to someone in despair, bring healing to those in conflict, and you are contributing to the ongoing resurrection.
• When you can welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness, you are participating in a new world of hospitality.
• When you give full rein to your imagination, you are opening the gates of creativity so resurrection can come in.
• When you add even a small portion of joy to the lives of those around you, you bring resurrection into your community.
• Your work for justice, freedom, and equality sets the stage for resurrection. When you feed the hungry and stand up for the oppressed, you are a life-giver.
• Your little acts of kindness tenderize the world, add to the fund of good will, and set the table for resurrection.
• Listen to others, the universe, and your inner voice, and you’ll be privy to resurrections when they happen.
• Love God, love your neighbor, and love your new life as marks of the resurrection.
• Find meaning in your experiences and speak the truth to power, and you help put death in its place.
• Nurture yourself — eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest — and you are helping God resurrect your body.
• When you stay open to all people and situations, you affirm your belief that all things can be made new.
• Every peace treaty that you sign with someone who is your enemy or opponent is a sign of resurrection.
• Sometimes you feel refreshed by the simplest things — laughter, games, play. This, too, is resurrection.
• Othertimes it is the thrill of the quest that spurs you on to be all you were meant to be as a person reborn.
• When you practice reverence for life, you can’t help but notice all the little resurrections going on all around you, the continual process of creation on Earth.
• Practicing resurrection also means having confidence that God can make something out of your selfishness, anger, greed, hatred, and any of your other shadow qualities.
• Find a place where you can regularly practice silence; it will rejuvenate your soul.
• Spiritual teachers can point you on the path of resurrection, showing you texts and mentors to jump-start your journey.
• Welcome changes — big and small — in your experience and signal your receptivity to transformation and resurrection.
• Work together with those who are trying to make the world a more just and decent place. This unity practice is a mark of the resurrection.
• Pay attention to visions and visionaries as likely conduits of resurrection for yourself and your community.
• Every time you bring to life another’s sense of wonder and affirm that you are all standing on holy ground, you practice resurrection.
• By respecting the mystery of God, human nature, and the natural world, you bear witness to the ineffable nature of renewal and rebirth.
• By giving voice to your yearning, and acting upon your desire to feel the closeness of God, you invite resurrection into your life.
• By accepting your identity as a child of God and your mission as a copartner with the Holy One in the unfolding drama of the universe, you embody the resurrection principle.
• Practice resurrection with zeal. Be aroused by life and cherish every moment as a gift from the One Who Renews us day by day.
Two More Examples of Resurrection Practice
Wendell Berry’s poem Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front: “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. . . . Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. . . . Practice resurrection.”
The Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood’s sermon at the Saint Paul Community Baptist Church: “Every time I see a man put down his bottle, there’s a resurrectin goin’ on. Every time I see a man go back to school, there’s a resurrection goin’ on. . . .”