We are in a season of great change. The springtime bacchanal of color and sunshine (and pollen) complement the changes swirling about us. Politics, social life and the fabric of our city are all in flux. After a year of hibernation, with a tentative end in sight for the pandemic, many of us are beginning to imagine re-engaging with the world. But it is likely to be a new world we enter into, not simply a return to the old.
Change is simultaneously exciting and unsettling. When we look at all that is broken in our lives and unjust in our world, we — in theory — yearn for change. But our desire for security is so rooted in our genetic code that many of us eschew change in practice. I believe that one of the greatest benefits of a healthy spiritual life is developing the courage to embrace change.
In my spiritual tradition, we just celebrated Easter. I used to think the Easter story was primarily about winning: love conquering hate, life being stronger than death, hope beating doubt. The Latin term associated with this theological interpretation of the Resurrection is “Christus victor,” the victorious Christ. This is an appealing message, especially to underdog activists seeking assurances that we will prevail in the fight against cruel economic and political powers.
Yet, despite the fact that I have not only embraced this interpretation but preached it (repeatedly!), it does not fit the facts of history. I now believe Easter is primarily about the courage to change. After all, the Resurrection did not result in the disbanding of Rome’s legions, the emancipation of slaves or the equitable and sustainable distribution of resources.
Liberation is the heart of the Resurrection story. It is not a thriving story of conquest. It encourages me to persevere in the work of sharing love and pursuing justice. But liberation, as the Biblical story points out again and again, is harder than it sounds. We are creatures of habit and of clinging.
One of the great lines in the Bible comes from that first Easter morning, when an angel asked: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Like the women at the tomb, we look for life in places where there is only death. We look for the living among the dead in romantic relationships, in friendships, in religious beliefs, in political ideas, in coping mechanisms, in aspects of our identity. This is not inherently bad. But to truly change, we must first face loss and, second, look for life in new places. Focusing only on the victory of the empty tomb misses the deeper message: The tomb had to be made full in the first place.
May we learn to be like the women at the tomb, who, unlike the men in the story, had the bravery to confront the broken body and the foul grave and, when finding change, left that place and looked for liberation elsewhere. May we have the courage to peer into the void, and walk away in search of new paths.
Rev. Helmiere convenes Valley & Mountain in South Seattle.
Read more of the Apr. 14-20, 2021 issue.