This is the reflection I gave at church yesterday.
When I first left the church I grew up in, a fundamentalist evangelical church, one of the first doctrines I rejected was the idea that God demanded that Jesus be crucified for my sins. I couldn’t (and still can’t) get behind the idea of worshipping a God that demands a blood sacrifice to be appeased. And in throwing out that doctrine for a while I also threw out the idea of resurrection. Easter became an uncomfortable holiday. Something I wasn’t quite sure how to observe. I didn’t know how to make it meaning without buying into a theology that I find incredibly psychologically and spiritually damaging. But this is the high holy day of Christendom. If I don’t believe this, then can I call myself a Christian?
I wrestled with this for a really long time. As I repackaged and reconfigured my faith this was the doctrine I couldn’t figure out how to reclaim.
And then I went through my transition. And suddenly I had a framework to understand crucifixion and resurrection. A life dying so that a new life could be born. The death wasn’t demanded, but inevitable. When one lives into their truth often death occurs. When one speaks truth to power often death occurs. When we live with integrity in communities that don’t want us to tell our truth often death occurs. When you stand up to the Empire, when you claim that another world is possible, when you live into the truth of that possible world the powers have no choice but to try and stop you no matter what, even if that means killing you. Crucifixion isn’t demanded, it’s inevitable. But that isn’t the final word.
For me, whether Jesus was actually resurrected or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is the idea of resurrection. What gives me hope is that there is truth in this story. It might not be literal truth, but it is the deepest truth I know. And it is the truth I cling to: That there is something more powerful than fear. There is something more powerful than death.
The idea of resurrection isn’t that everything miraculously gets better. It isn’t that we have something to look forward to after we die. It means that here and now we get to live without fear. We get to know that there is something stronger than death. We get to know that there is power in the truth. That you can’t stop the revolution. You can stare down fear and death and you can live again. You can withstand the death of relationships, the loss of communities, the loss of beliefs and doctrines that once held great meaning.
And yet we are left changed and with scars. When Jesus was resurrected (so the story goes) and he met Mary in the garden she didn’t recognize him. When he sees the disciples in the upper room he shows them his scars. He is living again, but he is fundamentally changed. When we undergo resurrection we are changed. People and communities might no longer recognize us. We might carry scars that remind us of who we used to be and what we’ve had to come through to get to where we are. Jesus wasn’t resurrected into a perfect, shiny, holy body. He carried his scars. Just like I carry the physical scars of my transition and the emotional scars of leaving my home church and community, of rethinking my faith.
I believe in the crucifixion and resurrection not as salvific in and of themselves, but as they point to the larger wonder of what it means to be fully alive. To stand up to the Empire. To confront injustice both in the world and in ourselves. To know that we can face down whatever comes and know that we can live again. That we are stronger than we know. That we can carry scars and still be whole. That is resurrection.