It was five years ago now. I had recently finished a few week stay in the ICU, more than two months in the hospital, and more than one conversation between my parents and doctors about whether I would pull through. Still, I had made it, and after several months of regular home nurse visits, fentanyl patches, dilaudid pills, and 12 hours a day on an IV for liquid and nutrition, I was stable but still far from recovered.
The Saturday before Easter was sunny and unseasonably but appropriately warm. My mother and I took a walk outside, over a mile, the furthest I had gone in nearly five months.
“Wouldn’t it be poetic,” I asked, “If suddenly this whole illness, everything that went wrong in the hospital, all made sense tomorrow on Easter?”
“Hunny,” my mom responded kindly, “I think that’s a lot of pressure to put on the pastor. Don’t you?”
The next day was seasonably and appropriately repetitious. I heard nothing new. The same Easter story that had been read for centuries on centuries was read again. I received no specialized message from the divine about my own pain and struggle. That morning, I realized that might be the point.
Jesus came to make resurrection mundane.
In a culture obsessed with the new and recently trending, it is easy to see why “mundane” has become synonymous with boring and lacking interest. But the word maintains a meaning closer to its original definition of “being of this world.” For the resurrection to be mundane means that it is not just a spiritual truth that leaves this world behind but an all-encompassing reality.
The story of the women coming to find an empty grave was what I needed to hear not because it was spiritual truth just for me, but because it is true for all and in all.
To understand the resurrection as mundane does not diminish its significance but expands its scope of influence. If our primary mode of understanding resurrection is “The Resurrection” as an historical event occurring 2,000 years ago, it is easy to see how it can be lost amid the sea of other events that have an impact in our lives.
Pearl Harbor has changed the world we all inhabit, but it has not had the same role in my life as it had for my grandmother, who can remember the time and place she was when it happened. Historical distance diminishes the power of past events. But this isn’t so with resurrection.
Wendell Berry’s final admonition in his poem, “The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” is simple: “Practice resurrection.” This shift broadens The Resurrection from an ancient transformative event to a present habit and practice we can exercise in our lives.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday are not just historical remembrances but invitations to participation in the deepest reality of those events. We give The Resurrection significance not just in marking the passage of time through a holiday but through our imitation of it.
Resurrection is everywhere and all around us. Its world changing power is so deep precisely because it is so ordinary.
Last week we remembered the Savior who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. In the same way after conquering sin, death, and the devil, the risen Christ decided to forego the white horses, chariots of fire, and angelic banner guards. Instead, he took on such a plain and unassuming countenance that he was mistaken for the gardener.
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” (John 20:14, 15 NLT)
While trumpets, choirs, and shouts of celebration are certainly appropriate on Easter morning, I wonder about all I might have missed in the midst of the pageantry by forgetting that the risen Christ looked so ordinary that he was easily missed and mistaken for the gardener. The shine and the shimmer of the event can become an idol when our fascination with what happened disrupts our daily practice of its reality.
This year, in honor of the one who was mistaken for a gardener, I meditate on the garden. Society asks us to purchase and use, consume and discard, take and destroy. But all of creation demonstrates for us a different way. This is why alongside Berry’s encouragement to “practice resurrection” he calls for those who would:
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
Easter is a declaration that the most fundamental reality into which we can live is not supply and demand or even cause and effect but death and resurrection. The passing of the years does not diminish its power because its truth is discovered ever greater as resurrection is practiced.
The mundane, far from being boring, can be counted as among the beautiful. Finding resurrection in places we missed before is a new discovery of Christ. Resurrection is the lens through which the world becomes alive with God’s love.
This is why I will count it as the highest sign of grace if I forever grow in fascination at the mist rising from our warm compost with its worlds upon worlds of creatures who, far more faithfully than I, practice resurrection in every area of their tiny and cosmically significant lives.
Timothy King formerly served as Sojourners’ Chief Strategy Officer and now writes and farms in New Hampshire. You can read his thoughts on farming, food, and faith at his blog, Almost Home.
Image: New growth, Phonlawat_778 / Shutterstock.com