These Easter readings line out the new life lived by the community of Jesus. They show, on the one hand, that Easter life is dangerous and demanding. Stephen, as the church's first martyr, is an embodiment of the risk of Easter faith. His witness collided with the powers of "the old age" that wanted no new life to be announced or enacted in their world. On the other hand, Easter living is an existence of joy and well-being that culminates in praise and thanks.
These texts constitute ancient testimony. They are, however, as contemporary as today. Practicing Easter life continues to be risky because it contradicts the deathly commitments of our world -- one devoured by greed, anxiety, and violence. A practice of Easter life continues also to be one of joy, as attested to by contemporary witnesses who are freed of ancient fears and live by Jesus' command that we "love one another."
Walter Brueggemann, a Sojourners contributing editor, is professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
The story of Jesus' resurrection is, as the Brits say, a "one off." It has happened only once. It shatters all of our explanatory categories and leaves us in awe. It is for this reason that the earliest church had to tell the story in many variant forms, because none of the stories seemed fully adequate. Certainly the story in John's gospel about the resurrected Jesus penetrating locked doors does not seem adequate for our theme. It turned out that the risen Jesus -- who twice said “peace” to his disciples (verses 19, 21) -- eventually said "peace" even to Thomas, who is the voice of our own doubt.