When it comes to Easter, many people, even long-professed Christians, get stuck on the "what." What happened? The classic Christian answer is that Jesus rose from the dead. The query continues – with "how" questions mixed in with the "what." How did that happen? The explanations challenge, if not undermine, everything we know about biology, anatomy, physiology and a host of other established scientific disciplines.
Many years ago I gave up trying to parse out the logistics and physics of the Resurrection – and in faith, which has deepened over the years, I say the Easter gift was new life – for Jesus.
Which then moves me – and us, to the "so what?" So if new life was given to Jesus, the so what is that the Resurrection is a gift extended by God's grace to each one of us. Jesus' new life gives us the possibility – indeed the promise, that we also can receive new life, regardless of the situation or hole and agonizing pit we find ourselves in.
New life is promised. What often happens is that we think that new life necessarily means better life, at least by external metrics. It may become that, but at the very least the new life is a different life – filled with a blessing and belovedness that we are invited to receive in new and perhaps unexpected ways.
Which then brings us to the "now what?" The "now what?" is the perhaps the most important of the three questions, because the impact and power of the Resurrection depends, in large measure, on how we carry it forward. Feed my sheep, Jesus tells Peter (John 21:17). In other words, become agents of the Resurrection. Belief and faith are fine – but the gift of Easter is not fully realized until we begin offering new life to others.
On Ash Wednesday, February 14, 17 people were killed at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That was a huge, tragic and debilitating "what." There emerged an almost immediate "so what." It exposed yet again the epidemic of gun violence in our country. And millions of kids across the country said that their schools were not safe, that stricter guns laws need to be imposed in order to render them more safe. Millions of kids walked out of school for 17 minutes one month later on March 14; and on March 24th hundreds of thousands of students led "marches for our lives" in over 800 cities and towns across the country.
Which leads to a "now what?" The passion and witness needs to continue, because as we know, there are well-funded networks and campaigns which make the specious case that more guns make people safer. They don't. In 1968, there were about 150 million guns in American hands which resulted in about 23,000 deaths per year. In 2016, there were double the number of guns in the country, resulting in 35,000 deaths (each year includes homicides and suicides by guns). The math is clear – more guns produce more deaths.
A lot of energy and Easter hope was generated on March 14 and 24. A "now what?" is being proposed for Sunday, June 3. Friday, June 1 is National Gun Violence Awareness Day, conceived a couple of years ago by Moms Demand Action. People are invited to wear orange, the color of gun safety. I will be talking to many of our teenagers – who are active in the diocese, about how they might want to shape Sunday, June 3, in their respective congregations. I am inviting clergy and leaders of congregations to engage with kids in their church and/or in their community, and fashion a witness through prayers, sermons or an activity in the community on June 3.
Jesus gives us new life. Let's use it for the health and safety of our communities.