Resurrection faith is dangerous. On a day of hope, we need a fresh reminder of the danger inherent in an embrace of Christian faith. It’s true. The risen Jesus offers hope beyond the pangs of death. But the risen Jesus also invites a living confrontation with death. Our life for his. Our ends for his. Our ways for his. One we avoid. Because it is dangerous. So we keep our distance. Just like Peter.
Peter went back to his fishing after the resurrection. Only to see Jesus waiting for him with breakfast on the beach. Over a charcoal fire, the same fire that hosted Peter’s cursed denial of Jesus, the risen Christ reconciled his friend, and confronted him with a different future. So today the risen Jesus comes to call us back away from our nets into the pioneering, dangerous Kingdom life.
The risen King lays a living claim on our lives, and the Cosmos. It is American consumer Christianity that invites us to “make Jesus Lord of our lives”. This pitch makes Christ a commodity, leaving us—the consumer—with control. The resurrection and ascension is a coronation that happens apart from our consumer choice & control.
Encountering the risen Jesus is a reckoning. Forcing us to grapple with the reality that—even apart from ourselves— Jesus is Lord. Do we believe this? He is not a puppet to be mastered by our abstraction. We subjugate Christ to abstraction at our own peril: “why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say? Depart from me, you workers of iniquity.”
Today maybe we should center this confrontation as an integral part of our Easter worship.
What does the risen Jesus say to us? What words and deeds does his Kingdom call us to after a year of pandemic, continued racial violence & injustice, a Capitol Insurrection? Remembering this: the apostles who believed in him and listened to him, eventually died following him.
This past year exposed the long standing fractures & fissures along lines of race, politics, and power within American Christianity. It has been a watershed year. Especially within the Church. A year of revelation. Perhaps only 1968 could lay a claim to this title in recent American memory.
So maybe its fitting that Easter 2021 falls together with the 53rd anniversary of MLK Jr.’s assassination in 1968. Fitting that as we worship the risen King, we are confronted with the life of an American pastor gunned down for his principled stand for justice by means of Christian non-violence. This Easter is a reminder that resurrection faith is as dangerous as it is hopeful.
But ultimately it is not the Reverend King who contends with the Church, but the crucified and risen Christ to whom his life was witness. It’s the Cross of Jesus that speaks the truth about the horrors of sinful humanity and the hope found in the just love of God.
His empty grave renders powerless the threats of empire, and silences accusation against the faithful. It is hard to deny today that for many, the supposed downfall of America is synonymous with the collapse of Christianity. Jesus confronts this idolatry with his Kingdom. He reigns over a Kingdom that cannot be shaken through the rising and falling empires of this world.
The question in the midst of our adoration and worship is this, will we allow this confrontation with the risen Jesus? Or will we silence him by theological abstraction and self-justification? Only in this confrontation will we emerge with the courage to contend against the way of empire by the Spirit of resurrection power. Only then will we step into that dangerous current of faith, the faith of the Messiah and the martyrs.
From Jerusalem to Memphis, there is a danger involved in taking the risen Jesus seriously. Yet this is never quite as dangerous as consumer Christianity; where we can commodify & domesticate the risen Christ. Orthodox Christianity invites us to suffer with him. Which is more dangerous?
It is dangerous to believe the King is alive. Dangerous to contend for this truth. Dangerous to declare in the heart of empire that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst. Dangerous even today. But it remains more dangerous to ignore the risen Jesus, to domesticate and commodify Him, resigning to oblivion his commands, his mercy, his grace, and his Kingdom.