After noting how other bishops and priests have recently deconstructed, denigrated, doubted, and denied the heart of the Christian faith, it is truly refreshing to see a bishop of the Episcopal Church resoundingly affirm that the resurrection of our Lord and Savior really happened.
The following article was written by the Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby. It comes from the April 2013 edition of Alive!, which is a publication of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.
We have begun our celebration of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Our Sunday readings will focus again and again on the resurrection. So, let’s consider together the Christian doctrine of the resurrection.
Resurrection is more than resuscitation or revivification. A drowned person can be resuscitated. Medical procedures revive patients following a cardiac arrest. However, drowning victims and heart attack sufferers will one day die again.
Resurrection is God’s response to human suffering, sickness, sorrow, and death. He gives us a new, embodied life. Not just a disembodied soul.
The doctrine of the resurrection is thus not merely a quaint way of talking about the immortality of the soul. God grants us a new kind of life. After we pass through death God raises us mind, soul, and body. Our new bodies will no longer be susceptible to suffering, decay and death. Jesus is the forerunner of what God has in store for the creation as a whole.
The resurrection of Jesus can be understood from the perspective of the past, the present, and the future.
Let’s start with the past. The resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred at a point in human history. It is not an event whose reality is acknowledged by academic historians as a fact, but it is the definitive historical event for faithful Christians.
We believe that God really raised Jesus from the dead even if the constraints of academic historiography prevent history professors from talking about God’s involvement in human life in professional journals and scholarly books.
As members of the Christian community we have already accepted the validity and profundity of the witnesses who came before us. Those earliest witnesses experienced an empty tomb and they experienced the risen Lord himself. In the pages of Scripture they tell us that they have seen him, touched him, and even eaten with him.
We can and do accept their testimony and base our lives on it. We take their word for it when the rules of academic evidence and publishing will not allow professional historians to do so.
Think of it this way: I trust what my wife tells me about her family of origin, her school days, and her experiences in college. I trust what she tells me about how she spends her day. Her testimony does not rise to the level necessary for academic history. But I am confident of its truth because of my confidence in her. So too I trust the witness of the Christian community about the resurrection of Jesus precisely because of my confidence in who they are and whose they are.
Next, let’s think about the resurrection from the perspective of the present. Jesus is risen. He is alive now, this moment. He is alive in a way that makes my life pale by comparison.
I really encounter him on a regular basis. In the Blessed Sacrament. In the Scriptures. In the sisters and brothers of my parish family. In the poor and the marginalized. In the movements of the Holy Spirit in my own life. The risen Lord is at work guiding me and transforming me through the power of the Holy Spirit. The real power of the Christian life arises from our experience of Jesus himself in our daily lives.
Finally, we turn to the future. As the Nicene Creed says, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” The resurrection – our resurrection – is on our horizon. We are promised a new life. A new kind of life. Eternal life. A life that has passed through sorrow, sickness, and death and will never undergo them again.
Jesus is the first fruit of the new era awaiting the entire creation. The resurrection is the source of our hope. A life stirred and energized by hope can endure all things and can change the world.
The joy of this Eastertide is amplified for me by the gift of serving as your Bishop. My whole family joins me in wishing you grace and peace in this glorious season. I pray for each and every one of you a growing experience of the risen Lord at the heart of your daily lives.
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby is the 4th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. He blogs at Pelican Anglican.