Easter Sunday

By Rev. Canon Renee, January 2001

Last Sunday, I was preaching at True Sunshine Chinese Church in San Francisco, and during the coffee hour a very nicely dressed and elegant older Chinese woman came over to me and said, “May I ask you a question?” “Of course,” I replied.  I had no idea how profound her question would be.  She began, “My husband died several years ago, and I want to know if, when I die and I see him, I want to know if I’ll recognize him.  Will he be so different that I won’t know him anymore?”  What do you all think about this question?  Any ideas on an answer?

I’ll tell you what I told the woman.  I told her that the disciples didn’t immediately recognize Jesus by his body, but by his spirit—who he was inside.  They recognized gestures and words, they recognized heart and soul.  I said the same would be true for her husband.  “Of course, you will recognize him,” I said, “even in a resurrected body because you will recognize his inner self—his soul and spirit.”

The reason I know this is because she already knows his inner self—his soul and spirit.  In fact, this is what she remembers about him with longing.  When he died she forgot or let go of all the things he did that hurt her, the words he said that made her weep, the times he was thoughtless and forgetful.  The times she had to wait for him.  The times she was exasperated with him.  The times when he was less than he could have been.  Since his death, she remembers instead the special tone of voice he used when he said things.  She remembers the way he moved, the funny way his mouth turned up, and the tenderness he showed her when she was full of sadness.  She remembers his silly attempts at humor, his winsome way with a child, his staying up late night after night when their child was sick, the eulogy he gave at a friend’s funeral.

These are the things she remembers in her mind’s eye.  And these are the things she will recognize when she closes her eyes to this human existence and awakes to greet him in heaven.  She will see him as she sees him now—as a whole and glorified being.  She sees him now as God sees him—absolutely perfectly.

And this is why I tell you about my encounter with this woman.  Through her experience we can catch a glimpse of what it might mean to us if we could see the people in our lives as whole and glorified beings while they are alive and standing before us, rather than often feeling annoyed or irritated at their presence.

The Persian poet Jellaludin Rumi, who was born in the year 1207, had an interesting way of expressing the resurrection:

“I called through your door, ‘the mystics are gathering in the street.  Come out!"
‘Leave me alone.  I’m sick.’
"I don’t care if you’re dead!  Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!”
"I don’t care if you’re dead!  Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!”

Jesus wants to have someone say, “Yes, I will live the resurrection life.  Yes, I will wear the resurrection clothes.  Yes, resurrect me!”

But, there always seems to be a good excuse for not being resurrected.  For the one Rumi is referring to, it was illness.  For the rich young man seeking eternal life, it was his money.  For the Pharisee, it was his need to have things done right.  For us, it might be any of these things or any number of others.  But the reason we have excuses about living a resurrected life has more to do with the pattern of our current lives, than it does with the lack of faith that resurrection is possible.  So, why do we find so many excuses to avoid resurrected life?

I think it is because of this:  if we live a resurrected life, all the old habits, judgments and prejudices that we have cherished in our hearts have to be let go.  No longer can we blame others for what is unhappy and unacceptable in our lives.  No longer can we despair of others, or insist that they conform to our particular way of doing things.  No longer can we engage in ‘loshon hora’—evil speech—gossip.  No longer can we require others to live up to our unreasonable human standards.  And the reason we can no longer do these things is because if we say ‘yes’ to resurrection, we are saying ‘yes’ to seeing others, not as imperfect, annoying, troublemaking individuals, but as completely whole and holy and glorified beings.

Can you imagine how our relationships with one another would change, how our life would be re-created, if we treated everyone as a whole and holy glorified being NOW?  “But, they aren’t whole and glorified,” you may be thinking.  “Why just this morning on the way to church my husband and I had a spat in the car.  Last week my boss berated me in front of a co-worker.  My friend forgot to call me on my birthday.  My teenager slammed the door in my face and screamed that she hated me.  That is not whole and glorified behavior!”  But, I am not talking about behavior—I’m talking about ‘being.’  I’m not talking about how you see that person, but how God sees that person.  I’m not talking about conditioned acceptance, but unconditional love.  The Chinese woman will recognize her husband as whole and glorified because she will recognize his ‘being,’ not his behavior.  She will see him through the eyes of Jesus, not her own, and she will no longer have any conditions on her love.

“But how can I do this?” you ask.  It begins with really believing that death has no power over you—that you have already been raised—that you already live in the shadow of divine glory.  Can you imagine how your life would change if you could let go of your past and your future and know yourself to be risen and whole now?  Living the risen life is not something you have to work at.  It comes freely to you as a gift.  St. Paul says that we have already been raised with Christ.  We’re not waiting around for our physical death in order to see if we are going to be raised up.  We are already raised, and so is everyone else for whom Christ died.  What is left is to accept the resurrected life in ourselves and in others.

And once you are resurrected and know yourself to be raised with Christ, you begin to see all things in their glorified state.  The risen soul sees what is unseen by human eyes.  The risen soul sees everything new and filled with possibility.  The past with its joys and its sorrows is transformed.  The present with its happiness or its stress is transformed.  The future that holds hope and also holds despair is transformed.  There is no need to feel inadequate or unacceptable.  You have been claimed as God’s own precious treasure, and through resurrection you are free to live as a whole and glorious being.  When you know this about yourself, your risen soul is freed to see others in their perfection and to relate with them in an entirely new way.

Living a resurrected life here and now is about having the courage and faith to see people’s being beyond their behavior, to see them as God sees them, to love them without condition—in other words, to see them as they will be when all is revealed.  And every instant that we see people in this way, they are being resurrected before our very eyes.

‘Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!’
‘I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!’

Will you dare to say, “Yes, I will live the resurrection life?  Yes, I will wear the resurrection clothes?  Yes, resurrect me!”  If you dare, you will never again be what you are this very moment.  You will find your eyes seeing yourself as whole and glorified.  You will find your eyes seeing every other creature as holy and glorified.

Oh, it will be a new life, for sure.  AMEN.

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