Recently our lectionary reading was from the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. We believe that Acts was written sometime after 70 CE. Acts provides us with a history of the early church. In this book we learn that Jesus appeared to the apostles frequently in the 40 days between the time of his resurrection and his ascension into heaven. Jesus ascends into heaven by the 11th verse of the first chapter of Acts and the apostles are on their own.
And how did the Apostles behave? The apostles were transformed by Jesus’s resurrection. They, too, were practicing resurrection. And by doing so, they became an Easter people. “With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” and because of that resurrection “there was not a needy person among them.” God’s kingdom was being realized on earth.
Their transformation lasted for some time. And then Paul had to start writing to the churches in Corinth, in Thessalonia, in Rome. Each church had its own issues.
But I can understand that. A friend of mine once reminded me that anyone can pitch one inning but it takes real stamina to pitch for nine. It’s a nice way of saying that it’s easy to start something and hard to keep the course.
Ever train for a long race? Or start a big project? Or try to replace a bad habit with a good one?
We start out with enthusiasm and then it’s hard to “keep the faith.” It’s hard to be an Easter people as we get further and further from Easter. It’s hard to practice resurrection. Practicing resurrection is a life’s work. Wendell Berry suggests that in his poem Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front. It’s a long poem, so I’ve selected a few verses:
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
May we learn how to practice resurrection.
May we really be an Easter people.
Connie Knapp is a Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Yorktown and a participant in the Commissioned Ruling Elders program of the Hudson River Presbytery.