A lot of people will be making their bi-annual visit to church this weekend. For some it will depend on whether they sober up after watching the semi-finals of March Madness on Saturday night. Sister Jean (Loyola) and Father Bob (Villanova) may help remind them that there are deeper issues at play in our lives than NCAA basketball.
On my walk with my dog, Malibu, this morning, I wondered what I would say if I was responsible for an Easter service this year. And I’m not!
Few fully appreciate the meaning of the common Easter refrain, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
The temptation is to get into the evidence for and against the resurrection—a left-brain strategy that misses the mythic message of Easter. It is not about flowers and springtime, though this is understandably in the right direction. Easter is about connecting to LIFE in a manner that is transformative, empowering, and directional.
Two Bible verses come to mind.
“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10)
The Christian story does not end with a cross, but an empty tomb. The purpose of the Christian pilgrimage is to enter into the reality of this “how much more.” This “if/then” sentence construction suggests that such a reality should be the nature and expected connection. The purpose of Jesus is not to get us into the “good place,” but to call us into the reality of this kind of life.
The message of Easter is this, “Wifi is on, connect.” There is available for every person—but most likely notice by those for whom other resources are not as readily available (read “poor in spirit”)—a spiritual life that is designed for human flourishing. Jesus’ main message was “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mark 1:15), by which he meant there is another reality that you can appropriate that will both make sense of your life and empower you in ways in which it was originally designed. You can be aligned with an empowering spiritual reality that will make you fully human. It is not designed to make you an angel. Only human—but fully so. It is a fact of life that everything living derives its life from an environment that is other than and larger than its own that uniquely enables its thriving. A hosta plant derives its life from the sun and soil, something other than the hosta itself. French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin observed the same when he remarked, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual being having a human experience.” By this he meant that our true home and source of life is spiritual. We can in effect step into the reality of heaven now. The message of Easter is a reminder that reality is a thin place. There is another world away that gives this world meaning, flavor, color, and potential. The best of alternative spiritual practices without making this connection are a black and white rainbow. It has the shape of a rainbow but not its brilliance.
In making this comparison about the “kingdom of heaven” being like wifi, I once worried aloud whether it was to depersonalize the reality of the kingdom in the direction of a pantheistic Star Wars’ “The force is with you.” But Science Mike corrected my worry. He reminded me that a wifi connection is a unique kind of relational connection in that it is two-directional—down load and upload—simultaneously. Wifi is conversational in this sense.
Jesus lived in an agricultural world. So his metaphors for connecting to the kingdom of heaven were rooted in an understanding of plants. He spoke of vines and branches. “I am the vine: you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him [bi-directional], he will bear much fruit [human flourishing]; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) It is clear from this statement that Jesus thinks that human flourishing is only possible on the basis of this connection.
The nature of a wifi connection allows one access to almost all the information in the world at one’s fingertips. It has become so ubiquitous in modern life that we often fail to appreciate how amazing this is. The rapper Common has an ad that highlights the unique power technology has given us. It is unprecedented in all of human history. “What will you do with it?” he asks.
This is where Easter comes back in to the discussion. Jesus claimed that this access to the resources of the kingdom of heaven was the very same power that created Easter: resurrection power. Paul commenting on this availability is, like Common, awed by it. Here’s the second verse. He writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10) There is so much LIFE in this spiritual connection that it can reverse the entropy of death. It is animating and life affirming. And this is what is available to everyone.
You can try to find your spiritual connection on some other network. There are other networks: networks that focus on the life force in nature and networks that focus on the life force within the occult. T-Mobile has teamed up with Samsung for an ad that says that your great potential should not be limited by an inadequate network.
New Copernicans place a high premium on connection. They also assume the relational importance of the Internet. This Easter reframe your thinking to its mythic message—there is a “how much more” for you to experience. You are designed for greatness so don’t waste time on the wrong network. Easter is the reminder that wifi is on and the Jesus network is available for all. “He is risen! Risen indeed!”