Second Sunday of Easter
Wow! The texts for this second Sunday in our most important, celebratory season are powerful and their theme is easy to detect: testimony, declaration, proclaim, witness.
My colleague and friend, Ed Searcy, re-discovered in his doctoral studies that the root for the word “testify” is “testes” and comes from the practice of requiring men to cover their clothed genitals with their hand as they swore that what they were about to say was “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. The implication being that they were staking their own future generations on their testimony. This was in the times when only males were considered as witnesses. Ed suggests that witness may be, therefore, the better word to use.
Witness (“knowledge, wit”) in Christian use is a literal translation from the Greek ‘martys’ (martyr). Here again life is at stake for the witness, female and male, as we declare our willingness to die for the truth of what we witness to.
Declare is to “make clear”. A revelation has occurred that, for Christians, makes clear the past, present and future. This revelation we are called to make clear, to proclaim to and for others.
Proclamation/kerygma is one of the ancient five marks of the church (the others being worship/leitourgia, training/didache, fellowship/koinonia and service/diakonia). Of all the marks it is kerygma that offers the possibility of salvation, for what we proclaim is not of our own making but was revealed to us.
And to what is it that we witness, declare, proclaim? We find it at the heart of the reading from Acts:
“With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
The resurrection of Jesus was profoundly unexpected and profoundly surprising. Without it there is nothing for us, nothing to hold it altogether. It is what makes history. It is, for us Christians (and, in our belief, also for the world), the hinge of history. Traveling out from Jesus’ resurrection, like a shock wave in time, is the future, God’s future – relentless, unstoppable. And therein lies our hope. God’s steadfast love is on offer to all; forgiveness is on offer to all. God’s intended transformation of the whole world is inaugurated and will be completed in God’s good time.
This is pretty big news. One of the significant ways that the church witnesses to the world is, I believe, in what we celebrate, what we take the time and effort to mark. Truthfully, the volume of our celebrations of the resurrection in North America is decidedly mute, which in itself speaks volumes to our reticence about our own core proclamation. N.T. Wright, in Surprised by Hope, accurately sums up the situation:
“Frankly, what we have at the moment isn’t, as the old liturgies used to say, “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead” but the vague and fuzzy optimism that somehow things may work out in the end.” [p25].
We have fifty days to celebrate, contemplate, rejoice in the fact that Jesus did not stay dead. It is time to pump up the volume – because death would rather than we remain in our quiet, confused state. Wright continues,
“We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival…This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.” [p256/7].
Maybe then we and our children and youth and even the world will ask what all the hoopla is about and we will proclaim to one another and the world, “My Lord and my God!”