By Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D.,
I join with millions of Christians across the globe in a profound celebration of the Risen Christ. It is in this miracle that I find my hope, my confidence, and my very life. My whole being worships with an utter certainty in remembrance of the cross, the grave, and the empty tomb. I love the cries of “He is risen,” offered in celebratory wonder. Sometimes, even the weather cooperates and Easter Sunday seems to embody new beginnings and new possibilities; the earth itself resurrecting from her long winter slumber as we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus.
But I am struck by the question put forth to the women who returned to the tomb after the Crucifixion, in order to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. Perplexed at finding the tomb empty, the women are asked: “why do you look for the living among the dead?” They are chastised for not remembering, or believing, that Jesus himself said that he would rise again. For some of the disciples of Jesus, this promise of resurrection seemed an “idle tale,” unfathomable in its scope and meaning. If we are honest, many of us are like the women at the empty tomb, looking for the living among the dead. Too many broken promises and too many unfulfilled dreams have made us cautious that we could dare to hope for new life.
Too many politicians have stood in our pulpits promising to support our communities, only to enact unjust legislation. Too many developers have promised to enrich our neighborhoods, only to allow gentrification to take a foothold and force us out. Too many preachers have promised a return for our financial seed, only to take advantage of the poorest of the poor. Too many authorities have promised to protect our neighbors, only to reinforce racial policing strategies. Too many teachers have promised to educate our children, only to set them up for the school-to-prison pipeline. So many broken promises…how can we believe? How dare we hope amid our unbelief?
If Easter means anything, it is a moment to pause and embrace a theology of the impossible. Impossible things have been done and impossible dreams have been achieved even in the face of death. Everyday, as poet Lucille Clifton writes, something has tried to kill us and has failed. The active and passive genocide of people of African descent has continued unabated. But we are still here. The leaders of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements have been killed, assassinated, and silenced. But the dream embodied by the Black Lives Matter movement is still here. The economic and social sanctions of Jim and Jane Crow have diminished opportunities and resources. But we are still making a way out of no way. I celebrate those who are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; those who are perplexed, but not in despair; those who are persecuted, but not abandoned; those who are constantly being struck down, but are not destroyed. This is the Easter message: new life and new possibilities emerge even in the face of death.
As I close my Lenten devotional series, my prayer is for all those individual and collective hopes and dreams that have died an early death or have been killed with harsh words, lack of support, or lack of resources. Let those dreams and desires arise anew in you. Risen, indeed!
Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce is the Director of the Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she is also an Associate Professor of Religion & Literature. She blogs at Reflections of an Afro-Christian Scholar and you can find her on Twitter @YNPierce.