...bright with glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished.
Acts 10: 34 - 43 - I often wonder about the 'supporting role' texts at Easter. Peter's speech to Cornelius and the other 'Gentiles' gathered in his house in Caesarea is by no means set on Easter Day, though Peter does refer to the resurrection. Why I think this is included as part of the Easter observance is to remind us of just how radical life in the new age, in the new order is meant to be. Just before this passage, Peter is feeling a bit peckish and has the vision of a heavenly smorgasbord. When told to kill and feast, he objects, saying that the animals in the vision are unclean and he will not violate those prohibitions. The voice lets him know that the times they are a-changin', and now every thing is fair game, pun intended. Almost immediately, he is visited by two of Cornelius' slaves, who ask him to come with them to see Cornelius. If we accept the new rules about animals - bring on that pork - then we may be ready for the revelation that all people have the divine seal of approval as well. In the words of James Alison, there will no longer be a... "social “other.” There is no group, or nation, ethnicity, gender, or any other identity that we typically create in a binary fashion (slave or free, Jew or Greek, male and female, black or white, straight or gay and so on) that is in principle not able to be brought into the gathering, the ekklesia, the new people of God." (The Joy of Being Wrong 332-333). But, I would go further and say that it is not a matter of bringing them in. The surprise - as it was for Peter - is that they already belong, and have only been waiting for the blinders to fall from our eyes that we might see and recognize a brother or a sister.
1 Corinthians 15: 1 - 11 - "Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles..." Paul's emphasis in this passsage is on the importance of the resurrection. Without it, the cross is just the climax of another tragic story about the death of another innocent scapegoat.. or was that another sacrificial lamb led to yet another slaughter? Without it, simply, he is not converted. It is both starting point and watershed for Paul. It is the promise of possibility that shakes us free and points us to something beyond the system we both know and expect - one dominated by violence, self-delusion and death. It is what reveals who God ultimately is: the willing victim who offers life and peace in return for violence, and who begs that we abandon our unfathomable reliance on that which we hate and ultimately fear, to risk entering a life whose purpose and conduct can never be in vain. Which dovetails nicely with....
Mark 16: 1 - 8 - "So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." What a way to end the gospel of Mark!!! No appearances, no words of comfort... just a cryptic message mumbled by a young man dressed in white about Jesus going on ahead to Galilee and that he would see everyone there - or at least, they would catch a glimpse of him - and oh, by the way, tell Peter, too, when you see him, so he knows that all is forgiven and that he can come, too... Now admittedly, that's a lot to process for people in mourning, their behavior in Mark's version of the story is wondefully human. And, what I lovemost about this ending, is that it is one of the greatest cliffhangers in all of literature. You need to know...well, what happens next?
The answer is pretty obvious. That's up to you. Ho do you want it to end? How do you imagine yourslef as part of it?
For Peter in the Book of Acts, it was taking a few hesitant steps into a larger world, where everyone - and, OK, every animal - was to be viewed as a child - or creature - of God. For Paul, it was to realize that the system upon which the world had always operated was antithetical to everything that God was and that we were meant to be, and that by faithful, seemingly foolish, living - by radically changing the rules of engagement with the world in the hope present in the resurrection - one discovered the way to be truly alive.