In our churches, we have lots of practices. We practice our faith, prayer disciplines, choir anthems, and so much more. Almost 9 years ago a friend introduced to me to the poet Wendell Berry and his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” It woke me up to a practice of faith that I had missed or at the very least not given much time to develop in my Christian discipleship: practicing resurrection.
Resurrection is something we celebrate, proclaim and claim as part of our faith every day, however, it can be the last thing on our list of possible responses to meet the challenges of the day. I have been wondering over the last few years if resurrection is indeed what we, as churches, are being called into. Most of us know of congregations that are struggling with declining numbers in worship, fewer children and families getting connected, and simple discouragement because what once worked doesn’t seem to be working any longer.
We have more experience than we think we do. Think back, how often have you come up against a new and unexpected challenge and figured out how to meet it?
From my perspective, we seem to be living through a historical pivot point where God is doing some major renovations to the Body of Christ. Just like putting a new kitchen in your home shakes up the whole house and your daily routine, God’s renovation is shaking us up as well. I believe the practice of resurrection has some potential to help us through the transformation process. That first Easter morning no one saw it coming, except Jesus.
“The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” Luke 24:5-9
I find it challenging to imagine what it was like for the women at Jesus’ tomb. I wonder if questions such as these were going through their minds: “How could something so implausible and impossible as resurrection have happened?”, “What in the world are we supposed to do with this new information?”, and “What does it even look like to practice resurrection?”
Here are a few ideas from the poem “Manifesto” by Wendell Berry: “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.”
We have more experience than we think we do. Think back, how often have you come up against a new and unexpected challenge and figured out how to meet it? With the help and support of family, friends, and faith, we have found ways to thrive even in times of change, upheaval and sorrow. So let’s take the lessons we have learned in our daily lives and use them in our churches.
Here in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, our congregations have been setting aside time to talk together about our future(s). We are participating in a series called, “Food, Faith, and Future.” This is one way we are seeking to practice resurrection. We come to these conversations from our various contexts to listen for and imagine together how God’s renovation may be leading us into the future. For some of us, it seems like the writing is on the wall and the future of our congregational ministry may be coming to an end. For other congregations, there are different challenges to their ministries. However, each of our congregations still recognizes that God is working in us and through us for the Kin(g)dom of God. So whatever the future holds in terms of our institutional presence, our call to ministry and service continues.
As a pastor in Edmonton, I have great hope that these conversations on how our ministry might continue will bear fruit for the Kin(g)dom. We are not people of the tomb, it is not the place we stay, but the pivot point that sends us out again in search of a life with Jesus leading us on the way. We are sent to practice resurrection, indeed!
“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” The Country of Marriage, by Wendell Berry, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
WBP, Julie. “Poem of the Day – Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” BookPeople, BookPeople, 5 Apr. 2011, bookpeopleblog.com/2011/04/05/poem-of-the-day-manifesto-the-mad-farmer-liberation-front/.
About the Author
Rebecca Craver is a pastor in the Northern Province, serving Edmonton Moravian Church. She serves on the Healthier Congregations Task Force and is a co-creator of the “Create in Me” worship series in The Moravian Magazine and an upcoming podcast.
Contact Rebecca at [email protected] or call office number (780) 439-1063