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The Resurrection of Our Lord--the Holy Trinity, Series C.

The Terror of Resurrection

In my first year of ordained ministry, my colleague looked up from preparing his Easter sermon and asked, "Why is this so hard?' Now I'd only been ordained for ten months and was eager for that day when I would preach the Easter sermon. So I naively responded, "It's Easter! How hard can it be?" Over the years, I've come to appreciate the wisdom of Kent's question as I have found myself spending many Good Friday nights pondering this same query. The other thing I wonder about during Holy Week is why it is that, regardless of how early I do the spade work, I cannot prepare an Easter sermon until after I have worshiped on Good Friday.

Preaching resurrection is hard. Even when the Easter proclamation is not from Mark's Gospel, preaching resurrection can be downright terrifying. In his wonderfully poetic book, Preaching While the Church is Under Reconstruction: The Visionary Role of Preaching in a Fragmented World (Abingdon, 1999), Thomas Troeger speaks of "The Terror of Resurrection" (pp. 105-6). Troeger argues that resurrection is the last thing that the religiously rigid want to acknowledge. In fact, even today the church often runs to post a guard of soldiers every time Christ threatens to break out of the tomb. Troeger keenly observes that resurrection is terrifying before it is empowering because resurrection gives more freedom to Christ than most believers want their Savior to have.

Confronted by death in its myriad forms, how often we yearn for a return to the past, to maintain the status quo, to see the fulfillment of our vision, or to find some relief from the birth pangs of Easter living, rather than longing for new life. Yes, we want Jesus risen, as long as Jesus rises in ways that we understand and can control. We want to be able to look to Scripture to find an unambiguous answer, to the confessions to discover the way it should be, to success in order to find justification, to technology for personal, institutional, and national security. We want to know where to find Jesus and what Jesus would do.

Troeger warns that the risen Christ will not be confined to the past, to our understanding and expectations, or even to the Bible. While Christ's love and faithfulness remain constant, Christ changes to meet our need for this love and faithfulness. As Jesus did in the time after that first Easter, Jesus shows up unexpectedly, in the stuff and stories of everyday life, in our struggles with systems and our encounters with strangers, in the people we love and the places we live, and even in us. Jesus shows up unexpectedly in order to bring us, to show us, to call us to new life. "We have a technical term for people who do not change: dead." Troeger declares, "If Christ has not changed since the resurrection, then Christ is no longer alive" (p. 100). The risen Christ will not be confined. And so resurrection is terrifying. And Jesus' call to embrace and proclaim the good news of new life that is Christ's resurrection is more terrifying still.

Kim L. Beckmann points us to the unexpected places we might encounter the risen Christ and helps us to embrace Easter terror as we preach our way through this Easter season. Kim and her husband Fred are beginning their eighteenth year as co-pastors of Bethany Lutheran Church in Amasa and Trinity Lutheran Church in Stambaugh, Michigan. It is their first call. Kim is twice a graduate of LSTC; she received her M.Div. in 1984 and D.Min. through the ACTS Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program in 1999. Dr. Beckmann is the author of Prepare a Road! Preaching Vocation, Community Voice, Marketplace Vision (Cowley 2002), in which she presents a method for engaging Scripture in sermon preparation that embraces the preacher's own sense of vocation, the community's voice, and the collective vision for the gospel found in the marketplace.

Kim uses this approach in these Preaching Helps. She teamed up with members of her congregations to reflect on and dig into these texts. She reports that the group's first day of study was also the day of the first snow, and they reflected that the task of preaching resurrection hope and confidence is like asking us, at the very beginning of snowfall, to project ourselves through the dead of winter to the time when the snow will disappear, leaving fresh green grass as the earth awakens to life again. Kim was also in "conversation" with my friend and New Testament colleague Barbara Rossing, via Barbara's New Proclamation commentary (Augsburg Fortress, 2001), and with the New Interpreters Bible for Acts, Revelation, and John.

While a part of me and perhaps some of you might find it a bit terrifying to rely on the insights of the folk we serve for sermon preparation, not to mention for a publication meant to aid other pastors in the terrifying task of preparing their Easter sermons, I also find myself wondering if this might not be one of the ways the risen Christ is showing up unexpectedly this Easter season, pushing away the stone of traditional study in order to offer us glimpses of resurrection and new life. If we heed Tom Troeger and Kim Beckmann, we'll strive to be open rather than on guard.

--Craig A. Satterlee, Editor of Preaching Helps (
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Title Annotation:Preaching Helps
Author:Satterlee, Craig A.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Previous Article:Paul, the Letter Writer.
Next Article:The Resurrection of Our Lord April 11, 2004.

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