Easter Sunday 2022-2023 - Whom Seekest Thou: Restorative Easter Reflections

Sunday, April 17, 2022


I remember when daydreaming and imagining used to be past-times for which I was criticized. Silly girl, building cities in the clouds, come back down to earth. Don’t you know this is the “real world?” This is the way things are, and the way they will always be. No use wasting your time dreaming.

I’m sure Mary Magdalene received many of the same critiques when she dreamed of a resurrected Jesus. “Nonsense,” I hear the disciples say. “It’s time to move on,” her neighbors plead. “It’s impossible,” on the tongues of city members far and wide. And yet I like to imagine Mary practicing a stubborn, relentless hope. Perhaps she was one who took Jesus’ constant prophesying of rising on the third day not simply as another parable, but as a hopeful possibility not yet realized. And this is also not to paint her as some cheery, beaming, endlessly positive light and love lady who has no understanding of current cultural, systemic, and political realities. But rather as someone who understands Mariame Kaba’s line that “hope is a discipline.” Someone who understands Angela Davis’ line that, “Freedom is a constant struggle.” Someone who knows hope is worth it.

The role of hope in social justice work is necessary. Paulo Freire writes, “Without a minimum of hope, we cannot so much as start the struggle.” What sparks the heart of justice movements is the hope that things should, can, and will be better. It’s being able to take one’s dreams seriously. To think critically about what a world would look like if everyone’s basic needs were met: housing, food, and clean water. It’s becoming excited by the possibility of universal healthcare and then showing up to rally and vote. To dream of a world where everyone has a cozy seat and good wine to share. Hope is not knowing exactly how a dead guy can rise, but planning, scheming, and fighting for this outcome all the same. 

In this way, the practice of hope is not about leaving behind this world for another far-away dream land removed from history and place. Instead, hope is rooted in the present realities without letting our fate be determined by it. This is also why it’s so striking to me that when Jesus appears to Mary, she mistakes him as a gardener.

Now, remove the images of resurrected Jesus that we think we know: clean, pristine, white robed glorious being. Instead, I quite like the image Nadia Bolz-Weber sketches when she says that maybe Mary mistook Jesus for a gardener because he was covered in dirt. He was dirty. After being dead three days, Jesus probably had dried blood on his skin, his flesh probably stank, his nails probably had dirt under them and his lips may have been cracked and dry. His hair matted, knotted, and dusty. His beard wired out and his hands fat and swollen. A dirty, disheveled, recently-resurrected Jesus not only reminds us that death does not have the last word, but that the work of hope and justice is always rooted in our messy, grimy earthly world. Hoping for a better world doesn’t mean leaving this one for an immaculate, sterile new one somewhere in space or the eternal heavens. It means getting our hands dirty in the world we have now and saying, what can I make from all of this?

For me, the message of this Easter season is on the heels of Mary, running to tell everyone of hopeful, utopian possibilities. Running door to door to organize and mobilize. I see her carrying poems and books. Wheeling a wagon full of good bread and better art for these are the tools of imagination. Proclaiming that the kingdom of God is here, now, but we have to practice dreaming a different world—one of solidarity, love, and collaboration. For it is in this dream that freedom is tasted, but it is in our physical world that freedom is realized. Dream big!, she says, dream big enough to hope for a world where injustice does not have the final say and our friends rise again on the third day.

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