After the Holmes Brothers’ concert at Belleville, one of my colleagues quipped to me: “Three old guys who could barely move, play on stage with the energy and enthusiasm of young kids, then have trouble moving off the stage … talk about resurrection!” Well, at least for two hours of singing blues and gospel!
One could argue that it’s just the energy of good music, yet the brothers themselves attribute their zest for life to their faith. One of the brothers told me all about his bouts with cancer and how “Doctor Jesus” helped him heal and thrive.
This time of year, Christians have just remembered and celebrated Easter. Often resurrection is spoken of in terms of new life in nature, in things like the emergence of butterflies from cocoons, frogs from tadpoles, new sprouts from seeds, flower bulbs, things that appear dead but have new life within.
Or we might focus on Jesus himself, and the recorded appearances to his followers. Like Thomas, we may wish we could see or touch him to believe the news is true.
The things that convince me most that he was victorious over persecution and death, however, are instances of “resurrection spirit,” or perhaps an “overcoming spirit” in human life, both before and after Jesus.
Where does the power come from to live as fully as possible in the face of illness, or to forgive someone who tried to assassinate you, as with Pope John Paul II? Or the power to hold steadfastly to your vision while in prison like Nelson Mandela?
On and on we could go, mentioning Gandhi, Victor Frankl, Martin Luther King Jr., and hosts of others with amazing courage. Many would claim the Spirit of Christ as the source of such power, some claim a Higher Power, and some nothing beyond the self.
I am too well acquainted with my own limits and failings to think I can follow in their steps on my own, even with the best of my intentions and willpower. It is the very focus on a power greater than ourselves that connects us with such power.
For the Holmes Brothers and many of the above, they did indeed focus on Jesus, and thus found his resurrecting hope, courage and strength. Jesus and his transformed followers act as “evidence” of resurrection, and give us hope for the possibilities of resurrection in our own lives.
One of the most amazing examples of resurrection spirit is the new life that comes through peacemaking and forgiveness. Think of all the power struggles and abuses of power in the world, from the personal to the political. They are death-dealing.
Peace, love and understanding are truly powerful evidences of new life, of a resurrection spirit; and our inability to live consistently with peace, love and understanding in all relationships is evidence of our need to “tap into” a power or God greater than ourselves, by whatever path we may choose.
The Rev. Ross Varney is pastor of Belleville Congregational Church, UCC, Newburyport.