• Heather K. Barclay

Practice Resurrection

Updated: Apr 23

We have entered the season of Easter, also known as Eastertide, a time of celebrating new life. For fifty days, we are called to dwell in the abundance of the kingdom of God. We are called to name and celebrate resurrection.

And of course, we know that resurrection isn’t only an event that took place two thousand years ago; it’s something we can practice. As Wendell Berry writes in his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” these impactful words: “Practice Resurrection.” We are continually invited to practice resurrection.

Maybe we don’t think of resurrection as something to practice. We talk about resurrection and think about it as an event. Something God did a long time ago. Resurrection Sunday—we look back and remember it. God is the one who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It was God’s work, not ours. We look forward to something that God will do in the future. Resurrection is a noun, not a verb. But that’s the very command from Wendell Berry: Practice resurrection.

I think I have always been too harsh on the word “practice.” Not too long ago, I was writing about justice, and I wrote, “we practice justice.” I paused and twisted my face. I was questioning the wording—shouldn’t I just say we act justly? But I think there’s honesty in the language “practice.” There will be days I will need to start over, days I need to be called out and do better. Days I fail and days where I find myself beating myself up over what went wrong. But if practice makes perfect, then I want to be practicing resurrection.

But how does one practice resurrection? I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to attempt to go around and raise people from the dead!

Megan McKenna shares the following story in her book Not Counting Women and Children: Neglected Stories from the Bible:

"Once in a parish mission when I was studying this scripture (Luke 7: 11-17) with a large group, someone called out harshly, 'Have you ever brought someone back from the dead?' I had been saying that life happens when we are interrupted, and that some of the most powerful acts of resurrection happen to the least likely people; that we are the people of resurrection and hope, called to live passionately and compassionately with others, to defy death, to forgive, and to bring others back into the community, to do something that is life-giving, that fights death and needless suffering. And then this challenge from the back of the church. 
"My response was 'Yes.' I went on to say, 'Every time I bring hope into a situation, every time I bring joy that shatters despair, every time I forgive others and give them back dignity and the possibility of a future with me and others in the community, every time I listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time I speak the truth in public, every time I confront injustice — yes — I bring people back from the dead.' " 

I love that. I love that we can practice resurrection in our everyday actions. In the other places in Wendell Berry's poem, I think he gives us a clue or two about what it might look like to practice resurrection. He writes: “So, friends, every day do something that won't compute. Love the Lord. Love the world […] Be joyful though you have considered all the facts…” 

I believe there’s a great Easter message in being joyful even though we have considered all the facts. Practicing resurrection means hanging on to hope even though all the facts point to death. It may not be how I think or expect, but life will come out of this somehow. Especially in the midst of all that is happening around the world, those are difficult words for me to take hold. How can I practice resurrection in the midst of a pandemic?

I first turn to Psalm 16, our call to worship for this past Sunday. This is a psalm of confidence, which means that while it acknowledges the pain and reality of suffering in the world, it does not end there. It points to God’s ever-present help, even in the midst of pain, hurt, suffering, trials, and fear. It has phrases like, “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (v. 1) and “I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (v. 8). Phrases that show a firm confidence in God’s presence. We can practice resurrection because God is the with me every step of my journey.

In his commentary on this psalm, Fr. Thomas P. McCreesh writes: “This ancient psalm understands the Lord's mercy and love so well that it affirms faith in the Lord as the giver of life, even against all odds. The Lord is the one who leads to life, and the psalmist rests in the security of this belief."

We can practice resurrection, because like so many psalms remind us, there will be difficulties beyond what we can imagine, but they are the end of the story. Death is not the end of the story, not when resurrection is involved. Practicing resurrection means holding onto hope, even when everything feels hopeless.

Whenever we bring hope into the life of someone else, we practice resurrection. Whenever we bring joy, when we come alongside to celebrate even the seemingly smallest of victories, I believe we are practicing resurrection. Whenever we restore dignity to someone, whenever we listen to the voice of others, we practice resurrection. Every time we live into what God has called us to do—every time we embody the Kingdom of God, we practice resurrection.

Practicing resurrection means that we obey those words of Jesus to love our neighbors. In our current days, we may not need to overthink what practicing resurrection might look like. It would look like calling to check on someone, it would look like bringing someone groceries, or it might look like sharing kind words of encouragement. 

Go forth and practice resurrection.

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Photos by Michelle Gould Photography,

Heather K. Barclay & Justin Leonard