Telling today’s resurrection stories

Are you an institutional leader who sings a requiem or a resurrection song?

My church has a somewhat unusual practice for a mainline Protestant church. Every Sunday the floor is opened to the gathered worshippers to offer testimony in response to a prompt.

Typically this time of testimony follows the reading of Scripture or the sermon itself. It puts the task of life application, putting the sacred word into context, into the hands of the congregation. Sometimes things go awry but, more often than not, the people share wonderful stories of mercy, friendship and the miraculous faithfulness of God.

The prepared preached word is deeply valued, but the spontaneous witness to the Gospel is an equal important part of our worship gatherings. For us, it’s worth the risk to hear each other’s stories and to be changed by them.

On Easter Sunday, we were prompted to witness to the places where we have seen the resurrecting power of God in our own lives. This question and the preceding sermon challenged us to pull back the veil and see how resurrection is not just a thing of the past but a thing of today.

God’s resurrecting power is not restricted to a moment in time when Jesus rose from the dead, but is power that defines God’s ongoing activity in the world in response to death and destruction.

We experience death pervasively: bodily, emotionally, spiritually and institutionally. The ubiquitous presence of death in our lives lays the groundwork for the possibility of resurrection’s transformation. God’s resurrecting power is witnessed throughout scripture in the story of Israel, the visions of the prophets, the formation of the church. When the people testified to God’s resurrecting power in our Easter worship gathering, they spoke of resurrection in their relationships, in their bodies and in their spirits.

Finding resurrection in our personal lives is sometimes easier than finding it with the institutions, organizations and churches that we serve and to which we belong. The mainline church can point to the latest signs of death. These signposts of death can be cause for great anxiety, mournfulness and fear. As leaders in the church, we can join the dying chorus of shoulda, coulda, woulda. We can sing a requiem.

Or we can sing a resurrection song. We can seek new life in the midst of dying, we can bury and mourn what has died and ask for God to empty the tomb and surprise us with a gardener with a familiar face. We can challenge each other to see new life growing from the rotting compost pile. We can ask where God’s resurrecting power is still present in our despair.

If we don’t know how to sing a resurrection song, if we can’t see the possibility of new life, we can open the floor and let the people speak. We can ask for testimony when we are too fragile or exhausted. We risk that sometimes things won’t go according to our plans, but we trust that the resurrecting power of God will show up in stories of unlikely organizational partnerships, unexpected leadership, and unique practices and ministries that revitalize churches and their communities.

How will you tell the story of God’s resurrecting power in your institution or church? Who will you ask to tell the story with you?