On Easter Sunday, Barak Obama, like most of you, went to church. And, like most of you, the message he heard was about the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I haven’t ferreted out a copy of the sermon preached at Shiloh Baptist Church, but the news reports say that it was titled “The Resurrection Changes Everything”. I’d like to think that that message was taken to heart, not just by us, but by our Commander in Chief. But, like many of you, on Monday morning, the president returned to a job where, for all intents and purposes, everything was the same. The news that came through our screens and out of our radios and across the President’s desk was that contrary to all the sermonizing on Easter Sunday, the world was still going to Hell in a hand basket.
I would wager that precisely because of this reality – every year sermons are preached about the universal and earth-shattering implications of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday and every year the universal implications seem to be a false alarm and the earth remains un-shattered – that the world becomes more and more jaded to the message of Easter. Yet, I would also wager (and I do so desperately hope you would agree), that the world NEEDS the message of Easter! This is our dilemma as Christians- affirming the reality and necessity of resurrection, yet not always gifted or well-trained in the art of pointing it out to the rest of the world. It is the assumption of our faith that resurrection matters in the world insofar as we live into it, internalize it, and help others to do the same.
Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky in their book Leadership on the Line define this same dilemma in entirely secular terms, outlining the task of leadership as being about the process of enabling individuals and communities to assume the arduous work of internal and deep adaptive change. In order to make deep and lasting transformations like, say, resurrection, a sustained reality “depends”, Heifetz and Linsky argue “on having the people with the problem internalize the change itself.”
This is the Easter challenge, that we look at the resurrection of Jesus as a concrete and discrete event, a reality, and then inquire of it – what does this mean? If it happened, if God really does triumph over sin and death (fear and failure), if God really does honor the downward mobility of a life lived in service to others – then what does that have to do with us? I bet if we all thought about it for a second, we could come up with a lot of stuff to fill the “what”. And, if we internalize and live into that “what”, then the earth really is shattered, and indeed “everything” does change.