This is part of a 10-day series on the person of Christ in the 2016 Lent study.
For close to a year now, I have kept a number of poems pinned up at my desk at work. There is one I try to keep as close to my line of sight as I possibly can. I’ve sat at three different desks in the past year and each time, this poem sits just to the left or right of my screen. There is not a day when I don’t take in some of its lines.
I’d read some of Wendell Berry’s fiction but did not know much of his poetry. So I called the closest bookstore to see if they had any. They told me they had the one I was hoping for. I used my lunch hour to go pick it up.
One poem shook me like no other, as it has a number of other people I know. “The Manifesto of the Mad Farmer Liberation Front” is a powerful piece of writing.
The poem has many lines that are memorable. But the last line is the one my eyes are drawn to more than the others: “Practice resurrection.”
My favorite story in the Bible is the story of Lazarus dying and being raised to life by Jesus. One reason I’m so drawn to this story is because in it Jesus makes one of His many “I am” declarations. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life, the one who believes in Me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
When Jesus says this, no one knows what He is going to do. Lazarus has been dead for three days. The grief is real. Lazarus’ family and neighbors have no idea what Jesus is about to show them.
The hardest part of life is death. And it’s also the most inevitable part. One day our bodies will stop working. Worse, our loved ones will die. And like Lazarus’ sisters, we will have to watch it happen.
Maybe you’ve been through this and felt the anger, sadness, and helplessness that comes with grief. You’ve watched life slip away and heard the death rattle. It can feel like a game you are always and forever losing.
Jesus said, in effect, “When you trust Me, death does not interrupt life. The resurrection is as sure as I am.”
When I read Wendell Berry’s words, “Practice resurrection,” I take them to mean that, in the face of death, we take Jesus at His word. We practice resurrection by reminding ourselves, when the anger and sadness are taking over, of the promise of rising again. We practice resurrection when we believe that one day this grief will turn to gladness and these tears of sadness will turn to tears of joy because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.
Jesus proved His power over death not only by raising Lazarus, but by also by rising from the grave Himself. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He meant for us to believe that this power extends to us as well. When our faith is in Him, our resurrection is as inevitable as our death.