Only women should speak on Easter Sundays! (John 20:1-18)
By Cláudio Carvalhaes
It's resurrection Sunday. However, while Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, life out of death, this resurrection isn't yet a reality for the vast majority of the world.
How can we celebrate Easter when women and children in Syria are the victims of brutal attacks? And the nations of the world debate what level of violence is appropriate to counteract their deaths?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when countries are bombarded and refugees are piling up on camps or dying trying to cross terrestrial or water borders?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when indigenous people are losing everything everywhere in the world?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when black people continue to be shot on the streets of the world, exploited and put in jail at the mercy of the state?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter when agribusinesses are taking over people's lands, privatizing lands and seeds, destroying the environment with monocultures, pesticides and producing food insecurity for millions of people?
How can we Christians celebrate Easter amidst poverty, racism, and militarism as Martin Luther King's said at his last public speech in 1967 "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence?" Every year, MLK Jr's speech takes more prominence and importance.
How can we Christians celebrate Easter with undocumented people in this country? Though I am not undocumented myself, I know this community well. I was a pastor of an undocumented community and saw the hardships of workers giving their lives to the betterment of this country. For more than 8 years, deportation has been a brutal political movement destroying families and maintaining broken immigration policies. These precious people continue to be scared, shattered, abused, exploited, brutalized.
In the midst of so much death, how can we Christians celebrate Easter?
These questions can be paired with questions regarding our own sense of worship on that day. How much have we Christians replaced justice with worship, not taking one into serious relation with the other? Are we accustomed to worship in the total absence of justice? How much of our worship services are appropriations of a God who, acting in our favor, serves mostly to protect our class privileges?
Jewish theologian Marc Ellis has asked: "What if believers stop worshiping God until justice rolls down like a river?" Would such a commitment change our very sense of and urgency for justice? Is it honest to worship God and say God is good when the god that is good for us is clearly not good for the majority of the people in the world?
For the poor of this country and of the world, it is always Good Friday and Holy Saturday, always death and trauma. Far from welcoming new life every spring, instead we are caught in the cycle of post-traumatic stress disorder - wondering from where the next blow will come. The veil has been torn but the material is that of our social fabric that keeps families afloat and generations tending to the needs of the next. The working poor of the Baby Boomers are finding the survival they've earned from somewhat steady jobs and the collection of social security eaten up from the need to care for their children and for their children's children. But even that level of sustenance will not be the same for future generations.
For my people, every day is a journey between Friday and Saturday with hope for Sunday. Perhaps it is this stubborn faith that keeps the poor going. Without resurrection. In many ways, they find resurrection in the midst of Friday and Saturday. Is Mary Magdalene, the one who has been called so many names, the one who can help us see resurrection better? She walks to the tomb for some reason. Why? Does she need to appease her pain? Be closer to the one she loved? She walks in the dark, when everybody might be asleep. Her love makes herself move. When she faces the empty tomb, what was desolation and loss turn into something else that places her whole self in a very different place and sends her forth to proclaim the possibility of resurrection.
Perhaps this is how the poor live. Living in the dark, walking towards something that might say and do something new to them. Moving their bodies to protect and feed those they love. They also carry the precious lives of their families. They carry the stubborn love and hope that expects nothing less than resurrection.
Perhaps Mary Magdalene is like the women today who see something else that not many people see. Like the women in our video. Perhaps all we need to do this Easter is to listen to the women. Mary Magdalene and many other women in our time are like John the Baptist, announcing something new, new forms of communal life, new possibilities to protect and empower people, the necessary call to justice with the news of love and transformation! Even life that can come out of death. As Nancy Cardoso, a theologian and Biblical scholar from Brazil says: "Resurrection, if there is one, will be in the materialities of a new world, communities of necessary revolutions the equalize people." From Mary Magdalene we hear that there is resurrection and Jesus is alive. From the women of our times, we hear that Jesus is present, and is now living among the poor.
So, we hear the women today. Women and those who draw close to the dying are the first witnesses of the resurrection. What if we only heard the voice of women on Easter Sunday? What if men in the church listened to their witness, expecting to hear the good news of the resurrection? What if no men preached on Easter Sunday? If that happened, we might just see more clearly the hope that women of stubborn love will bring us the necessary materialities of a real world to deal with, to fight for. Real hope. Real resurrection. A resurrection filled with death.
Bible Study Questions:
1. Identify a place in your community that might be caught in the despair of Friday and Saturday without hope of resurrection. How can you engage in relationship here? How can you learn resurrection from their lives?
2. What does stubborn love look like in your life and community?
3. Do you find your church puts more resources of time, energy, and money in worship than it does in serving the poor and seeking justice? What could you do to shift the balance?
- Nancy Pereira Cardoso on Video
- "The Season of Easter: Imaginative Figurings for the Body of Christ," by Cláudio Carvalhaes and Paul Galbreath. In Interpretation: A Journey of Bible and Theology. Vol. 65 (Winter 2011).
- I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body, Rubem Alves (Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2003).
Cláudio Carvalhaes, theologian, liturgist and artist, a native Brazilian, completed his Ph.D. in Liturgy and Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 2007. He earned a Master of Philosophy in Theology, Philosophy, and History at the Methodist University of Sao Paulo in 1997 and a Master of Divinity from the Independent Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Sao Paulo, Brazil) in 1992.
Previously, Dr. Carvalhaes taught at McCormick Theological Seminary, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Carvalhaes is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
A much sought after speaker, writer, performer, and consultant, Carvalhaes preached at Wild Goose Festival, Festival of Homiletics, and other preaching events. He led worship for the All African Council of Churches in Mozambique, taught at the Global Institute of Theology of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and leads worship and teaches at the Hispanic Summer Program since 2013. In the fall of 2016, he will preach at the Academy of Homiletics. In 2017 he will speak at the Jubilee 800 Order of Preachers of the Dominican Order in Rome, Italy and will be one of the main speakers at the Societas Liturgica in Belgium.
Dr. Carvalhaes, the author of three books in Portuguese, has edited two books celebrating the work of Jaci C. Maraschin and Ivone Gebara. He has published a book in English, "Eucharist and Globalization: Redrawing the Borders of Eucharistic Hospitality" (Wipf&Stock, 2013) and is the editor of "Liturgy in Postcolonial Perspectives - Only One is Holy," (New York: Palgrave Macmillan: Post Colonialism and Religions Series, 2015). His upcoming books are: "What Worship has to do with it? Interpreting Life, Church and the World Liturgically" (Cascade Books, 2017) and "Preaching and Liberation Theology: Metaphors for Our Time," (Abingdon Press, 2018). He has just edited Forms of Speech, Religion and Social Resistance, CrossCurrents, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Summer 2016).
A member of the American Academy of Religion, where he is the co-chair of the Arts, Religion, and Literature Group, and serves on the board of the Liberation Theology Group. He is also a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy and Academy of Homiletics. Dr. Carvalhaes serves on the editorial/advisory board of academic journals and publishing houses including Currents of Encounter Series (Brill, Netherlands); Cross-Currents; Ecclesial Practices: Journal of Ecclesiology and Ethnography; Horizontes Decoloniales/Decolonial Horizons (Argentina) and TEAR: Journal of Liturgical Resources of CLAI, Conselho Latino Americano de Igrejas.
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 Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm