By Michael Usey
Wendell Berry is a farmer from Kentucky; he is also a poet. One of my favorite poems of his is called Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front. The poem starts with a description of the way we have died to true values and have entombed ourselves with petty appetites that lend no meaning long term. The poem begins: “Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even you future will be a mystery anymore. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in drawer. When they want you to buy something, they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.”
The only answer, according to Berry, is to be crazy enough to follow God. He writes, “So friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it … Ask questions that have no answers … Plant sequoias … Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts … As soon as the … politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox, who makes more tracks than necessary some in the wrong direction. Practice Resurrection.”
He ends this manifesto with those 2 words that sum the entire poem: “Practice resurrection.” Curious words. We are not God; we cannot resurrect any one; in fact, some of us can barely get through the day. What does it mean to practice resurrection?
We know all too well the practice of cruxifiction. We see it daily in the news, in the tears of friends, and in our own faces, sleepless and worn. But what do we know of resurrection? Dead bodies we’ve seen, but a new body bursting out of the rot of death–such a sight has never yet adorned the cover of Time magazine.
Resurrection is not something that we see every day. As a matter of fact, it’s something that we have never seen, only experienced. It has only happened once in the history of the world. So if a crucified world is to know resurrection, we Christians must practice it. We must think of new ways to bring the power of Easter to this world’ we must act it out daily. We must become conduits of the love and energy of the Almighty God. We are to be everyday reminders to people that death–in all its forms–is not the final word. As citizens of the coming kingdom of God, we are called to be heralds of God’s incredible power, which, even now, is bursting forth. Death could not hold Jesus; it will not be able to hold us, by God’s grace and power.
To practice resurrection is to put the power of Easter into our lives; it is to live in the way that Jesus calls us to live. It is to love our enemies: both our corporate enemies, like terrorists and hatemongers, and our personal enemies, like the sassy neighbor down the street that doesn’t curb her dog, the difficult family member, or the person at work who lies about you. Practicing resurrection means to love all of these. And loving them means praying for them. This is easier said than done, and it’s not humanly possible, in direct contrast of what our human nature cries out for us to do and feel. But it is like God, and God can transform us if we desire it.
Practicing resurrection means talking with your brother or sister when he or she has something against you. This is extraordinarily difficult to do sometimes, to say to someone, “Look, I know there’s a problem between us. Can we talk about it?” It is taking a surprising initiative for peace, the same way that Christ did: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Likewise, it is not repaying evil for those who do us evil. One of the proverbs that I have been considering during Lent was this one: “Do not rejoice when your enemy meets trouble. Let there be no gladness when he falls.” It kind of takes all the fun of hoping for something bad to happen to someone, doesn’t it?
My birth-family’s favorite odd Easter story is this: When my brother Tony was 7-years-old, my mother took him on an Easter egg hunt. Now my brother was a little boy like the kind Nathan is: adventurous and athletic. So Tony ended up with a huge basket full of eggs. There was another little boy there that had hunted for eggs but hadn’t found any. My mother, trying to teach Tony the Christian value of sharing, asked him to give the boy a few of his eggs. Tony did. When the grand prize number was announced, the little boy won with one of the eggs that Tony had given him. My brother and mother were sick at heart. And to make matters worse, the little boy did not share with Tony any of all the fun gifts and treats that he won. It was a hard lesson for a 7-year-old to learn. A couple of years ago, I asked Tony what he learned thorough that experience, and he said with a laugh, “What do you think I learned? I learned never, ever to give any eggs away, and to push down any little kid that asked me for one.” But really, the lesson took hold, in spite of this unpleasant incident. My parents succeeded in instilling a generous spirit in him. Giving away the grand prize egg was just a bump–a painful bump, mind you–but just a bump in teaching him the life truth of being generous in the way that God is generous. My parents taught him to practice resurrection with his money and possessions.
This Easter, I invite you to give it a try: practice resurrection. Who knows what it will look like.