H. Stephen Shoemaker
Myers Park Baptist Church
Charlotte, North Carolina
March 27, 2005
GOD’S ANTHROPOS PROJECT;
RESURRECTION AND THE NEW HUMANITY
Text: Matthew 28:1-10
love Easter above all days, because Easter is God’s work. All God’s
work. Friday, the day of the cross, was ha adam’s day when humankind
tried to take control. But Easter, above all days, is the “Day the Lord hath
we need do, can do, is sing our alleluias.
Messiaen, the great twentieth-century composer, studied the songs of birds,
notated them and incorporated them into his musical works. “The birds,” he
. . are the opposite of time. They represent our longing for light, for stars,
for rainbows, and for jubilant song. 1
One of his most famous works, Quartet for
the End of Time, was written while serving as a soldier on the brutal
fronts of World War II. “In the hours of gloom,” he wrote, when every
musical idiom seemed futile,
. . what is left for me but to seek out the true lost face of music somewhere
off in the forest, in the fields, in the mountains or on the seashore, among
the birds. 2
On Easter our voices follow the birds.
Matthew’s gospel two women – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – come to
the tomb where Jesus lay. There were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.
there was an earthquake; then an angel of the Lord descended, rolled away the
stone guarding the entrance to the tomb, and sat upon the stone. The soldiers
stationed there start to tremble, then fall into a dead faint, becoming
“like dead men,” the text says.
a great scene for a painter: The angel, bright as lightning, sitting on the
stone, the two women looking on, and the Empire’s soldiers, in full
armament, lying in a heap on the ground. An Easter parable.
angel says to the women, “Be not afraid. I know you seek Jesus the crucified
one. He is not here. He is risen.”
you know what the most oft- repeated command is in the Bible? Not “Be
holy” or “Be good” or “Sin not.” Here it is: “Be not afraid! Fear
this gives us a hint of what most often controls our anxious hearts and minds:
Fear. It stops us in our tracks, it hides all that is beautiful in the day, it
kills our creativity, it keeps us from being who God made us to be.
the angel says, “Be not afraid” – which means more than “be not afraid
of me,” but be not afraid of life, of yourself, of resurrection,
of all you are about to experience.
the angel says, “Come, see where he lay. Then go quickly, tell the disciples
that he is going before you and will meet you in Galilee.”
text says that they depart “in fear and great joy.” Don’t all our
highest and most important moments have both? Fear and joy? Trembling joy? At
our wedding, our baptism, in moments of life-changing decision, at the birth
of our child? So here at Resurrection’s dawn.
women go, following the angel’s command and become the first evangelists
of the Resurrection.
route, the risen Christ appears to them.
greets them with the normal, daily Hebrew greeting: Hello: Greetings. Good
morning. Its everydayness startles us.
women kneel, hold his dear ruined feet and worship him.
he says, “Do not be afraid!” We can never hear this too much.
“Go tell my brothers to meet me in Galilee.” My brothers!
last time we’ve seen the disciples is in Matthew 26:56: “Then all the
disciples forsook him and fled.” The resurrection always begins in grace, in
restored relation. No longer cowards and
deserters, but brother/sisters.
inaugurates a new humanity, which is a reconciled humanity. These women not
only become the first apostles of Easter but also the first ministers of
have been reflecting this season on “God’s Anthropos Project,” God’s
purpose for humankind and our destiny. In Jesus God comes to find the “true
lost face” of humanity. On Easter a New Humanity arises.
is this New Humanity? It is the image and likeness of God, in which we were
made, restored and set free!
the novel The Kite Runner, Amir, the main character, receives a call
from a long-time friend in Pakistan. What Amir hears behind his friend’s
words is “my past of unattoned sins.” His friend ends with words Amir
cannot get out of his head: “There is a way to be good again.” 4
is what we all want: A way to be good again. Not “good” as defined by
others, not “good” as a way to make ourselves superior to others, not
“good” as a way to win political votes, not “good” as a kind of
perfection we cannot reach, but “good” as we need to be good,
“good” as God made us to be good, and “good” that is also genuinely
good for those closest around us, for we were made not just for ourselves but
to be in communion and in community.
with Resurrection comes the power to be good again, the strength to do what is
right, the grace to live in “right relation.” It is the grace, strength,
power of the living Christ, who says, “Lo, I am with you always.”
Easter there is a great Transition afoot. Paul puts it this way:
as in Adam all are made dying, even so in Christ shall all be made living.”
have all found our ways to participate in death’s little kingdoms, but in
Christ we are made alive!
have found our divine image. It is restored in our sight! The great
fourth-century theologian Athanasius, in his most famous work On the
Incarnation, uses this analogy: A great painting has been destroyed by the
elements. Its artist does not throw the canvas away, but begins to repaint it
to its original glory. 5
each have our truest, deepest self created in the image and likeness of God.
But that divine image has become hidden, distorted, covered – encrusted by
layers of “false self.” And when we act out of our false self, more
layers are built, till we can no longer find this true self.
Christ has come to reconnect us to our true self and give us the power to live
from that self. We find our “true lost face,” our real voice.
great Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder has said, and persuaded me, that
our “fallenness” or “lostness” and our salvation have to do with
something far greater and far deeper than our sins and their forgiveness. It
has to do with: “[Our] separation from God and [our] incapacity to do the
cross/resurrection meets us in both places, our separation from God and our
incapacity to do the good, and leads us to a new personhood.
the cross and resurrection, we hear God’s word:
sins are forgiven
not be ashamed
And from the cross/resurrection we hear the
words: The separation is past, over, ended! Come let us begin the New
new way is not the way of perfection. Paul Tournier has written that God does
not call us to be perfect, but to be fruitful. There may be some work
we need to do to clear the soil of our lives and prepare it to be fruitful.
But remember! The Risen Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene as a gardener!
New Humanity will not be afraid of knowledge, for all knowledge comes from God
– whether from science, psychology, medicine, theology or history. But our
knowledge will be joined with reverence. We will do science, and learn
history, and walk humbly with our God. We will not presume final knowledge,
not in this life, not in this cerebral cortex.
New Humanity will seek the proper exercise of power, for it will join power
and reverence. How did Shakespeare put it?
It is excellent to have giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like
a giant. 7
New Humanity will work for justice, but its justice will join with reverence,
for we know that even our best justice is less than justice.
New Humanity will end the folly of war and learn the wisdom of the teaching of
Jesus: “Love your enemy.” This is not a suggestion from Jesus but part of
the rule of the New Humanity in Christ.
the New Humanity does not follow Jesus into the past, but into the future –
for we follow the Risen One who “goes on before” us.
is still in the process of making us and all humanity what God has made
us to be. That is, God is making us Christs! No less. This is the “glory”
Irenaeus had in mind when he said:
glory of God is the human being fully alive; the life of the human being is
the beholding of God.
In his poem on the Resurrection, Gerard
Manley Hopkins wrote:
. . In a flash, at a trumpet crash
am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
Jack, joke, poor potsherd . . . immortal diamond.
immortal diamond. 8
Aglow in Easter light, Paul wrote:
we all with unveiled faces beholding the glory of the Lord . . . are being
changed into his own likeness from one degree of glory into another.
Into Christ! Into the glory God made us for;
degree by degree by degree.
is interesting to note that when the women meet the angel, they leave with a
mixture of fear and great joy (Matthew 28:8). And when the disciples meet the
Risen One, some worship and some doubt (Matthew 28:17).
are always both, fear and joy, worship and doubt. In us and in the
world. But never again can we say, I’m only human. For Christ
became as we are so we may become what Christ is! This is the work of Easter.
all that is left for us to say – for this is all God’s work – to say, to
sing, to dance (if you have any dance in you), to ring: Alleluia, alleluia,
1. Cited in David Rothenbert, Why Birds Sing
(New York: Basic Books, 2005), p. 194
2. Ibid., p. 195.
3. N. T. Wright, Following Jesus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1994), p. 66.
4. Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner (New York: Riverhead Books, 2003), p.
5. On the Incarnation (Crestwood, N>Y>: St. Vladimir's Seminary
Press, 2003), p. 41.
6. Preface to Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2002), p.
7. "Measure for Measure."
8. That Nature Is A Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection (London:
Penguin Classics, 1988), p. 66.