The Resurrection of Our Lord
I Feel the Earth Move
It was very early one morning, before the sun was dawning, and we were sleeping soundly, Kim and I. But it was Kim, who felt the movement, if ever so slightly. A tremor, and shaking of the bed, and the ground beneath us! But I continued to dream away, about what, I don’t know, while Kim was suddenly and shockingly, jolted awake! Later that morning, Kim asked me if I felt it too. Felt what, I said?
Then, when we watched the news, I was surprised – though I shouldn’t have been – that indeed, Illinois had recorded an earthquake that morning. And, many people had felt it! Not that I doubted Kim that she felt something, as I snored on. But an earthquake in Illinois?! I thought that only happened in California and Chile, in Indonesia and Japan! I have felt a quiver in our apartment as a school bus rumbled by, down Sacramento, and I swear I’ve felt the floor vibrate when they were constructing that new condo just a block away. But earthquake?!
I told you, Kim said! I told you I felt it! Which is weird, because I’m usually the early riser, and she’s usually the one you can’t wake up in the early morning hours.
“…as the first day of the week was dawning,” the two Mary’s, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, went to see the tomb,” where Jesus had been lain by Joseph of Arimethea. It was a new tomb, and Joseph had gotten permission from Pilate to lay Jesus there. The two Mary’s had seen him roll the stone over it on Good Friday and seal it up. And now, after the Sabbath was over, they came back, very early in the morning, at dawn, that liminal moment between night and day, and “suddenly there was a great earthquake,” and “lightening.” They could ‘feel the earth, move, under their feet,’ as Carol King once sang – ‘the sky tumbling down, tumbling down.’
Earthquakes, of course, are as normal to the eastern Mediterranean, as they are to California. But the Gospel of Matthew wasn’t concerned about measuring seismic activity in Israel, or Turkey or Iran – or what its measurement was on the Richter scale, and how far and wide it could be felt. But what Matthew was interested in, was continuing the story of Moses and Daniel – of resurrecting the promises of God, if you will, for their new day, and age. What happened on the third day, to Jesus and our world, was something like the shaking of the holy mountain at Sinai, when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, and like the coming of the Son of Man was a sign that was to be heralded by an earthquake, as the prophet Daniel warned. So now, God was acting in Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew tells us, the one who we assume, like the two Mary’s, is dead in the grave.
But, just as Jesus had said, the angel reminded the two women, Jesus wasn’t to be found in the new tomb. Just as Jesus had said three times: I must go to Jerusalem, and be handed over to the elites, and undergo great suffering and be put to death, but on the third day rise again – Jesus is not to be found here in the grave! But, just as he told you, he’s going back home, to Galilee. Suddenly – like an earthquake – the new age is starting. Go! Go and see him!
To meet Jesus, is have the ground move under you! An earthquake for Matthew, is a liminal moment, a theophany, a time and place, universalized, where earth and heaven meet, much like when the ground around that holy Sinai mountain moved at the giving of the 10 Commandments. Was it a 3.1, or a 6, or a 7 point something, on the Richter scale? We don’t know. But we do know that it signaled the giving of the 10 Words of God, and a life-giving Book that would shape and transform the chosen people, and the whole world, after that.
We measure seismic activity today with some pretty amazingly sensitive technology. Seismometers are strategically placed, not only above ground, but increasingly, “in deep boreholes, to avoid thermal effects, ground noise and tilting from weather and tides.” (Wiki) They can tell us precisely where the quake originated, and, how much, and in which direction, the tectonic plates have moved.
And here in Illinois, as you may know, earthquakes have sharply increased in just the past decade. Studies have now confirmed, that this unusual uptick is due, as I’m sure we can all agree, not to theophany’s, of the Mosaic or Apocalyptic variety, but from the new-found technique of gas extraction from deep underground wells, in a process called, hydraulic fracturing, or more popularly, fracking! Fracking, as I’m learning, includes both pumping fluids into the ground to force the gas out, and then re-pumping them, now full of toxic chemicals no one wants, or knows what to do with really, back into another deep well, for disposal – out of sight, out of mind. This “sudden” increase in drilling is also made possible by amazing technological advances. And, it provides jobs. It increases domestic energy sources and thereby decreased dependence on foreign oil.
But, for God’s good creation, the revelation for the vast majority of us, is a mere slight delay, in finding an answer, to our long-term problem – sustainable energy, that does not pollute and cause climate change. The earthquakes that fracking causes, are not – so far – devastating to urban areas, like Chicago – what’s a slight tremor in the midst of all the pressing problems we have here?! But downstate, where the wells are, the precious gift of ground water, is under threat. An earthquake there can release the toxic chemicals used in fracking, contaminating not only drinking water, but water that helps to grow corn, and other crops, for our table’s, and the whole world. I guess we could say, this is a theophany of a sort, similar to the Wizard of Oz, when we discover he’s just a puppet of an old man, hiding behind a curtain! Fracking’s a fake short-term solution, that should be exposed for what it is: Illinois’ attempt, at least in part, to solve its budget problem at the expense of the water supply, public safety, and the environment of politically weak, rural portions of the state.
It’s curious, that in Matthew’s account of the resurrection, compared with the other gospels, there is an interesting omission – the women don’t bring spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. They simply go, to “see” Jesus!
On this day, when we come to see, whatever it is – Friends, breakfast, fine music!? we too encounter the risen Jesus, finding him, in the breaking of the bread. We hold the body of Christ, in our hands, the bread of life, and take Jesus into our very selves, and our lives, as we begin to digest this scary, yet wonderful news – once again, brand new.
To meet Jesus, is for the ground to move beneath you! This is a seismic activity that shakes us up, but does no environmental harm! Finding Jesus empowers us to care for others, and the whole of creation – and say no to the forces still at work in our neighborhoods and world, causing death and destruction.
For Jesus has arisen to redeem the whole world – and death no longer has a grip over us! I feel the earth move under my feet!
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!