I have found that there are two traps we can fall into when encountering scripture. The first is to notice that absolute strangeness of scripture—this ancient, religious text with bizarre and troubling stories. So strange, at times, that we can find ourselves skimming right off the surface of the text.
The second is to completely ignore that strangeness and to believe that scripture is only ever speaking directly to us in the 21st century—as if no work at all has to be done to bridge the gaps between the ancient worlds depicted in scripture and the present-day, mundane realities of facebook, grocery stores, text messages, and credit cards.
The first one makes it impossible to hear the relevance of scripture today—it keeps scripture too wildly unfamiliar and strange. The second one makes it impossible for us to be challenged out of our complacency—it keeps scripture too tame and familiar and safely contained. We need both experiences of scripture to feed our reading—the wild and the tame, the strange and the relevant.
Out of these moments, I invite my students at the seminary where I teach, to read scripture by paying attention to the images and the sounds contained in the stories of scripture. One night we did this with Matthew’s account of the resurrection.
When we paid attention to the sounds contained in Matthew’s account of the resurrection, we were taken by surprise by just how noisy the first resurrection morning was. There was the bellow and groan of an earthquake that morning; the rumble of a stone as it moved away from the tomb; the sound of Roman guards falling to the ground in terror; we imagined their armor clattering against the earth. We were astounded by the overwhelming roar of resurrection when God defeated death; when transformation happened on a cosmic scale far beyond our wildest imaginings.
But after we sat with the text a while longer, we heard some much quieter sounds on that very first morning. The sound of a messenger saying, “Do not be afraid.” The sound of human voices sharing the amazing news of the morning; the sound of women gasping in joy and relief; the sound of worship at the feet of the risen savior, given up for dead; the sound of feet running and walking to share the news with others. The sound of disciples, men and women, gathered on a mountain, worshiping and doubting in the midst of that day’s events. We were astounded by the quiet, softer familiar sounds of that first resurrection day when in response to the cataclysmic events of that morning, what God asked of us in response was ever-so-graciously on the human scale: to live our lives with one another, sharing hope and faith, worshiping in the midst of belief and doubt.
In resurrection there is both the wild, untamed, strangeness of love upending death. And there is the graciously do-able, familiar, and relevant invitation to live life with and for one another. The good news is lived out in this way: on a human scale, in the simplest acts of accompaniment. We may not ever experience something akin to the roaring moments of that first resurrection morning, but we always have the opportunity to love into the quieter ones: to walk together on the paths set out before us; to talk with one another and with those we encounter along the way; to reach out to the broken-hearted; and to let go of fear. In these moments, Love calls to us and draws us ever on to life.