LINK TO PDF VERSION (Good for saving or printing out)
When the earth shakes the world goes topsy-turvy. My first clear recollection of an earthquake happened when I was probably 5 or 6. We were living in a wooden house my father had built among the Tsachi people of western Ecuador. Being tropical jungle, we enjoyed balmy weather all year around and it was always green. One day I was on the porch when I heard this big boom–almost like a thud. The house shook violently just once or twice, but not so fast that I didn’t dive off down the three steps out into the yard. The chickens began to cackle and the dogs barked while a few after-shocks almost knocked us to our knees.
Being a house made of wood we suffered no structural damage, though things were knocked off their shelves. Perhaps I remember most the sense of being ill-at-ease afterwords. The earth just isn’t supposed to do that.
Sometimes it’s not nearly so benign. In 1987 we were fresh back in Ecuador as young missionaries. We were living in the city when in the middle of the night the earth again shook. Quito took a hard hit, especially among the 500-year-old colonial churches downtown, but in the eastern mountains over the epicenter 5000 people died, many of whose bodies were never recovered as whole farms sloughed off mountainsides and slid into the river below. The earth just isn’t supposed to do that.
Sometimes it’s cosmic in proportions. These women’s world shook. The leader of their little band of disciples, the one they were convinced was the Messiah, who would miraculously throw off the yoke of Roman rule and restore Israel to Davidic glory, had been tried in a kangaroo court, condemned to death on false charges and murdered in the most painful, horrible way the cruel and heartless Roman army had devised—crucifixion. The world just isn’t supposed to do that!
What really happens when the earth shakes? The world as we know it goes topsy turvy, but that is because we have become accustomed to the world as it is. We do not realize that deep in the earth there are tensions building, tensions between huge tectonic plates, moving inexorably in different directions until the tension is too much and suddenly there is a readjustment, a slipping one way and another to resolve the mounting tension. Sometimes it is triggered by abundant rain, as in 1987, or volcanic action, but just as often it just finally reaches the breaking point and the friction that maintained the status quo is no longer sufficient to hold—and boom—the earth resolves itself.
On a cosmic scale the resurrection is a great resolving of ancient tensions. On one hand, God creates us and the whole of creation for a loving, mutual relationship with God and within itself. On the other hand, humanity takes that creation in another direction into an imagined self-sufficiency that results in alienation, pain and suffering, and all the ways we are self-destructive. The tension mounts. Every time we choose selfishness, every moment we live from our egos, every social construct that puts some above others in eternal value or worth, every time we step on another to get ahead, judge another by the color of their skin, place of origin social orientation, the tension mounts. Every time someone is enslaved, abused, marginalized or kicked to the curb for no fault of their own, and especially when the justification for such action is enshrined in law, custom or decree, every time people are evicted from their homes by violence, greed, cruelty and raw power the tension mounts. Every time bad things happen to good people and innocent people suffer, bad people get off scott free and nobody says anything or does anything about it the tension mounts.
The Resurrection is the great resolving of these tensions. In death Jesus takes upon himself all that is on the side that opposes the heart of God, and in rising to live Jesus resolves it all in victory. Boom, the earth shakes, and seems to go topsy turvy, but what is really going on is that the world is being set right again. The tension is being resolved. God’s new normal is being established as the REAL normal once again.
Just take a look at today’s psalm. This is a resurrection psalm.
When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
Egypt is the land of bondage, of slavery, and represents the land of sin. Out of this house of bondage God has taken God’s people. The world of slavery has been shaken to its core. Those who thought they owned God’s people find that these people now belong to God—to whom they always did. Slavery pretends the lie, freedom declares the truth.
The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
The Red Sea and the Jordan split and allowed the people to cross on dry land, once out of the land of bondage, and once into the Promised Land. The power of water to destroy is destroyed. Rocks broke and produced water, and a mountain smoked at the presence of the Lord, and now another mount witnesses an even more terrible event on Calvary. The world is not supposed to do that!
Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
The world is not supposed to do that, but it does. It causes us to wonder at the world, to question the status quo to which we have grown accustomed. Something cosmic is going on here.
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.
God has shown up, or rather, revealed the mighty arm of the Almighty. Resurrection has shaken the world to its core. The ancient tensions are being resolved.
Where is your life shaking? What “isn’t supposed to happen” is happening. The foundations of what you thought were solid turn to sand. Life as you know it to be is slipping through your fingers, and your chosen messiah has been murdered. The story of the resurrection invites you to look again. It may be that your world is shaking, but if so, it is all happening in the hand of God. It feels like a death, but death is only the precursor to life. The promise of the resurrection is that earthquakes only restore the world to how it SHOULD be, not as it was or how you might think it ought to be.
What ancient tensions are being resolved? Where are you being granted the freedom of the Promised Land where before you lived in the house of bondage? Where are you being asked to shake the world, to challenge the bondage of our age and free us for truly free, loving and self-giving relationships with God, with one another and with the earth?