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He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead…’

Matthew 28:6-7 NIV (emphasis added)


Celtic Christians have long understood the reality of thin spaces, where the space between heaven and earth shrinks unto itself, and one feels they experience the realities of both simultaneously.

I was reminded of this ancient understanding as I read the New York Times Magazine article What Deathbed Visions Teach Us About Life (Zerwick, 2024). The article follows the work of Chris Kerr, who spent much of his career as a medical doctor in hospice and palliative care settings. Of the end-of-life experiences he witnessed and studied, Kerr reflects:

It highlights the paradox of dying, that while there is physical deterioration, they are growing and finding meaning. It highlights what patients are telling us, that they are being put back together.

Since the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, God’s people have understood how closely death and resurrection are linked. More than two sides of the same coin, they are inextricably linked dance partners: one does not go where the other is not.

This can be easy to forget. Death has aptly trademarked the world with imprints of war, famine, destruction, disease, and devastation. Signs of death are hard to ignore.

What about signs of resurrection life? If death and resurrection are inextricably linked, and if heaven and earth meet in the thin places as Christians have long believed, then why does death seem so rampant and resurrection so far away?

One of the gifts of our Lutheran tradition is the framework of the both/and. We know that more than one thing can be true at a time, even when those truths seem opposed.

I wonder, then, if it is not that death has more aptly made itself known so much as we have failed to fully exercise our ability to see resurrection as readily as we see death.

When the women came upon the tomb, the angel almost immediately sent them away. The women bore witness to the resurrection, but it was a witness they could not keep. They are instead instructed to “go and tell.”

If you know the story, you know the angel offers no guarantee they will be believed. The gospel of Luke makes it clear that initially they are not. They are sent to go and tell anyway.

I wonder if, in this season of Easter, which lasts fifty days, we might live into this mandate to go and tell but also to first practice seeing signs of resurrection.

If the chasm between life and death is no more than a thin space, then there must be as much life as death. If we cannot see it, perhaps we must retrain our eyes to recognize what has always been there that we have failed to see.

Perhaps we must, in the words of artist and activist Carrie Newcomer, become a people who “practice resurrection,” and part of our practice might be to look for signs of resurrection life in every place of death. We might look for the places where, as Dr. Kerr noted, things are “being put back together.”

I once had the privilege of hearing Otis Moss III preach a sermon about the power of mothers, evident in the women at the tomb. I cannot recall the direct quote, but Rev. Moss said something like this: it was women, mothers, who went to the tomb because mothers know how to enter places of death and refuse to leave until they find life.

We are God’s people. We are resurrection people. We are people who, even amid death, proclaim and believe in life.

Let us practice resurrection. Let us train our eyes to see how life continues to unfold and let us go and tell everyone we can: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


In Christ,
Bishop Regina Hassanally
Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA