A moment of lucidity. Then she was back in her own world, her eyes beholding some distant shoreline, her mutterings only understandable to some imaginary friend, and her expressions those of one sometimes confused, sometimes afflicted.
She had wandered into the Wendy’s where my family was grabbing a quick bite to eat after a day of driving. Then she had sat down at a table next to us. Something- probably some faint consciousness of hunger- had drawn her there, but now she was in her own, little world again, maybe only dimly and occasionally aware of the fact that she had wandered into a fast food restaurant and was now sitting at an empty table by herself.
“Susie” was her name. I asked her if she’d like a meal. “No, thank you,” in another rare moment of clarity before lapsing again into another unreachable dimension of space and time. And then within moments she was back again. “Okay, you can buy me a burger and a coke,” she said.
I had. And then this strange, lovely gesture of gratitude. Which was itself a kind of proclamation: “Thank you for resurrecting me.”
And what if the meaning of Jesus Christ’s resurrection is just this? That we can in the power of the Holy Spirit help to “resurrect” one another? And what if resurrection could really be this simple? A burger and a drink for a homeless person. A meal for someone who for all other intensive purposes has largely ceased to exist in reality and for whom the reminder of her bodily needs is a kind of “rebirth” of sorts. A deliverance from invisibility in an invisible world, and a grounding in the here and now of what is real, so that she is reborn to existence.
For skeptics of Christ’s resurrection, the seventeenth-century mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal put it this way: “What reason do atheists have to say that one cannot rise from the dead? Which is more difficult, to be born or rise again? That what has never been should be, or that what has been should be again? Is it more difficult to come into existence than to return to it? Habit makes the one seem easy to us; lack of habit makes the other impossible: a vulgar way of judging!”
Pascal is right when he notes that “returning to existence” is not habitual to us. We don’t have to be talking exclusively here about resurrection after physical death, either. Resurrection of the kind to which Susie refers is also not a common sighting for most of us.
But the beauty of Christ’s resurrection is that it invites us into the unending newness of life for ourselves and one another- a new way of being that finds embodiment in the physical here and now of reality, not some other ethereal dimension that is the product of our imagination. Like the resurrected Jesus, who on the road to Emmaus appears to his disciples in the simple act of breaking bread, we, too, can point others in the direction of being born again when we invite them to see God’s in-breaking new life in the simplest, most bodily of functions. When this kind of thing happens, it displays a kind of spill-over effect- serendipitous new life for Susie, yes- but for me also, and hopefully for you. And if this kind of eschatological moment can happen at a Wendy’s in a strip mall in St. Augustine, Florida, it can happen anywhere and everywhere…to anybody.