Practice the Resurrection with Community Development

by Shawn Duncan on

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Our work at FCS is bound up in the picture Jesus paints in Isaiah 61. “The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor...to bind up the brokenhearted… to rebuild the ruined cities and the places long devastated for generations.”

Just like this verse highlights citywide and individual redemption, mature community development marries both the interpersonal and the systemic aspects of mercy and justice. Development without solidarity leads to displacement. Solidarity without development leaves unjust structures unchanged. When I think about community development, I can’t help but think of Jesus’ staggering promise. “You’re going to do greater things than I did,” he said.

As we follow up this path that Jesus laid out, we end up encountering both light and darkness. We experience the cycle of death and resurrection Jesus experienced. It’s a difficult gyre to inhabit, and it offers an otherworldly call. In one of his poems, Wendell Berry identifies it as the call to “practice resurrection.”  The phrase strikes me to the core. I find myself wondering how Jesus would feel if we said we believed in the resurrection but never practiced it.

But what does it mean to practice the resurrection? I think it means living as if we believe that God can bring life where there has been death. Hopelessness, cynicism, resignation to the way things are in the world--those are all practices of death. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by things that are wrong in the world. But submitting to the status quo often leads us to participating to it. In giving up on redemption, we accept the voice of death and use it as our own.

Instead, resurrection calls us to practice life, and the hope for life when death abounds. Living out a belief in life sits in real grounded practice, not idealism. The practice crops up in the midst of blatant evil and brokenness. When we see an abandoned, dilapidated property and have a vision for it to become a place where diverse people are thriving or gathering, that’s a practice of resurrection.

Getting up and persevering even when hard work seems to fall apart proclaims the resurrection. Giving years and years our lives for the hope of seeing more shalom in the world (with no guarantee on a payout) declares that Jesus lives. Things may even get uglier, grosser, and more evil before it gets better. But we can continue to practice resurrection. We expect to suffer, but we also expect for life to emerge in the space that could be possible.

We would do well to remember this time of year that the Christian story of resurrection springs forth in a tomb. God showed the most power in a moment and space of darkness, of hopelessness. I want to believe in that image and carry the hope it births to all of my days at the Lupton Center. Let’s not just proclaim the truth of resurrection in our churches, let’s practice it in our neighborhoods.

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