Sometime during the year 2003, the phrase “shock and awe” came into vogue. The phrase appeared in newspapers and magazines and was frequently used by television news anchors and commentators
as they described the impact of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. We remember even now the images of those massive explosions that rocked the city of Baghdad, the high tech weaponry used in the assault and the admittedly awesome power of the United States and coalition ground forces as they swept into Iraq. The intention was to strike the enemy with such a relentless bombardment of missiles and bombs so as to overwhelm them, to in effect stun them with our superior force. Our goal was not only to inflict physical destruction on their country, but also to inflict a profound psychological injury on them that would precipitate
the collapse of their will to resist.
The results were impressive. It took only 100,000 coalition troops to topple the regime of a man who was defended by more than 450,000 of his own troops. The cost to the coalition forces was only about 100 casualties; the cost to the Iraqis was a staggering 600,000, mostly civilian noncombatants. Shock and
For us Christians, Easter is supposed to be our “shock and awe” event because all the military might in the world is less than nothing when compared with the “immeasurable greatness of God’s power revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Although most of us have witnessed the shock and awe of military might, we struggle sometimes to see the immeasurable power of God that raised Jesus from the dead acting in our own hearts and in our own lives.
Military might can crush a government, topple a dictator, but it cannot bring life from death. It cannot mend our relationships with God or with each other. It cannot free a single human life from the grip of an addiction, or mend a relationship that is in turmoil. It cannot bring healing to a single person, nor can it comfort someone who is dying or unlock a single hardened heart so that love, joy and peace might spring to life. Only the immeasurable greatness of God’s power in the resurrection can accomplish these things. This is the Good News that gives every one of us courage and strength and hope, and it is this same good news that speaks to
every person who is oppressed or discriminated against, or made to feel second-class or unworthy. This is the
Good News that causes religious institutions to tremble because they know that their days of controlling people through shame and fear are definitely numbered.
In a small Orthodox monastery in Kiev, a prophecy was handed down for many years, one that said that communism would eventually be defeated and that the man who would cause its downfall was named “Michael”. I learned of this prophecy while I was a subdeacon at a small Ukrainian parish in Mishawaka,
Indiana. On May 1, 1988, “Workers Day” in the Soviet Union, the annual military parade was taking place through Moscow’s Red Square. The military might of the USSR was being brought under the watchful gaze of the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Mikhail Gobachev. Among those attending the parade that day, a chant rose up, “Bread! Freedom! Truth!” And then from within the crowd a young parish priest and a group of his parishioners came forward bearing a 20 foot cross. The voice of the priest rang out, “Mikhail Sergeyevich, Christos Voskrese!” And the parishioners began the traditional Easter chant, “Christos Voskrese!” which
means “Christ is risen!” in Old Slavonic. Shock and awe! In previous times, under any other Soviet leader, these people would have been arrested and sent away. But the times were changing, and who could have guessed that within a year of that demonstration, the powerful USSR would cease to exist. Under Mikhail
Gorbachev’s leadership, the government had essentially dissolved itself and 40 years of Cold War fear of communism was over.
(BTW, Mikhail is Russian for “Michael”, for those of you who want to
believe in the monastic prophecy.)
The good news of the resurrection is something that has given strength and courage to oppressed people on every continent. The power of the resurrection changes lives. It can even change the course of history. That same power is here right now, ready and available to you to change your life—if that is truly
what you want.
We celebrated recently the Ascension of the Lord, meaning that after 40 days of appearances to
his friends, family and disciples, the Risen Christ returned to the bosom of the Father, taking with him all of humanity’s hurts and despair and sorrow and addictions and heartache, and placing them all in the heart of God
himself. The message of the Ascension is that Jesus did not leave us to meander through life on our own, instead, he brought every good thing and every frustrating thing about our humanity into the essence that is God. That is why we can say with certainty that God certainly understands what we are going through
because God has experienced it himself.
Right now, God is extending to each and every one of us the power of Christ’s resurrection. God’s will for us is not that we suffer needlessly, not that we feel inadequate or inferior or somehow unworthy of his
love. God feels our pain, God knows our addictions and our grieving, and God wants only the best of everything for each of us. According to God’s eternal plan, each of us has a role to play in this world and until that role has been fulfilled, I believe nothing can happen to us. Our life here is not going to end until we fulfill our purpose, whether we realize it fully or not. But, God also knows that we cannot play that role effectively if we are wounded or limited or held back from our highest good in any way. This is why we celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love in the sacraments, especially the sacraments of healing: anointing, reconciliation and eucharist.
Christ has gone up to the Father, taking with him all our concerns, limitations, triumphs, joys and pain. We don’t need to suffer alone any longer and we don’t need to accept anything but what God desires for
us. That is the message of the Gospel, that is the message of the Jesus’ ascension.