We are back again. This time it’s very early, and the sun is rising. And the kindly looking bishop takes the pulpit.
“Our scripture reading for today comes from the gospel according to John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
Bodies matter. Disembodiment is evil. But we are people who believe in resurrection. Because Christ is raised from the dead, we believe that all will be raised. Resurrected to judgement or to eternal life. What I do in my body as a white person matters. And what happens to a black body matters. There will come a reckoning.
Christ have mercy on our white bodies.”
He turns to Coates: “But there’s hope. The hope for Prince’s broken black body is that because of the resurrection, that broken body will one day breathe again. And further more, every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nature, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures’ and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruptions, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—and somehow also the soccer balls, science kits, chemistry sets, racetracks, and model trains, all of the embraces, all the private jokes, customs, greetings, names, dreams, all the shared knowledge and capacity of a black family injected into that vessel of flesh and bone that was Prince— the all of this will find it’s way, though the resurrection power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.
I understand that you’re angry, Coates. God is angry at injustice. We need angry prophets to wake Dreamers like us to consciousness. But don’t fall into the same dualistic trap as all those people at the funeral. It’s not God or priceless black bodies. It’s both.”
He turns to all of us.
“Resurrection. It’s a crazy idea. But it’s what we believe. I don’t know how our work for justice for the poor, for remission of global debts, will reappear in the new world. But I know that God’s new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning, and I know that he calls his followers to live in him and by the power of his Spirit and so to be new-creation people here and now, bringing signs and symbols of the kingdom to birth on earth as in heaven.”
Christ is Risen. Happy Easter.
This is part 3 of a three- part fictional exercise where Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mirslav Volf, and NT Wright have a conversation about bodies. For part 1, go here. Almost all of the words the characters speak come from their writings. I have only added in where I needed to smooth transitions or find background context. Coates’ words come from A Between the world and Me, Volf’s words are based on his ideas in The End of Memory, and NT Wright’s words are taken from Surprised by Hope.