I know the season of Eastertide is officially over. We turned the corner back into ordinary time at the end of May with the celebration of Pentecost. But in this time of continued social upheaval, economic uncertainty, and political disappointment, I’m still clinging to the power of resurrection. I think I still find myself reflecting on the meaning of resurrection because resurrection is not yet done with me. It’s not done with any of us yet. The power of resurrection is still at work, revitalizing our hearts and transforming our world.
As I’ve continued to reflect on how resurrection is at work, I was reminded of the painting above, aptly titled Resurrection. Painted by Alma Thomas in 1966, it was the first painting by an African American woman to be on public display in the White House. It was unveiled and became part of the White House permanent collection in 2015.
Her story is pretty remarkable. Thomas was a school teacher in Washington D.C. for 35 years before taking up painting full-time in her late 60s. “Celebrated for her dexterous use of color,” as one reporter remarked, “Thomas is most closely identified with her abstracts composed of poetic, ordered patterns of dabs and daubs.” Her paintings dance. They seem to vibrate to a tune humming just beneath the surface of the paint. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I came across the video below. If you have a spare ten minutes, I highly recommend watching it. You’ll see more of Thomas’ paintings while enjoying the sounds of Miles Davis playing “Flamenco Sketches.”
Resurrection is messy. We tend to only think of resurrection in terms of it being an end product—a beautiful resolution to an otherwise messy ordeal. But resurrection itself is a messy process. It happens in the dirt and darkness of the grave. Something has to die in order for resurrection to take place.
Since Easter Sunday, I’ve been expectantly waiting and praying for the newness of life that would be resurrected from this pandemic. I imagined the world was breaking open to birth a more just economic system or comprehensive healthcare system. I didn’t have the imagination to think or even hope for the resurrection we’re being invited to take part in now. But resurrection is messy, never easy, and always surprising.
To that end, those of us who’ve lived and benefited from unfair systems are invited to wade into the messiness of those systems to ask tough questions and face hard truths. One place to begin is to acknowledge our privilege. Another, is to be curious about why even that first step can be difficult. For those of you who would like to engage in this messy work of resurrection, I invite you to join me in reading White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngleo. Please let me know if you’d like to join me because I’d love to set up a time for us to discuss and process what we find.
Resurrection is hard and messy, but by God’s grace and Christ’s example, it’s also the path that leads to new life. Like Alma Thomas, we’re never too old to devote ourselves to making the world a more beautiful and colorful place.