Showing items filed under “The Rev. Hunter Ruffin”

What Does the Resurrection of the Body Mean?

As Christians, we profess a hope in the resurrection that is to come at the end of times, in the second coming of Christ, in the moment in which heaven descends to creation and all of creation is made new through the unity of heaven and earth. But what does all of that mean to us - those that are living in this “in between time” of Christ’s resurrection and the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory?”[1] The real trick of the question before us is to try to seek a deeper understanding of what it might mean to anchor all of our belief and identity in the witness of the New Testament while also striving to reflect the truth and the promise of the Gospel in the embodied life, in the here and now.

The struggle with anchoring our being, the entirety of the self, in the witness of the New Testament is to accept that we cannot define our identity independently of each other or of our relationship with God. The struggle is to recognize that we must first let go in order to experience resurrection in the here and now while awaiting that final resurrection in the day that Christ comes to us again in power and glory. In our letting go, we are recognizing that we are not able to possess anything but must give all that we have away in our own attempts to mirror the mercy that Christ made apparent on the Cross. The resurrection of the body, and the meaning of that promise, is found, first and foremost, in the embodied life. The meaning of the bodily resurrection is found in the moment that we let go of our attempts to construct our own identity outside of the identity gifted to us by God, and it becomes real to us in this life when we are able to find the courage to let go of the possession of self-identity and to begin claiming the identity that comes from God as pure gift.[2] It is in that moment that we begin to live into the new creation made real in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is in that moment that we begin to understand that the bodily resurrection has everything to do with how we strive to reflect the mercy of God in the ways that we live in the world.

In a poignant essay about resurrection and peace, Rowan Williams wrote, “The gospel of the resurrection proposes that ‘possession’ is precisely the wrong, the corrupt and corrupting, metaphor for our finding place in the world. What we possess must go; we must learn to be what we receive from God in the vulnerability of living in (not above) the world of change and chance.”[3] To even strive towards that lofty goal requires the courage of Christ as he walked toward the Cross, and it requires the courage of embodying the compassion of Christ in our own lives. To strive towards letting go of our possession is to strive towards rooting our identity in the truth that we find in the New Testament. Our striving towards that goal is to allow the Spirit of God to bear “witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:16 NRSV)” It is in our living according to the identify gifted to us by God in the world of change and chance that we suffer with Christ and will ultimately be glorified with Christ.

The resurrection of the body, then, begins with our understanding that we must live into the gift of identity gifted to us by God, and the resurrection of the body, of the entire body of Christ, is the moment in which we join the angels and archangels in singing the praise of God, Father, Son, and Spirit precisely because we attempt to live into that identity. The identity gifted to us in our creation - both as individual persons and as Eucharistic communities within the Body of Christ - is precisely what gives us hope in the time that comes before and after death. The good that is found in the persons of the triune God consumes us and welcomes us back into that same goodness out of which we are created. By living into the good, we are consummated, completed in who we are to be, and it is in the good made known by God the Father through God the Son in the sending of God the Spirit that we are to strive towards in our daily living. It is that good that we are called to orient our lives in the world of chance, and it is that good which claims us and gives us life even after death.[4]

The meaning of the bodily resurrection is found not only in the hope for the day that Christ returns but also in the realities of living in the world of chance. In the world of chance, we can strive to share the compassion of Christ with all that we meet, and we can strive towards the one good by finding our being, our identity in God.   The life that is lived in God is the life that will continue beyond the limits of death and sin, and it is the eternal life that is the Christian hope.[5]   Just as the Holy Scriptures attest to God’s faithfulness across the arch of the Biblical narrative, the life eternal is another way of affirming God’s faithfulness even beyond the reality of death - death for an individual person and death to creation. Eternal life is the promise that God will continue to give to us life in the places in which we might think that it is not possible, and eternal life is affirming the promise that when the world does come to an end, when Christ returns in power and glory, and when the circle of creation is completed, we will find our alpha in the omega.[6] The end will be the beginning, and we will be “set free from all the constraints and limits that keep men and women at a distance from God and from each other.”[7]


[1] Mark 13:26 NRSV

[2] Rowan Williams, “Resurrection and Peace: More on New Testament Ethics” in On Christian Theology (challenges in Contemporary Theology) (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999), p. 270.

[3] Williams, “Resurrection and Peace”, p. 273-274.

[4] Kathryn Tanner, “The End” in Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, 2001), p.108.

[5] Tanner, p. 109.

[6] Tanner, p. 110.

[7] Rowan Williams, “Risen Indeed” in A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications,U.S., 1995), p. 57.

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Finding Hope in the Face of Suffering

It was late August in 2005. I boarded one of the last flights going to Gulfport, Mississippi from Atlanta thanks to the generosity of Delta Airlines. After explaining to them that I worked for the American Red Cross and that I had to get back to Mississippi to assist with the relief effort, they quickly upgraded my ticket for a flight out on the same evening. I sat in the plane listening to nervous chatter from people flying into Gulfport. Some of them did not know what they were going to do when they got there. Some were returning home as quickly as they could to prepare their homes for the oncoming storm, and a small number of us were going back to stand before the wrath of nature and to provide relief to people impacted by the storm.

Today, parishes and communities around Dallas, dealing with the aftermath of the Christmas tornadoes, may be faced with the same questions that I faced after Katrina. In fact, many of us around the diocese may be asking the same sorts of questions - looking for some logical explanation for the suffering that ensues after an event like a hurricane or a tornado. The questions that we ask - about suffering and God - may seem even more pertinent after a tornado given that tornadoes come with very little warning and have immense impact on people and communities. In times like this, we may be asking questions like, “Why did the tornadoes have to strike these communities?” or “Why did members of our community have to die?” The questions may get even more personal and more dire the closer we are to the suffering in our immediate community. Why did God allow this tragedy to happen to begin with? Why is it that bad things happen to good people? Why was God seemingly absent?

The why questions asked about God and suffering seem to be good questions at different times in our lives, but they are also questions that only look backwards. The questions asked during times of tragedy are big questions that have no good answers. They are questions that baffle the mind and have the potential to shred the soul into small pieces.[1] The questions turn into a bog, imperceptible on the landscape, until you are sinking further and further into it when you ultimately find yourself neck deep in it with little hope of rescue or escape.

The reality of an embodied life is that it can and will involve suffering along the way. The fall story in Genesis tells us that life will now include certain hardships - from working in order to provide food to labor during childbirth to the ultimate truth that the fall narrative is not simply a story about the fall of humanity but is a story about the tragic fall of creation. And yet, the fall narrative is also a narrative of hope and of love. Instead of dying “in the day that you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” God shares his redemptive love with Adam and Eve in casting them out of the garden.[2] The result is that God’s action during the fall was one of love towards humanity, and it is that same love that we need to look for in the face of suffering.

Thus, it may better to reframe the question that we are asking about God. Instead of asking why bad things happen to good people, it may prove more instructive and more faithful to ask, “When bad things happen to good people, where am I witnessing God’s redemptive love in action?” By reframing the question in this way, we are recognizing that suffering is simply part of living an embodied life in a tragic creation. Though tragedy and suffering did not exist in the beginning, the fall of creation brought suffering into the world and made the reality of creation a tragic one. In recognizing that suffering is simply a truth of our embodied existence within creation, we are able to move past the why question and begin asking different questions that help us to look forward into the future with hope, faith, and love. We are able to begin looking for the ways that God continues to redeem us - even in the face of suffering.

 As we continued the work of attempting to provide emergency relief to those affected by Hurricane Katrina, my emotions began to build into a tidal wave of anger. It was a torrent of anger that was looking for someone to take the brunt of it until I finally turned my rage to God, or, to be more precise, I turned my rage on God. In that moment, I let God have every venomous accusation I could imagine, and I challenged God directly. I challenged the reality of a God that supposedly loves his children but continues to allow suffering to happen. In that moment of rage, God responded. God took my anger and helped me to see that the last word had not been written. God still had something to say about the suffering of people after Hurricane Katrina, and God helped me to see that, even in the greatest moment of pain and suffering I had known, God was there alongside me.

During Hurricane Katrina, I was not able to see that God was there until I took the time to reframe the event through the power of the resurrection. Just as Christ called out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” so too did I call out to God in a moment of great suffering. In the moment of the crucifixion and in the moment of Hurricane Katrina, God wept. In the moments of the crucifixion and after Hurricane Katrina, God responded through love by redeeming humanity. Today, the action of that redeeming love is present with us through the care and love being offered by Eucharistic communities to those that have faced the brunt of the tornadoes.

In the creation narrative, it is important for us to remember that sin and suffering are not a given within creation. Sin is something that enters the narrative after God speaks creation into being and calls it good. As a result, we, as faithful disciples of Christ, need to remember that suffering and sin are secondary realities; the primary reality is that we are created in the goodness of God’s image and that we can be reconciled to the goodness with which we are created. In short, though sin and suffering exists in the world, we are called to look out on the horizon of the future with hope and with expectation. We are called to look for the redeeming love of God, which is our singular hope in the face of suffering.[3]

In the end, a recognition of suffering as part of the reality of the embodied life is also a recognition of the importance of grace in our lives. It is a move that helps us to slowly inch beyond the immediate state of suffering and into a future that is filled with hope precisely because it is upon the grace of God that we rely. Yet, the recognition of suffering as a reality is not enough for us to rediscover the hope that God offers to us. And it is here that being part of a community of hope, a community of thanksgiving becomes vitally important to our ability to experience God’s redemptive love through the care and actions of others. It is within the Eucharistic community that we are able to be reconnected to the reality of God’s redeeming love and that we are able to begin to imagine a future filled with hope and with love. It is within the Eucharistic community and by sharing the love of God through Christ that we become agents of God bringing love and hope into a landscape of tragedy.

Though we are not able to eradicate pain and suffering from our reality, we are able to rely on each other to bring God’s love into a tragic and hurting world. We are able to support and love each other, and we are able to serve as disciples of Christ by sharing God’s love with persons burdened by the yoke of suffering.

The Rev. Hunter Ruffin serves as the Associate for Mission and Outreach at Saint Michael and All Angels in Dallas.

[1] John Swinton, Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company, 2007), p. 13.

[2] Genesis 2:17b NRSV; Genesis 3:14-24 NRSV

[3] Swinton, Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil, p. 57.

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