Practicing Resurrection

By on February 28, 2024

Throughout the season of Epiphany, seventy-five people from across the Diocese of Kootenay (and several more from beyond!) joined together to study “When Church Stops Working” by Andrew Root and Blair D. Bertrand. Week after week we gathered together in discussion of a book that reminded us over and over again that God is the hero of our story, and that God always acts first.

There is much in North American culture that tells us this logic is nonsensical. Steeped as we are in an unswerving allegiance to consumer capitalism, there is little tolerance for patience or waiting. We get too easily bored. And, enmeshed as we are in the immanent and the material, what room is there for the transcendent experience of God’s indwelling love?

Over the course of five weeks, this provocative book served as a springboard for spiritual practice and reflective exploration. At the heart of our conversation, we gathered to turn down the volume of the outside world, listening for God’s still small voice.

While many insights were explored, one seems particularly poignant in the midst of Lent’s intentional period of disorientation before Easter’s reorientation. For far too long, the church has been confused, equating “success” with our busyness, accumulated resources, and the number of people who come to church. We have believed that a church growing in busyness, resources, and people, is the one that God has blessed. But what of the church that slows down and waits on God in prayerful surrender? What of the church that enters vulnerably into vulnerability for the sake of the other and the life of the world?

In a world dominated by the logic of exponential growth, we feel sad when our congregation’s numbers are not moving up and to the right in a parabolic curve. So focused on one way of measuring success, we forget that God can (and invariably does!) work with the small.

Do you remember Gideon’s ramshackle army of misfits? What about Jesus’ bumbling, conflicted disciples?

Recently I have turned my attention to Alan Kreider’s history, “The Patient Ferment of the Early Church.” As I’ve read, I have been awestruck by the faithfulness to these small, dispersed, and persecuted Christian communities embodying self-giving love in a culture that had little more use for them, than lion bait in the Colosseum.

The early church learned fidelity to Jesus in the shadow of the Roman empire’s own exponential growth curve. Growing and influential, the Empire proclaimed “evangelion” (gospel) at Caesar’s every victory. With access to vital resources, the imperial forces exercised impressive world-shaping power. And yet, omitted from the Empire’s slick website was mention of the mounting death toll. Missing were the flattened communities and ecological devastation fuelling unfettered growth. Missing too, was a link to the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of cancer.

Perhaps motivated by St. Paul’s earlier letter to the church in Rome, the people of the early church waited patiently on God, presenting their bodies as living sacrifices. Clinging to God and to each other under the nose of a hostile regime, early Christians understood that worship is not confined to “the thing we do on Sunday.” If that were the extent of it, the whole Jesus movement would have ended up on the rubbish heap of history long ago. Instead, they banded together, prayed for one another, and supported one another, making it their business to care for those society rejected in ways far more radical than the average parish budget allows. All this while awaiting a fresh word from God.

A few thousand years down the road, our invitation–like that of the early church–is the invitation to wholehearted worship. In Lent (and beyond!) we are invited to radically and actively reorient our lives to wait for God. We practice such waiting in the vulnerable, transforming practices of community life: shared meals, prayer, mutual aid, and testimony. We rehearse the story of Jesus’ life, death, and impossible resurrection. In quiet moments, and as part of our worship, we share our stories of God’s faithfulness. We devote our common life to discerning the ministries into which Jesus is calling us. And, when we hear that call, we respond with delight, entering into the pain and suffering of the world so that, with God’s help, we too might practice resurrection.


  • Andrew Stephens-Rennie

    Canon Andrew Stephens-Rennie is the Director of Missional Renewal for the Diocese of Kootenay

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