Power Posing for the Gospel
But [the angel] said to [the women at the tomb], "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:6-8
I am a huge fan of TEDTalks. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, & Design. TEDTalks are brief presentations (see youtube.com or NPR.org)—that are made all over the world, by people from all over the world. They highlight cutting-edge discoveries and how those discoveries can be applied to our lives. One of the presenters, Amy Cuddy, a psychologist in the Harvard School of Business, presents her findings on “Power Poses”: People who strike bold, open postures (envision the Wonder Woman stance here) have greater confidence and, in fact, actually improve their brain chemistry, not to mention that others respond to them positively. In fact, these postures actually can convince “the poser” that she is as strong as her posture indicates. Add her smile to that pose and she can command a room. Some might call this a “fake-it-till-you-make-it” mindset. Science and human experience seem to indicate that it works.
When the women (in Mark’s Easter Gospel) approach Jesus’ tomb, they are convinced that the only thing ahead of them is death. They are down trodden and disappointed; overwhelmed by grief. When the angel tells them things have changed—that “Jesus is Risen!,” their posture changes from grief to fear. Apparently the news is too good to be true. Most scholars agree Mark’s Easter story ends at verse 8, “they said nothing … they were afraid.” Ugh. It seems that Mark wanted his Roman congregation to see the mystifying paralysis that the women displayed and then to question it: Why did the women stay silent?! Jesus has risen—they should be standing tall and shouting the good news from the rafters: Christ is alive!
I wonder what newcomers think when they come to Calvary on Easter or any other Sunday. Do they see people who are moved by the joy of the resurrection, or do they see something different? (This is not to say that each of us doesn’t bring our individual challenges and wounds with us, while we experience this joy. It is to say that Christ’s resurrection makes room in our hearts for more than that sorrow.) When we greet people at Calvary’s front doors, when we pass the peace during worship, when we interact with our brothers and sisters between or after services, what do those newcomers see? What do they hear?
The women at the tomb held onto their fear and it resulted in nothing good: Peter and the other disciples didn’t know that Jesus had risen, or that they were to go to Galilee to meet him. The same reality is true for us: If we respond to Jesus’ resurrection—and to life itself—with fear, nothing and nobody will be changed for the better. Disciples will not gather around the risen Jesus, and people’s lives will not be transformed. The message we have been entrusted with will not be heard, and even those already here will grow discouraged and lose their focus on Christ.
But …. Here’s the wonderful surprise: The women didn’t remain fearful. The good news created a balm to heal their wounded souls, and went to work on their tongues. How do we know this? Well, you’re here aren’t you? You’ve heard the news that Christ rose from the grave for you at Easter. Which means that those women spoke, and told one generation who then told another generation, all the way down to ours … that Jesus is risen. And now you, like those women, have a choice: To live in fear and silence, or to be claimed by the resurrection.
May I make a gentle suggestion? Choose to live out your faith boldly here at Calvary. Stand tall in the gospel. Lift high the cross!
Assume the power pose of faith: Arms wide open to the world, mouths open with praise, and hearts lifted to God. If it’s true what Amy Cuddy says about power poses, this posture will help you to live confidently in faith, it will lift your spirits, and it will engender confidence in any newcomers who enter this place. Don’t let the fear of diminishing resources or attendance imprison your imagination. Instead, stand firm and reach your arms to the sky, trusting that Christ will fill this congregation with enough love, mercy, smarts, and resources to do the work of the Gospel.
A church that stands confident in Christ’s resurrection, that’s willing to risk and stretch and grow—that’s what the world needs. And your confidence in Christ will instill confidence in newcomers, and convince them that this is the place they want to be to hear the Easter good news. Please join me and your other leaders at Calvary in assuming a power pose for the sake of the Gospel: Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!
Your Sister in Christ,
Lori A. Cornell
Rev. Lori A. Cornell