From Death to Resurrection
August 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
As people, we struggle with the reality that our world is broken; that some things, many things, are not right. Within the past week, worry and fear regarding our national financial situation has gripped us. War continues to rage in many parts of the world. The obituary column never seems to shrink.
On a daily basis, we must confront death where we find it; death, the final, irrevocable termination of so many things. Relationships wither and fade; opportunities for success are taken away. Hopes and dreams may be cast down, and even life itself ends in due course. After all, the only other certain thing in the universe is taxes, right?
However, the story of Christian faith presents a different picture. When God became human and joined us in everything that human life is, he experienced death. He experienced the death of his personal hopes and dreams in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22.41, 42). He experienced the death of a close friend (John 11. 32-36). He experienced death himself (Luke 23.46). But death cannot hold the One who gives life. Christ returns from the dead and appears to many of his disciples before ascending into heaven (Acts 1.1-11).
The Apostle Paul sees the sacrament of baptism as a parallel between the life of Christ and the life of the Christian. Sin, that which separates us from God, is done away with. The life of the believer is nothing short of a new, Christ-filled life: “…When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.” (Romans 6.3b-5, The Message)
Author Anne Lamott, in her work Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (Riverhead, 2005), points out the struggle that we as people feel with this dynamic of death-to-resurrection:“I don’t have the right personality for Good Friday, for the crucifixion: I’d like to skip ahead to the resurrection. In fact, I’d like to skip ahead to the resurrection vision of one of the kids in our Sunday School, who drew a picture of the Easter Bunny outside the tomb: everlasting life, and a basket full of chocolates. Now you’re talking. “In Jesus’ real life, the resurrection came two days later, but in our real lives, it can be weeks, years, and you never know for sure that it will come. I don’t have the right personality for the human condition, either. But I believe in the resurrection, in Jesus’, and in ours. The trees, so stark and gray last month, suddenly went up as if in flame, but instead in blossoms and leaves – poof! Like someone opening an umbrella. It’s often hard to find similar dramatic evidence of rebirth and hope in our daily lives” (140-1).
Yet, we are followers of Christ, and so we look. A few pages later, Lamott describes how she looks past death:“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring, and look up at the hectic trees. Amid the smashing and crashing and terrible silences, the trees are in blossom, and it’s soft and warm and bright. I am going to close my eyes and listen. During the children’s sermon last Sunday, the pastor asked the kids to close their eyes for a moment – to give themselves a time-out – and then asked them what they had heard. They heard birds, and radios, dogs barking, cars, and one boy said, ‘I hear the water at the edge of things.’ I am going to listen for the water at the edge of things today” (144-5).
We find encouragement in the words of Novalis, who said: “He who seeks God will find him everywhere.” We look, knowing that as the power of Christ touches our lives, pieces of our lives are healed, restored, rejuvenated, and made whole. As we continue to follow Christ, his Spirit speaks to us and encourages us to live as Christ did – as one who touches a broken world and brings life to those who need it (John 10:10). This is our task, our mission, our call. Let us embrace Christ’s work in us for our resurrection, and engage his work in bringing life to those around us.