April 5, 2010 § Leave a comment
You won’t find the word in the dictionary – In fact, ‘Risenness’ elicits those red, squiggly lines that come in Word documents when a word is either not a word, or a misspelled one (not in mine – I added it to my Word dictionary). But for my thinking, there is no more appropriate description for the status every Christ-follower lays claim to.
From the moment of the Resurrection everything has changed and we have been ushered into an entirely new state of being in Christ. We are assured that our lives are no longer divided by a few decades on this planet. Death, though still sin’s curse, is no longer an unconquered foe. Paul’s boast in Philippians 1:21 reflects the transformation the Resurrection brings: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” as he strikes the balance of living with purpose and dying without hopeless dread.
This is the state of living in the ‘Risenness’ of Jesus. We not only share the reward of His conquest, but we are liberated to embrace and manifest the counter-cultural life of those who are free from the gloom of a meaningless existence.
– We can forgive in a graceless world.
– We can serve and sacrifice before a self-consumed culture.
– We can love without fear of being unloved in return.
Now the fact is that we don’t always live this way because Risenness is as much a dynamic as the Resurrection is an event. Each day that event beckons us to enter into the continuing realization of our new status – to believe that it is every bit as real and compelling for us as it was when Jesus appeared to His mourning disciples, or when we first trusted Christ. Yet every encounter challenges us to either respond as hopeless, dying people, or as people set free from the self-protective instincts that Jesus buried on our behalf when He arose.
But make no mistake about it – Lives of Risenness become the clearest human evidences of the of the Resurrection of Christ to a world that may not believe, but that wishes that what Jesus did could be true.
Indeed, this is Good News.
March 31, 2010 § 2 Comments
It just so happens that sheep graze on a farm we drive by when we take our daughter Erin to school. They are peaceful beasts. Actually ‘beast’ is almost too barbaric a term for such docile animals – ‘cute,’ ‘wooly,’ ‘precious’ and ‘sweet’ seem more appropriate. And yet it is this very animal that was slaughtered annually by God’s people – a substitute of sorts, for those who offered them in payment for their own sins.
At the heart of our Faith is Sacrifice – all those slaughtered lambs in Old Testament times were precursors to the one true final Sacrifice Jesus would make when He would offer Himself on the Cross. John the Baptist recognized the import of the symbolism when he recognized Jesus at the Jordan River – “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29
The lambs near our home are sweet as can be – the ‘stuff’ children’s rhymes are made of. But the most Precious Lamb was the Lamb of God – Jesus.
I want to reflect on Him as Easter approaches – I’m not much on Sacrifice. If anything I’m all about convenience – mine! But what I can’t deny is what I most need: Before He rose, Jesus died – for me – the Perfect for the undeserving – Isaiah (53:7) sings it most beautifully: “…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
Reflecting on this is overwhelming and lovely at the same time. It is the Faith at its core – Jesus, the Lamb, our Sacrifice.
Friends, this truly is Good News.
April 14, 2009 § 2 Comments
On Sunday we celebrated Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus. I preached Luke’s account of two travelers joined by the Risen Christ as they made their way home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. We typically use the event to describe yet another ‘proof’ that Jesus rose from the Grave – one more eyewitness account. And to be sure, it is a compelling argument. However I have found that such arguments tend to be more effective as reassurances to those who already believe in Jesus.
There is nothing wrong, and everything right with rehearsing what we have as Christ-followers. In the Resurrection we are assured that sin has been crushed under the weight of Christ’s Righteousness – that the Grave could not hold Him, and therefore will not hold us in death. Because Jesus has risen, we will too, and have, because we are His through faith.
But the big story is that in conquering the Grave Jesus authenticated His message that the Kingdom of God had arrived, evidenced in the meal He shared with His new friends in Emmaus. To fully appreciate this you have to go to the first meal recorded in the Bible – when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, in the Garden. The first meal represented the desecration of all God had made and declared to be good. When Jesus broke that bread and shared that meal, post-resurrection, He signaled a new day – a new hope. The Son of God had reversed the Curse of the Garden. Where the ‘first Adam’ (Romans 5) had eaten to our damnation, the ‘second Adam’ ate to our shared Redemption in Him.
What strikes me is that Jesus did so with people who would remain on earth after He ascended into heaven. He would return home, but they would still face the broken things that define a sin-stained world – and so do we.
Lesslie Newbigin, in his The Good Shepherd, says, “The Church is not an organization of spiritual giants. It is broken men and women who can lead others to the Cross.”
Perhaps our friends’ eyes were opened when they saw the wounds on Jesus’ hands. Whatever God used to illuminate them, in that one gesture Jesus demonstrated that a hungry world can catch glimpses of the new heavens and the new earth – not in grand sermons, but in fellow travelers that have met the Risen Christ, and who dare to share the ‘meal’ of love at the table of their lives.
April 11, 2009 § Leave a comment
The Cross in this picture was taken at a local property that is being restored for the purpose of housing women in recovery who need a fresh start and a safe place to make it. The property is sprawling. One day the grounds will display a garden that will grow herbs and vegetables cultivated for the purpose of training in the culinary arts.
The buildings are a different story – they are historic and beautiful, and one day will be housing and serve as classrooms for these women, but for now they are also old and in near disrepair. Squatters filled the condemned halls that long went without water and electricity. What once was obviously a magnificent spread of stately edifices is now in ruins.
Work teams have been scheduled year-round for the purpose of restoration, and it was while a group from our church worked in one of the buildings that I saw the Cross. It was situated on the edge of two or three panels of dry wall that awaited their destined installation. How and why it got there is a mystery, yet somehow it spoke volumes to me.
It is Holy Week. We celebrate Jesus. In describing His death, we think and speak in terms of Sacrifice and Substitution – both packed with meaning. But this week I have been struck by the level of intimacy Jesus was willing to involve Himself in on our behalf. We celebrate that He came and entered into our mess. In Jesus God took on the human condition.
There are moments when I don’t like that intimacy – when I would rather the roof cave in and the walls decay, and the brush to become overgrown than for God to be so close to me that He can detect every nuance of sin’s ugly stain that runs so deep within. He knows – He sees – There is nothing I can hide – not only because He is God, but also, and especially because Jesus took on flesh and blood – His body to be given and His blood to be spilled – He became a hideous display because that is what humanity is – it is what I am. I don’t want Him to see me, and perhaps, more, I don’t like that He became me.
There is no sterile version, yet there is no more beautiful one either. Paul says, ‘God made him who knew no sin to become sin that we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Cross is a supreme act of intimacy in which sorrow, rejection, death and love conjoined in one man – Jesus.
This is Good News.