I’ve been thinking about …

Resurrection!

I know, I know.  It’s not Easter yet.  But I think about what I think about.  Those of you who know me know I think about the resurrection a lot: I preach about it regularly it’s a recurring theme in my writing, and it’s the topic of my dissertation (personal indulgence alert: which I defended this Tuesday).  But I’ve just been bombarded by resurrection talk lately.  Allow me to relay three such instances.  They sparked some truthful and useful reflections for me, especially concerning the delicate interplay between past, present and future in resurrection faith.  Perhaps these will spark something in you as well.

(1) A student in the Seminary’s Worship course selected the following topic for her Integration Paper: “What acts of worship/sacraments ought to be performed for the dying/dead?”  What a great topic!  Together we built a bibliography that engages the relevant biblical texts, the history of last rites and other acts associated, and theological debates over immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body.  Especially intriguing were the biblical text she selected: Ezekiel 37:13, John 5:28, Romans 8:38-39 and 2 Corinthians 5:8.  All of the NT texts, but especially John 5:28, speak of resurrection as both a future hope and a present reality. Yes, Jesus Christ was raised at Easter. And yes, we will be raised at the End. But in the meantime resurrection life is at work among us. Our future is already present, for Christ himself is present.  So resurrection hope is not just hope deferred, but a new way of perceiving and living in the present!

(2) Last Thursday I went to a concert with Nate Lamb, my friend, fellow music-lover and seminary recruiter extraordinaire. The artist’s music and lyrics were just resurrection-saturated. Some occasional infelicities notwithstanding, no recent artist captures the power of resurrection in all its richness like he does. Jesus is the “man who laid death in his grave,”  the one for whom “the dead man and the cynical too are coming out of their graves,” and “I got his resurrection down inside my skin.”  The promise of resurrection is grounded securely in Christ’s resurrection, gives us hope for our future, and transforms our present.  In a word, “the love of God is stronger than the power of death.”

(3) Finally, this Sunday my pastor preached a breathtaking sermon on John 11.  Here’s the gist:  After showing up late to his funeral, Jesus declares that Lazarus is on a trajectory towards life, not death.  Martha affirms this declaration, but immediately defers this hope to the end.  Jesus corrects her by saying: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  The resurrection is not only an event, but a person. And that person is present. He brings life, not just down the road but now. The Christian life is not just a matter of forgiveness for our past and hope for our future, but also abundant life in the present. That’ll preach!

So, bottom line: the risen Jesus Christ is the one who was and is and is to come. Jesus Christ, the risen one, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This truth can be declared in research, in song, and in sermon. But whatever the form, its rich but simple truth ring outs.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about.  How about you?

-John

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