He Is Risen!2
"He is Risen!"
"He is Risen, indeed!"
These words will begin Easter Sunday gatherings around the world tomorrow, with over 2 billion Christians gathering together to declare their faith in the Risen One. And for good reason: Jesus' resurrection is no mere afterthought, no minor doctrine of the church to be taken down from the shelf and dusted off once a year as a small hope of a possible afterlife. On the contrary, Easter is the bold proclamation that death - the final enemy - has been defeated, and God’s new creation is bursting forth all around us!
Easter isn't only the reason we gather this Sunday, it's the reason we gather the other 51 Sundays of the year, too! This pattern began early on in the Christian movement, with Jesus' ragtag group of earthly followers getting together on the first day of each week to remember and celebrate the good news. The Apostle Paul puts it starkly in 1st Corinthians 15.14-19:
If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Notice: The events of Good Friday do not inaugurate Christian faith. It is not only because Jesus was crucified for our sins and laid to rest in that tomb that we follow Him. We follow Him because three days later He was raised again!
We live, then, in "in-between times": After the new creation has begun, but before it's completed. For that reason, we are called to help bring about this new world God intends. We're called to not only celebrate the firstfruits of Jesus' resurrection, but to cultivate the growth of His new creation all around us.
In his book The Challenge of Jesus; Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is, N.T. Wright puts it this way:
You are following Jesus and shaping our world in the power of the Spirit; and when the final consummation comes, the work that you have done, whether in Bible study or biochemistry, whether in preaching or in pure mathematics, whether in digging ditches or composing symphonies, will stand, will last... Our task is to implement Jesus' unique achievment. We are like the musicians called to play and sing the unique and once-only-written musical score. We don't have to write it again, but we have to play it. Or, in the image Paul uses in 1st Corinthians 3, we are now in the position of young architects discovering a wonderful foundation already laid by a master architect and having to work out what sort of building was intended. Clearly he intended the main entrance to be here; the main rooms to be on this side, with this view; a tower on this end; and so on.
This Easter, then, let us not only join the other 2 billion Christians around the world exclaiming, "He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!" Let us also recognize Jesus' call on our lives to live into the good news of His resurrection, cultivating this new life all around us. Recalling the last line from a Wendell Berry poem, may we “Practice resurrection.”
One way to do so is commit to our next series, Going Viral. After concluding our study of John next Sunday, April 3rd, on Sunday, April 10th we are beginning a 6-week series engaging how Christian faith "went viral" in the first century. Despite being considered irrelevant and extreme, Jesus' earliest ragtag group of followers changed the world - and we are called to do the same, despite also being considered irrelevant and extreme!
Stop by the table on the patio following our Easter celebration tomorrow and get signed up for a small group where you'll be equipped to let your faith "go viral"! It's only a six-week commitment, but I trust that it will be a transformative experience.
He is Risen!