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Resurrection Life

"What does it mean," I asked on Easter, "that Christ is risen?"

I listed a lot of good things:

  • It means we're free from fear, free to take risks for the gospel

  • It means we're free to love one another and forgive one another

  • It means we're free to stop persecuting others--to stop calling them "other" at all

  • It means we can get out of our own victim mindset; like Christ, we are no longer victims, but victors

  • It means that Christ can forgive us, and that Christ CHOOSES to meet us and talk to us, if we will listen

  • It means that we can rejoice, we can call others to rejoice with us

  • It means we are sent to call others to rejoice and worship Jesus with us

  • It means we have hope: hope for our own life, hope for our loved ones, hope that we will see Jesus ourselves in the resurrection and worship all together

Some of these things are personal, extremely relevant to the individual. I would say these have to do with the psychology of the believer: things like learning not to be afraid, not to feel trapped as a victim, to rejoice. Some of these things are related to the community--social things, like forgiving one another, not excluding people from our group, enjoying each other's company while we worship God together. In some ways all of these things are spiritual, but some are particularly spiritual for both the individual and the community: things like receiving forgiveness, meeting and listening to the Risen Christ, hope in the resurrection to come, and eternal worship of God.

That was weeks ago, though. Many mornings, I've struggled to get out of bed. I've done the drudge work that I have to do. There's still depressing news and pain in the world. What does it mean that Christ is risen NOW? At the psychological level, it means we have within ourselves the ability to respond to the resurrection in each and every situation we encounter. When we face a situation like trying to muster motivation to get out of bed or responding to some shocking news, we have the ability to choose our emotion; to choose to respond in the context of the resurrection. That might mean choosing to be joyful, but it might mean choosing to face bad news from a perspective of hope instead of despair.

At the social level, the resurrection means we do not have to be trapped in a difficult relationship. If there's a relationship that is damaged by distrust, we can be the ones to unilaterally extend trust. We can be the ones to forgive first. We can muster up compassion for the other regardless of whatever damage has been done. This does not mean staying in an abusive relationship; God does not want that for any of us. It does mean that we don't have to hate the other person or hold a grudge.

Spiritually, it means we can receive forgiveness and forgive ourselves for our own failings. We don't have to live paralyzed for fear of messing up (but remember, Paul says, "Shall we sin more abundantly that Grace may abound? By no means!"). It also means we can express our lament and even anger toward God. Just as we can live with someone socially in spite of our anger towards them, we can work through our anger towards God. God will faithfully stay in relationship with us. Just as we can choose to feel compassion toward someone in an otherwise broken relationship, God always chooses to feel compassion towards us.

There is more still to the meaning of resurrection for us. God is the creator, and as the creator, God creates each new day and each new moment. Just as in that first dewy garden all things were made new, so on Easter morning, all things were made new, and so in each moment, all things are made new. "Christ is risen" means that humanity and all creation are no longer bound by our fallenness. "Christ is risen" means that abundant life is available to us. "Christ is risen" means that we can start fresh in relationships in the context of resurrection love for one another. God is also ruler of the universe. With the resurrection, "Christ is risen" means the victory is won. This applies at the cosmic level: Christ is King and the earth is his footstool. Christ is King and the ruler of the universe. We can trust that God will make sure things work out ok. It also means that Love wins in our relationships and we need not fear anything that gets in the way of Christian love for each other and for our neighbors. God is our judge and liberator. "Christ the King" means that we will receive mercy. It also means we can show mercy to those around us. So here's the game: name an attribute or metaphor for God or Christ and ask what does "Christ is risen" mean in light of that image?

I've been reading Jurgen Moltmann, and he says that when Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow, he did not say for us to take up HIS cross and follow. The point he was making is that we have to work out the meaning for ourselves. We have to work out the meaning for each of us on our own, but also each community or congregation has to work out the meaning on its own. The book I was reading dealt with the crucifixion, but I say this applies as well to the resurrection. There's a hymn that says, "The church of Christ, in ev’ry age beset by change but Spirit-led, must claim and test its heritage, and keep on rising from the dead." What does "Christ is risen" mean? It means Christ rises every day and empowers us to do the same, to start anew every day, to live in love, liberated from the past every day. What does "Christ is risen" mean? I look forward to finding out as it happens.

--Chas

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