Resurrection Day

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My wife and I preached at our church last Easter: this is – more or less – what we said that day.  If the recording had worked, I’d probably have just posted that today … The stuff I said is in boring regular font, Miriam’s are in italics.  It’s longer than I usually post but … so what … Happy Resurrection Day!

Today is Resurrection Day …

I worry about Easter sometimes; we’ve seen those well-known symbols of The Christian faith, the Chocolate Gruffalo and the Easter Carrot – and I’m beginning to think it’s just a matter of time before Coca-Cola works out a way to put Jesus in a red and white romper suit to seal the deal and turn Easter into another commercial festival – a mini-Christmas if you like.

It feels like our culture is turning Easter into the day we eat chocolate …

But it’s not that …

It’s about Resurrection … way back then … but also it’s about Resurrection Now!  Resurrection lived in your life … lived because of what we remember and celebrate today … Resurrection life lived looking forward – a life that says, “Yeah chocolate is nice, but that’s not the point!”

Today is the day we can say death is defeated, that the tomb is not the end, that an instrument of torture becomes a symbol of new hope, new Resurrection Life.  Today is the day that everything can change, that everything has changed, that light is greater than darkness, that faith is greater than fear, that our God, our Lord, Jesus Christ is the risen from the dead as our Saviour and that today He is alive.

Today is Resurrection Day

Today is not reset day. Some people think that resurrection is a resetting of life back to factory settings but it’s much greater than that.  From a transactional point of view, yes, the debt is paid and we are back at square one but God didn’t make us like machines with factory settings – we have no reset button.  A reset button wipes out everything. All your experiences good and bad; memories good and bad; relationships good and bad. Everything.  Where would you go back to?  Birth?  Seems a bit harsh on your mother…Childhood? Not for a lot of people, childhood wasn’t so great.  Adolescence?  No thank you!  Who wants spots? The problem with human life is that we just don’t have any factory settings.  God didn’t make us like that. He made each one individually and for a purpose. Factory settings don’t lend themselves to that. We are the age we are, with all the experiences we have and they are part of our history.  We are part of a community that has history.

We are part of a people of faith whose history stretches back through the ages, to the very beginning of time, and before that. There are highs and lows, wars and peace, building up and tearing down, foolishness and wisdom, adventure and excitement.  A reset button would wipe out all that experience and history, and give us a blank canvas to make all the same mistakes again.  Even if we didn’t make those mistakes, we’d make others, maybe even more catastrophic…If you have ever seen the film, ‘The Butterfly Effect,” it might give you a few clues about the insanity of a reset button…A reset button would maybe take us back to the tree, looking up at a juicy piece of fruit, wondering whether God really meant what he said. God just doesn’t work with a reset button. As if his plans would ever need a reset button.  

Today is not reset day.

Today is Resurrection Day

It’s not resuscitation day … we’re not taking one of those defibrillator machines that you see on Casualty and ER and such like and running 240 volts through something to kick-start it’s failing heart.

We’re not talking about taking the Holy Spirit and applying it to our faltering lives to give it some Holy upgrade.  We’re not remembering how Jesus died to give us a shot in the arm and get us over some half imagined spiritual finish line when really we should have collapsed an age ago …

Resuscitation isn’t resurrection … what I mean is resuss is good and all, but at its heart all it does is bring something dead back to life … but that thing will go on to die again in the end – defibrillators aren’t immortality machines.

Resurrection isn’t that … resurrection doesn’t bring your old life back from the grave – Resurrection is a New Life – a different way of being, of living, of thinking, of worshipping, of praying, of loving, of hoping, of working, of lifting up everything and saying this is what Resurrection proclaims – we can really, truly, honestly embrace life in all its crazy, scary, wild-eyed, volume turned up to eleven glory and confusion and outright lunacy – Resurrection Life.

Today is the day we get to jump in to that …

Today is Resurrection Day.

So, Mary goes to the tomb, stumbles round the garden and sees a gardener. I love how it is in the Miracle Maker – sort of blurry and then coming into focus. Suddenly she recognises him. And, suddenly she had a glimpse of the resurrection!  

Now, there she is at the garden tomb and it’s not insignificant that resurrection life is first revealed in a garden. There was, once upon a time some other life that began in a garden. In the beginning God breathed his life into some mud and made something outrageously, extravagantly extraordinary. It was relational life with the living God, when man and God walked together in a garden. It was a good life, and Eden was a good garden. God had created the garden and called it very good. He created man and woman and they interacted with Him, joining in with the dance of the Godhead.  This was life as it was meant to be.  This was God’s realm as it was meant to be.  This was shalom.  This was the kingdom of God.  But then that juicy looking fruit and the fact that people don’t actually believe that God means what he says got in the way. Relationship broken.  Now…some time later, here we are in another garden, witnessing resurrection, seeing the beginning of a new kind of life.  This is resurrection life.  This the beginning of the restoration of shalom.  Back to the restored relationship.  Mankind rejoining the dance of the Godhead.

Restoration is very different from the reset button.  Restoration does not wipe out all that has gone before.  Restoration takes what is broken and makes it whole again.  Restoration does not pretend that nothing was ever broken but painstakingly, lovingly, individually, personally goes about making it the way it was meant to be.  The way it was meant to be.  It isn’t an instant process, because it IS a process.  It takes time.   Restoration.  Resurrection ushers in the restoration of shalom.  The restoration of the kingdom.  The restoration of the dance. 

Today is Resurrection Day

There are those days – like in Ecclesiastes it feels like “Everything is meaningless.” – days when it feels like everything is a bad practical joke, that God isn’t listening, isn’t interested, isn’t even real … How do you live Resurrection Life then?

Some of you know I’ve been up and down with depression over the last few years … feeling awful one day, pointless the next … how was that Resurrection Life?

For me, living Resurrection Life in that was about waking up, getting up and making it through to the end of the day – I know it isn’t very “Victorious Christian Living” but it is definitely real.  It was placing one foot in front of the other and walking in the hope that the person I was following knew the way …

For me, encountering Christ and the Resurrection life in the midst of that wasteland was difficult – and often times it felt like I only saw him in retrospect … Yes, I always tried to consciously hold on to the things I knew about my faith – but thoughts and knowledge aren’t the same as encounter and experience …

Scripture talks so often about the spirit of God as a breath (ruach/pneuma) …

In the end, I think it came down to something like this … my experience of Resurrection Life in all of that was like someone being on a ventilator or an asthmatic on nebulizer… at some indefinable point, the breathing got easier, I didn’t have to concentrate on it – I found that I was breathing … just breathing

Now, that didn’t necessarily turn me into an overflowing bundle of joyous praise, but it did give me a sense of relief, hope and faith to go back to whatever was in front of me with a sense of Resurrection Life in me, with a sense of the Holy Spirit in me in all the little things … just breathing!

My encounter and experience of Resurrection Life in the down times, my 20-20 hindsight of it tells me that Resurrection Day means that sometimes it is just about taking my next breath … being literally ‘inspired’ – filled up with the Holy Spirit,  letting it bring life and just breathing it in … and out … in … and out

That’s what it meant for me then, and it’s part of what it means for me today.

Today is Resurrection Day

Some people are constantly afraid – I’m one of them.  I’m afraid that the car will break down, that I’ll get a flat tyre, that I’ll run out of fuel.  I’m afraid that the house roof will blow off, that the water pipes will burst, that the windows will fall out.  I’m afraid that I will lose my job, that Paul will lose his job, that the children will never get a job.  I’m afraid that people will realise what I am really like.  I’m afraid that no-one will EVER realise what I’m really like.  I’m afraid that I am missing what God is telling me.   I’m afraid that God is missing what I am telling Him – lottery numbers please! – I am afraid that God is telling me that I need to ACTUALLY follow him.  I am afraid –  and I know I am not the only one.

Fear is a real killer of resurrection life.  It’s what happens when you don’t actually believe that God is in control, that Jesus rose from the dead and that he is the resurrection and the life.  It is doubt’s best friend.  Poor Thomas – always remembered as a doubter but goodness me, isn’t he normal?

Everyone has it…doubt sometimes shouts and sometimes whispers.  It sometimes appears in the middle of the day when you are prepared and can turn it away with an assertive “No” or better still when someone else can chase it away for you: but it sometimes creeps in at midnight, causing panic and terror: and sometimes it is just a lurking unwelcome guest, constantly hanging around the house that you just cannot persuade to leave.  Other people don’t always want to hear about it in case it leaves your house and moves in with them.  Doubt ignored festers and fetters.  It holds you shackled, unable to walk in resurrection life.

So don’t ignore it…The women at the tomb went to anoint a dead body, and saw Jesus; The disciples doubted and saw Jesus; Thomas voiced his doubts and saw Jesus.  Doubt flees in the presence of Jesus.  It cannot contend with encounter.

If I had all the answers, I wouldn’t be so afraid – but I battle with fear and doubt on a regular basis and I’ve got some tips…

Choose to trust – doubt can’t stand trust and often runs off when faced with it.

Choose to love – perfect love casts out fear. – So, maybe we could have ago at meditating on that and seeing where it leads us – maybe I could be looking for love in other people?  Maybe I could have a go at showing perfect love to a few folk and see how that goes down.

Choose to encounter – in prayer, worship, meditation…

Listen to this from Rachel Held-Evans

“Please know you are not alone.

There are other people singing words to hymns they’re not sure they believe today, other people digging out dresses from the backs of their closets today, other people ruining Easter brunch today, other people just showing up today.

And sometimes, just showing up – burial spices in hand – is all it takes to witness a miracle.”

Maybe we could have a go at ACTUALLY following Christ – is that scary? I find it quite terrifying…but

Today is Resurrection Day.

Here’s a story …

“A man at the end of his life is looking back over the journey of his life with God, and he sees it as two sets of footprints in the sand.  And, he sees at the hardest times in his life there’s only one set of footprints and he’s very trouble, so he says to God, ‘God, why is it, at the very hardest times of my life you’ve abandoned me and I seem to have walked the path alone?’

And, God smiles and looks at him and says, ‘My son, you’re mistaken.  It’s at those times I just thought it would be more fun if we hopped!’”

There are days when it’s unexpected fun.  Days when it’s good.  Days when it flows.

Now, I have honestly felt those times, when it just feels like me and Jesus are walking alongside each other, enjoying each other’s company, being silly together, laughing, being friends – chillin’.

Times when I’ve been moving with what Eugene Peterson called the “unforced rhythms of grace.”  Times when I’ve been really conscious that God has spoken to me, or through me – times when I have spoken words of truth to people, times when I spoken comfort.  Times when I stopped trying so hard to be some sort of ‘holy’ version of who I am, who God made me to be … and listen and live in that particular mess, with Grace!

Encounter and Experience of Resurrection Life here is like just turning up the radio to catch your favourite song; picking it out of the background noise – so you can say to a friend, “Just listen to this …”  And your foot taps along, and you hum the tune in your head for the rest of the day, and your friend sees your enthusiasm (even if they don’t entirely get it) and that shared moment is special and real and full of Resurrection life.

Today is Resurrection Day.

Now just think about this … John doesn’t say “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal thoughts … or eternal good ideas … or eternal orthodox theology … it was ETERNAL LIFE” (The Greek word use here, aionion,  here has a sense of “over the horizon” – the idea being that this life isn’t one with limits that we can easily define … it’s not the stuff we know about…it’s not in the rule book.)

Sometimes we do see resurrection life in all its glory breaking through into this world that is in the process of being restored.  We see, hear and experience financial miracles, healing miracles, signs and wonders. (Although according to our son, Isaac, praying for heavy snow because you don’t want to go to school doesn’t work – he’s tried it).

There are times when we touch heaven through music, dancing and worship.  There are times of wonder when we feel our God close enough to touch in quietness and solitude.  There are times when we hear God’s voice through a thought or word or instruction.  There are times of breath-taking beauty when we see a spectacular view, piece of art or hear music that lifts the soul.  There are times of indescribable community when the people of God and the Godhead join together in the incredible dance of the divine.  There are times when we go to the tomb expecting to find a body, and we find Jesus.

These are the times of the spectacular.

We sing the song, Build Your Kingdom Here … let’s keep singing it: let’s keep praying it: let’s keep searching for it: let’s keep doing everything we can to usher in the kingdom – let’s pray for the sick  …   let’s drive out some demons (go on I dare you!!!) … let’s keep on speaking different tongues – no I have no idea how that works either, but give it a whirl … Let’s keep on sharing to good news of the resurrection, because there are people out there desperate for resurrection life and …

Today is Resurrection Day

Jesus says, to us, today, this Resurrection Day “I am the Resurrection and the life”

Now, sometimes we hear that and respond with praise and excitement because it’s what we feel and know, but sometimes we hear that and hope against hope that it’s true because we need it to be true … right now!

Let me tell you … regardless of where you are today, whether you’re singing songs of extravagant praise, or whether you’re singing out of hope that one day it will feel like it …

Today is Resurrection Day …

Today, death is defeated – this earthly life isn’t everything there is – this place doesn’t define you, this world doesn’t own you.

Today, you are defined by the Resurrection.

Today, this Resurrection Day, this life without easily defined limits is to be lived here, now, to be struggled through sometimes, to be exhilarated by, to be full of courage, hope, perseverance, joy and love.

Jesus didn’t go to the cross, die, and rise from the dead just to “beam us up” … He died to give us the life we should have, here, now, and ongoing … eternally.

Resurrection is to be lived …

A stone was rolled away … the tomb is empty … You can see his scars … touch his side … He’s alive

Our journey isn’t over, that Resurrection Life is to be taken from this place with you … out there – and when we do we’ll see the promise that “There you will see Him, just as He told you.”

You see, today is Resurrection Day!

 

 

 

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