Saturday, April 7, 2012

Alive in Us

It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2.20) 
Easter Faith

Before you go to Easter service—before you don your Easter finery and review your holiday plans—pack up your rational mind and set it aside. Logic and common sense will be of no use to you today. You’re about to have a sacred encounter of the most mysterious kind. It will require you to leap headlong into pure faith. Life as you know it will bear no resemblance to the life you’ll discover in the hymns and texts, prayers and sermons, in the electrifying proclamation that death has been defeated, justice has prevailed, and triumphant new life has burst forth from the dark bowels of a chilly tomb. None of what you hear, see, do, sing, or say will make any sense. Yet every fiber of your being will galvanize you with stubborn assurance that all of it is true.

Easter faith is unlike any other type of faith, in that its power solely resides in mystery. Every question it raises—and they are legion—resists explanation. The Gospel accounts, as well as subsequent references to Christ’s resurrection, insist we take its legitimacy at face value. Jesus died on Friday. The world went dark until early Sunday morning, when He got up and walked out of the grave. That’s it. How it happened, the changes Jesus underwent, exactly what transpired while He was dead, and every other question we may have goes unanswered. Either you believe it or you don’t. Which makes Easter faith the best kind of faith, because it expects us to stop making sense and start believing with boldness and clarity that transcend sense-making. Easter is life. That’s all there is to it. Life is. Easter is. The Easter equation worked out is 1+1 =1. Now you get what I mean when I say, “pack up your rational mind.”

Are We Alive?

Oddly enough, the Easter questions we need to consider don’t come from us. They’re put to us. And chief among them is “How do we make Easter come alive in us?” What that really asks is “Is Jesus truly alive in our lives?” Can we truthfully say, like Paul, in Galatians 2.20: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me”? Does the resurrected Christ live and move and breathe through us?

This is a question each of us can only answer for ourselves, as the living Christ we embody collectively is expressed uniquely in our individualism. Not one of us is exactly the same, which means not one of us believes, behaves, or bears witness to the Resurrection in identical ways. The common attitudes and aspirations we share as followers of Jesus are stepping-off points for each of us to bring Christ to life in us—in our daily thoughts, actions, attempts, and responses. So we must ask ourselves, when we say, “Jesus lives in me,” what does that mean? Or better yet, what do we mean? Or even better, what does that mean to you? What does that mean to me? And that raises an ever bigger, tougher, and more confounding question that Easter invites us to ponder: Are we alive? Not in the biological sense as animate organisms—but in the spiritual sense of being alive to the resurrected possibilities Jesus makes available to us. 

Using Paul’s construct, how do we transform lives we “now live in the flesh” into ones lived “by faith in the Son of God,” Who loved us and gave Himself for us? The questions Easter puts to us are much more demanding and important than any we can ever ask about it. The Resurrection’s mechanics and historical accuracy fall by the wayside very quickly. Whether we interpret the empty tomb as a reality, metaphor, myth, legend, or folk tale—whether our literal-bound, rational minds accept Easter as an actual event or they reject it as naturally inconceivable—doesn’t matter. The Christ of Easter asks something far more compelling of us, something we must answer if we’re to follow Christ’s way. Are we alive? And in our living, do we bring life to those no longer alive—to people who’ve settled for survival rather than knowing the joy of life?

The Most Important Easter Question

Easter reverses death’s terrifying tide and launches Christ’s promise of everyday resurrection into a dying world. One need not be a theologian or Bible scholar to recognize Jesus’s central message is life. Jesus promises the woman at the well “living water.” (John 4.10) In John 6, He calls Himself “the Bread of Life,” and in the next chapter, He declares, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (7.38) In John 10.10, He says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” All of Jesus’s teachings point to life. They instruct us how to love one another so that we’re not infected with hatred, resentment, anger, and so many other deadly diseases. They retrain our responses to threat, conflict, and confusion to ensure new life will grow out of despair. They enlighten our awareness of what’s truly vital so that we don’t succumb to life-defeating temptations and desires. The entire corpus of Jesus’s lessons and the power He exemplified come together in the dazzling display of life that we call Easter. This is life unlike any ever known—life that refutes death’s fears and disproves its formulas once and for all. Easter is life. Easter is. Life is. 1+1=1.

So in the midst of our rejoicing that Jesus would not submit to death, let us answer the questions Easter puts to us by doing the same. Let our resurrection anthems be manifestoes of defiance that echo Psalm 118.17: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.” Let our questions about the Resurrection give way to bold certainty that Jesus lives in us. John 1.3-4 tells us, “What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” Out of humiliating death, triumphant life. Out of entombed darkness, vibrant light. From One to all. Our rational minds will never get it. But every fiber in our being knows it to be true. Jesus is alive in us. It’s a truth of such overpowering magnitude that it raises the most important Easter question of all: How do we live with that?

Easter reverses death’s terrifying tide and launches Christ’s promise of everyday resurrection into a dying world.


pam lee-miller said...

I thank you for this lenten journey.....for being the church for me during this've invited me to ponder and think and encoutner the Holy....for that I say thank you. Easter for me is a day that invites all of us to hear the chant, "He is Risen...He is Risen...He is Risen indeed." and in that same chant realize that the creative energy that emerges in our story also screams out to us....."come on out of the tomb" let die the things you know longer need.....and because of that ..we too may live again in a different and new way.
May you encoutner the resurrection power and be changed...
blessings to you and thanks for the journey.

Tim said...

Pam, it I who must thank you for sharing this journey with me. The joy and power that arises from Lenten community astounds me--and it's thrilling when it erupts in the unbridled joy of resurrection! Yes, coming out of the tomb, seeing the world in a new light, having our faith and commitment to life restored.

I pray this will be a joyous day of renewed power, peace, love, and hope for you and yours!

Many blessings,

Sherry Peyton said...

Yes, Jesus shows us so perfectly the way to life. This has been a wonderful experience of reflection, repentance and renewal. We go forth refreshed to begin anew the efforts to be a light to the world or at least our little corner of it. Tim, your reflections have been so warming and enlightening. It has been a priviledge to walk this Lenten season with your wisdom. Thank you and may you and Walt have a wonderful Easter! I'm back tomorrow to finishing the packing and preparing to be out of touch for some time while we transfer our lives to New Mexico. Blessings, and love from both of us here in Iowa. Sherry

Tim said...

Sherry, what a blessing you've been to me during this season as well. Your passionate and provocative posts have challenged, comforted, and encouraged me every step of the way.

I'm so excited for you and Parker and the move--although it won't be the same not having you in the next state over. ;-) May God go with you both as you relocate. And know you carry Walt and my love with you wherever you go!

Many blessings, dear friend,