Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter: this I believe...

To state decisively what one believes, especially in our current context, is rowing against the stream. I understand some of the objections. In fact, I would agree with some of the reasons for objecting to bold, "truth" proclamations. For one, many who espouse this have funneled the Christian faith into propositional truth statements. Further, these bold statements have, for many, become narrow litmus tests of who is "in" and who is "out."

So, I understand, and I agree with some of the resistance. The Christian faith is anything but essential truth statements- cognitive assertions. And, the heresy police, with their narrow windows of what is orthodox for Christian faith, are causing havoc in some circles. There is "orthodoxy" but it must not be funneled down into one particular stream. There is so much to God that can't be known, and when this prompts us to awaken awe and mystery before God, it is a wondrous and good thing. A very good thing.

With that preamble, here is where I'm headed this Easter morning, 2010. It is also good, even if rejected by much in our cultural context, to say, "This I believe." And, to name what we believe to be true, along with above given that there is much- so much- that we cannot know.

I will say what I believe to be true about Easter. I am not interested, here, in giving a defense for why I believe this to be true; there are a number of reasons. What I will state is that this has been the normative thread from the beginning of Christianity and throughout the generations that have followed, in every stream of orthodox Christian faith. I don't stand alone here, and what others have believed and how they have lived is vital for me. Those "cloud of witnesses" must not be ignored. We are not "making up" or inventing what it means to be a follower of, and believer in, Jesus.

As important, what I believe has changed my life, continues to inform and transform me, and it is why I will give my life for what this means.

So, here is what I believe and state this Easter morning: Jesus, who died, came back to life three days later.

While what the cross and death of Jesus means carries multiple meanings, and while the nuances of it have caused multiple debates and searchings, one basic meaning that has been declared throughout the centuries is vital for me: that evil, death and sin has been disarmed and defeated by Jesus' death on the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). And, Jesus being raised from the dead has made all the difference in the meaning of the cross.

I want to borrow the words of two gifted thinkers and writers and use their words to state what, in part, I believe: N.T. Wright and Frederick Buechner.

Why would those early followers of Jesus continue to follow him after he is executed, and not see him as another failed "messiah?" Wright says, “The rule, then, seems clear. If you follow a messiah and he gets killed, you obviously backed the wrong horse….After Jesus was executed, his followers didn’t give up the revolution, nor did they choose another leader…Why?...Why did they think he was the Messiah after all?... The early Christians give one answer, and only one. This is what they said: three days after Jesus’ execution and burial, he was raised to bodily life again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.” (p.71-72- The Original Jesus)

This gave them, and it gives me, a task: "to tell the world that the new creation had begun; that justice and peace were now to be put into operation in all the world; and that all this could happened because the power of evil had been decisively broken.” (p. 74)

There are many ways the "resurrection" is portrayed, and it is much more than just "inspiring the human spirit." Some use that language; it isn't important if Jesus actually came back from the dead; if our "human spirit" is inspired, that's enough. I don't believe so. What happened that first Easter morning? I agree with Buechner, "So, what do I believe actually happened that morning on the third day after he died?...I can tell you this: that what I believe happened and what in faith and with great joy I proclaim, is that he somehow got up, with life in him again…And I speak very plainly here, very unfancifully. He got up.” (The Magnificent Defeat)

I believe the resurrection to be vital to our faith and life. To use others' words one more time, I'm with Wright as he speaks about everything being altered as a result of that empty tomb, “Without it, he remains a total enigma: a wonderful teacher, a great leader, a wise man of prayer- but ultimately a noble failure. With it, he stands at the great turning point of history and beckons. And, to those who see, and come, he points: points to the work he has for them to do;… to take the news of his victory over evil and death to the ends of the earth.” (p.74-75)

This I believe.

But more: this is how I will seek to live- living a new, resurrected life myself. To walk in the resurrection. To live by the power of the risen Jesus.

That both cultivates joy and empowers.

On this Easter: to God be all glory.

1 comment:

Just James said...

Phil, I enjoyed your litany yesterday and I wanted to let you know that it has awakened a need for me to examine some of what I believe as I am one of those who has to an extent invented what it means for me to be a follower of, and believer in, Jesus.