Category: Resurrection (page 1 of 8)

First Importance

“What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” ~1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The resurrection of Jesus from the grave is the very foundation of our faith; it’s the energy behind our hope; it’s the source and the sustenance of our life; it’s everything.

First importance, Paul says. This is the whole enchilada. Apart from this, nothing else matters. Jesus died, he was buried, he was raised. And we know it’s a fact because he appeared to all these witnesses. Ask them yourselves. They saw him. They talked with him. They ate with him. Most of them are still alive, ask them!

Everything hinges on the resurrection. I hear people argue that it doesn’t matter if the resurrection really happened or if it’s just a metaphor or a spiritual concept — what matters is that we take the stories to mean we’re all going to heaven someday.

No! The resurrection means everything!

The resurrection totally eliminates any possibility that Jesus was just a good moral teacher or that Christianity is just a nice way to live a good moral life.

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” ~1 Corinthians 15:14

Paul says clearly and unapologetically if the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus has not happened, then Christianity is worthless. Jesus isn’t a good teacher, he’s a liar, he’s a fraud. Christianity is not a nice way to live, it’s a scam, it’s evil. If Christ is not raised, then death is not conquered. If Jesus is not alive, then I have no hope. None. And we are to be pitied more than anybody else on earth.

But Jesus was raised. Jesus is risen. He is reigning right now at the right hand of the heavenly Father and he is interceding for us. Right now. And because of that we have faith and hope and life. We have forgiveness and salvation and confidence and immortality and peace.

Peace,

Allan

Against All Odds

I don’t know how Easter Sunday is for you. Maybe you go to church on Easter and you’re great. You’re excited. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is a part of who you are every day — the power and the life — and celebrating it with God’s people on Easter Sunday is a true highlight for you. Maybe you go to church wanting to be excited, but once you arrive, it all seems like empty ritual. You feel like an outsider, not an insider. Like a spectator.

Or maybe it’s bad. You feel like the odds are totally stacked against you. You’ve had faith that the world is basically a good place but you can’t find proof of it anymore. Disease and hunger and violence are not going to be solved by arrogant dictators and power-hungry politicians.

You’ve had hope in our culture, that the advances of science and technology would heal us and bring us closer together. But we are sicker and more lonely as a people than we’ve ever been.

You looked for life in your family and friends, the people you trust, the people who love you. But they’ve let you down. They’ve disappointed you. They’ve hurt you.

Maybe you can’t even believe in yourself. You can’t sleep at night because of the things you’ve done in the past. You can’t look at yourself in the mirror because of the things you’re caught up in now. The obstacles to faith and hope and life have boxed you in. The odds are stacked against you. You feel like you only exist. On a dead-end street. Maybe.

Maybe the bad news in the world drives you to despair. Maybe the bad news at work or at the doctor’s office is overwhelming. Maybe the bad news in your marriage or with your kids or the bad news between you and your parents is too much. Maybe the bad news of your past and current sins — the odds are stacked against you. It doesn’t look good. It doesn’t feel good.

Let’s talk about bad news.

The bad news is Pharaoh’s army is going to win at the Red Sea. Those were the odds that day. Pharaoh’s army was favored by 497 points. The over-under was four-million dead Hebrews.

The bad news is the little shepherd boy with the sling is no match for a trained warrior giant.

The bad news is Peter can’t walk on water.

The bad news is a virgin can’t have a baby.

The bad news is the authorities crucified our Savior.

The bad news is dead people stay dead.

I’m telling you right now the declaration of the angels is true: Jesus is alive! Jesus lives! That stone was rolled away from the tomb not so Jesus could get out but so we could all look in and see for ourselves, so we could see and proclaim the truth that our God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were!

He calls the things that are wrong in your life, right. He calls the things that are broken in your family, fixed. He calls things that are missing in your soul, the things that are lacking and bad, he calls them found and saved and overflowing with goodness and life!

Psalm 112 says the one who belongs to God has no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Can you hear the good news? Are you able to hear the power and the life our God so longs to give you by the resurrection of Christ Jesus? Hear the good news, believe the good news, and walk through the door into a brand new world where the ultimate reality is not dying and death, but where Jesus is the risen and reigning King and his gift is everlasting life.

Peace,

Allan

Hearing the Good News

Bad news is killing us. It’s everywhere and it’s doing us in. Bad news dominates the headlines and it rules the airwaves. Bad news crawls across our screens and flashes through our feeds. It’s in the email from your boss, the phone call from your mother, and the text from your friend. And it’s killing us. It gets inside us. Bad news diminishes our faith. It steals our hope. It drains our lives.

Good news seems scarce. It’s hard to find. When we do happen to hear some good news, it’s only a matter of moments before some bad news replaces it. The bad news is louder. And bigger. And more urgent. Seems like there’s more of it. All the bad news in our world and in our culture, in our governments and schools and churches, in our families — it’s making us numb.

Bad news doesn’t surprise us anymore. We’re used to it, we expect it. And as it diminishes our faith and steals our hope and drains our very lives, we’re kinda stopped looking for good news. If we do stumble upon some good news, it’s harder for us to believe it. To trust it.

On that first Easter morning, the disciples of Jesus heard some really good news that broke through and obliterated all the bad news they couldn’t quite shake. The message came directly from the divine lips of angels: Jesus is risen from the grave! Jesus is alive! The good news declared decidedly that everything broken in this world is now being fixed, everything that’s wrong is now made right; our faith can be restored, our hope can be renewed, our lives can be made full and whole. And this same good news continues to reverberate down through the generations into our ears and hearts today.

Jesus is risen from the grave! Jesus is alive!

This good news of great joy for the whole world is just as mind-blowing and history-changing today as it was then. It’s no less true for us in Texas in 2018 than it was for Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem on that first Easter. This great news causes our faith to soar, it brightens our hope, and it abundantly fills our lives today and for all eternity.

But can we hear it? Can we hear this good news?

The Easter sermon is the hardest one to write. It’s nearly impossible. And it struggle with it every year. I’ve been working on what I want to say Sunday for parts of the past three months. But it just hasn’t come together like I had hoped. It’s not enough.

Reinhold Niebuhr is quoted as saying he would always attend a “high church” on Easter Sunday where there would be great music but very little preaching. In his view, “No preacher is up to the task on Easter.” I think he’s probably right.

John Updike wrote a poem called “Seven Stanzas at Easter” that perfectly and beautifully captures every preacher’s frustration leading up to Easter Sunday. One of the lines is, “Let us not mock God with metaphor / analogy, sidestepping transcendence… / let us walk through the door.”

It’s a waste of time to try to explain the resurrection. Some things can’t be reduced to an explanation and are greatly diminished in the process of trying.

The task on Easter is proclamation, not explanation. On Easter, I should only offer an invitation to walk through the door into a brand new world where the ultimate reality is not dying or death, but everlasting life in the God Almighty of love and grace who brought our Lord Jesus up out of the grave. Proclaim the resurrection, that’s what the apostles do. And that’s what all us preachers should be planning to do Sunday.

Because our people need to hear the good news.

Peace,

Allan

Rising and Dying

Ash Wednesday begins the period of Lent, the forty days followers of Jesus use to prepare their hearts and souls in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is typically a day of fasting and prayer, a day for renewing vows and making promises. Lent is generally a period of fasting and prayer, six weeks of focusing on purity and cleanliness.  A putting away. A taking off. A solemn burial of the habits and issues that get between us and a complete commitment to our crucified and risen Lord.

I’ve suggested in the past that if Lent is for putting things away, then Easter is for taking up new activities in service of Christ. You shouldn’t rid your life of damaging attitudes and practices and not replace them with helpful habits and perspectives. If Lent is dying with Christ, Easter is certainly rising with Christ.

But, I’d like to revise my recommendation.

Don’t wait until Easter to start those new habits. Don’t wait until Resurrection Day to take up that new something that will draw you closer to our Lord.

Every day is a dying and rising with Christ. Every day is a taking off and putting on with Jesus. Living under his exclusive lordship  requires that we die to ourselves and rise to walk with him every hour. It’s the rhythm of the Christian life. It begins with our baptisms — dying and rising with Christ — and continues as our habit, our daily routine. Clothe yourselves with Christ. Put off and take on. Be buried and rise again. Every morning and throughout your day.

In unity with all my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, I’m fasting and praying today. I’ll attend the Ash Wednesday service down the street at Polk Street United Methodist Church this evening. And I’ll not wait until Easter to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus who gives us new life today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

Peace,

Allan

Moving Away From the Tomb

I’m struck by the fact that nobody saw Jesus at the empty tomb. Clearly our risen Lord didn’t hang around the cemetery once the Spirit resurrected him back to life. It seems he got out of there as fast as he could. Yet, here are the women, looking for their living Lord among the graves. The angels ask, almost incredulously, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Good question.

Sometimes good faithful Christians can be stuck. We’re dead. Or, at least, we act like we’re dead. Some of us have followed Jesus to Jerusalem. We’ve endured suffering and pain in his name. We’ve carried the cross. Most of us have died on the cross of Christ and, even though we’ve been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and received the gift of God’s Spirit inside us, we’ve never really been resurrected. Some of us don’t live like we’ve been given the gift of eternal life by the almighty author of life. We live like we’re still dead. We’re still knocking around in the dirt and dark of the grave. And we’re surprised when we have a hard time seeing Jesus. We’re surprised when there’s no experience of Jesus.

The resurrection is not just about heaven someday — it’s about a full life today!

But some of us are still buried in a tomb. We don’t sing. We don’t work. We don’t explore or experiment. We don’t accept challenges or tackle new tasks. We don’t grow. We don’t laugh. Singing and working and exploring and growing and laughing are what you do when you’re alive! If you’re grumpy all the time, you’re not living the resurrection life. If you’re negative all the time, you’re dead.

What are you thinking? God’s going to fix my attitude when I get to heaven?

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ!” ~Ephesians 2:4

“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” ~Romans 6:4

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” ~Romans 8:11

The death and resurrection of Jesus is not just about my sin and Jesus taking my punishment and now everything’s great. We’ve been given eternal life. We share in Christ’s resurrection so we can be holy, royal image-bearers, so we can be ambassadors for Jesus and partners in his Gospel.

But I want to play it safe. Better safe than sorry. I don’t want to take any risks. I don’t want to go out on a limb. I don’t want to change or grow.

Man, you’re living in the dark and cold of the grave! And that’s not really living. Follow Jesus away from the grave and into the warmth and light of his resurrection life!

Once the disciples moved away from the grave, they most certainly did not play anything safe. There was no hiding or sleeping. No stagnation or status quo. They started preaching and teaching. They sold their possessions to give to the poor. They violated city ordinances to proclaim the good news. They took mission trips on broken down boats and prayers. They sang praises in prison chains. They turned the world upside down for the Kingdom of God! That’s resurrection living!

It’s like a wonderfully talented musician on the verge of his own worldwide concert tour. He plays beautifully. He’s awesome. He’ll inspire thousands. But he’s caught up in a terrible crime and is thrown in jail. But, then, by some miracle, the governor declares a general amnesty and the great musician is released! His response is not just, “Whew! Thank goodness I don’t have to go to jail!” It’s, “Now I can play like I was born to play! I can perform like I was created to perform!”

Christians sometimes are too preoccupied with not going to jail.

Listen. If you’re in Christ, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO JAIL! So now you can really live!

This is good news, not good advice. This is the Gospel.

Peace,

Allan

Seeing the Risen Christ

There’s a lot to see at the empty tomb. There’s a lot to see and experience there. The soldiers saw the angel and experienced great fear. The women saw the stone rolled away and experienced great confusion. Peter and the apostles saw the burial cloths and came away with a lot of questions. There’s a lot to see at the empty tomb. But nobody saw Jesus there.

Jesus isn’t there.

I want to see Jesus. I want to experience Jesus. I want to touch Jesus and know Jesus and be in his presence and hear his voice.

You know where that happens? At the table. The disciples do not see or experience Jesus in his resurrection fullness and glory until later that Easter Sunday when they are sharing a meal together. Jesus revealed himself during the meal. He appeared to his followers and spoke to them at the table. That’s where we see our risen Lord.

When we are around the table together with the risen Messiah as our host we experience forgiveness and belonging, unity and sharing, acceptance and fellowship. We see Jesus in the changed lives of the people with us around the table. We Jesus in that there are no walls, no barriers between us and God and us and each other; nothing separates us at the table. We Jesus when we remember that we have forgiven those around the table with us and have been forgiven multiple times by those same people. We see Jesus in the joy reflected in the faces around the table. We experience Christ in relationship with others.

Our salvation from God is not a system. It’s not a theory. And it’s certainly not a five-step plan.

It’s a sacrifice and a meal.

Peace be with you,

Allan

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