Alan Cross blogs at Downshore Drift.
I am thinking about this week and the story it tells in the Christian life and how we live according to an alternative reality that is rooted in Heaven and not this world. Tomorrow and Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments involving the legalization of Gay Marriage in America. That is not a small issue. We debate politics, the economy, and who has power and who does not. Christians live in a world that is telling and living by a story different from what we see in Scripture. What are we to think? What are we to do?
I think that the answer is found in the rhythm of the Gospel Story laid out before us in Scripture and remembered during Holy Week and beyond:
Sin/Suffering – the Bible tells us that our natural state is one of brokenness and alienation from God, our Creator and true source of life. Our heart is corrupt and in every way imaginable we desire to go the other way. These desires cannot be reformed or relearned – they are inherent to us. They might take different shapes and forms, but the summation of the human condition is one of loneliness, rejection, and grasping for a kind of life that only exists at the edges of our memory and if grasped can only be maintained for a moment before it slips away back into the realm of longing. So, we construct every method we can dream up to try and fix our lives and return to a place of satisfaction, but we never quite arrive. Things always fall apart and we are usually to blame.
The Cross – Jesus stepped into our alienation and suffering and took it upon Himself. The focus of our faith is the Suffering Savior who didn’t shy away from the pain of the human condition but embraced it. He didn’t turn away from our sin, but he became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). So, The Cross is not JUST an historical event, but it also gives pattern and shape to our spiritual and physical lives now. We are discipled by the Cross and by suffering and by redemption and substitutionary sacrifice and because life here is broken down, we have to face that brokenness head on and we cannot flinch. When we do, we find that Jesus is already there taking it upon Himself and suffering in our place. Death comes to all, but it is not the end of the story and God is always working.
Resurrection – the fact that Jesus did not stay dead changes everything. A man rose from the dead and still lives. It is staggering and impossible if you really think about it instead of allowing it to remain a religious fantasy that sits in your devotional beliefs and practices somewhere. If the Resurrection is true – if Jesus really rose from the dead – then it seems that all of life should revolve around that and that it should change everything. Death is not the end. We don’t have to fear it. When we see things falling apart (including our own bodies and lives) we know that there is another part of the story that has yet to be told, but we get a picture of it at the Empty Tomb. He is not here, He is risen. That matters. It affects how I face failure and sickness and brokenness in life and relationships. There is always the Resurrection and no matter what I do or face, I cannot change it. I must believe it and let it change me.
Ascension – Jesus did not stay here, but he ascended back to Heaven and gave us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and guide us and empower us and teach us. The Spirit is a deposit of what is to come and through a relationship with the Spirit of God we are able to glimpse into what God has in store for us both in this age and in the age to come. The Kingdom of God shows up through the Spirit of God when God’s people gather and live together as “called-out” ones in a world gone made. God’s Kingdom has broken into the kingdom of this World first through Jesus and then through the outpouring of God’s Spirit in and through His people. The Ascension had happen for the Spirit to be poured out. And, God’s Spirit continues to birth new life everywhere.
The New Creation – we are headed somewhere beautiful where all things will be made new in Christ, where the old order of things dipped in death and rooted in frustration will fade away and the New Life of Christ will spring forth upon the earth in a beautiful array of glory and splendor as everything is reconciled back to God through Christ. We experience a “drip-drop” of that now when sacrificial love is shown, when gentleness and patience is practiced, and when Christ is glorified, among other things. The New Creation will consist of those who have been brought near to God and who have responded to Him and it will tell the story of God’s great love and intent. Our Hope is rooted in Christ alone and the promise that one day, all things will be made new, even though for the present time we will go through many trials to enter the Kingdom of God.
Holy Week and Easter is when much of this story comes together in observance, worship, remembrance, and consideration of what it means for Christ to be risen. He really did raise from the dead. It really does mean something both in history and in the future. Embrace the Resurrection every day, not just Easter Sunday.