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Friday, March 29, 2013

Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper Examination

1 Corinthians 11:27-29
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For all who eat and drink[h] without discerning the body,[i] eat and drink judgment against themselves.

            I have seen in church life the words of Paul misused terribly at the Communion table.  “Examine yourselves,” says Paul.  “All who eat and drink without discerning the body eat and drink judgment against themselves.”  No one wants to bring judgment down his or her own head, but what does it even mean to discern the body?  If I don’t know what it means, how can I make sure I do it in such a way that I don’t bring judgment down on myself?
            I have known people in church who are certain they know exactly what Paul is saying.  These sure-minded believers read 1st Corinthians 11, and they feel they know who can and cannot take the bread and the cup.  Oddly, they always point out why others should not take Communion.  But they don’t check themselves.  They are quick to disqualify others, but they always participate.
            Is the Communion table the place for judgment and restriction?  The meal Jesus shared with his disciples was the last supper before he was crucified.  Why did he die?  Because we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. 
I am not suggesting we should be flippant about the Lord’s Supper.  It is very significant and serious.  I am not saying the ceremony in and of itself is enough.  Doing a religious rite like taking Communion does not save, but rather it points to our salvation.  I am not supposing that we can eat and drink at this table without regarding our behavior when we are away from it.  Repentance must accompany our participation in Communion and repentance is only real when it is seen in our relationships in daily life. 
I am simply saying that we need to be careful when thinking about putting a restrictive fence around the Communion table.  Jesus came inviting the world to come to him.  We are invited to the Lord while we are still in our sin.  The broken bread, Jesus’ broken body, and the red wine or juice, Jesus’ spilled blood, both show how sinful we are and how much we need Him.
For a deeper understanding of what Paul was saying when he wrote that we have to examine ourselves and discern the body, I think it helps to turn to the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 22:24-34
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.25 But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
28 “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded[e] to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus[f]said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
            In the phrase, “Kings of the Gentiles,” Jesus refers to those who have not turned to him.  People who do not follow Jesus have not acknowledged their need for God and have not accepted God’s grace.  They are not in the kingdom but in the world, living by the standards of the world.  Those standards include the quest for power and the eagerness to hold power over others.  True relationships of trust and love are impossible when we are driven by power.  In the world, we are out to advance ourselves at the expense of those around us.  It is very Darwinian.  Our betterment is directly tied to the regression of our neighbors. 
            “Not so with you,” Jesus says.  “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves” (v.26).  In the Gentile world, the world that is not God’s Kingdom, we strive to be served by those we deem beneath us.  But, Jesus turns that hierarchical economy upside down.  In His Kingdom, greatness is seen in us serving each other.  The Lord, the one we worship and follow, Jesus, says, “I am among you as one who serves.”  One way of examining ourselves as we come to the table is to look at our lives and see those places we are serving others. 
Along with this we note those areas we are not serving.  It becomes a matter of the heart, which is what Jesus was attempting to change in each person.  Our hearts, if we are following Him, are to be set to serve others in love and humility seeing absolutely no one as being beneath us. 
Next, we hear Jesus say something unexpected.  “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.”  He knows each of them will flee and hide in cowardice during his greatest trial.  He will go to the cross alone.  And yet, he declares the faithful witness of the disciples and confers upon them the authority to judge.
How can this be?  Will we have the same declaration made of our faith and will we receive the same authority?  The disciples did in fact become martyrs, those who declare “Jesus is Lord,” even when threatened with death.  They did this after the resurrection.  We also live with the knowledge that Jesus who was crucified has defeated death.  The key for us as for the 12 is not in aspiring to sit on thrones and judge others.  The key is faithfulness. 
Living in the United States, it is unlikely we will face imprisonment or death because of our faith in Jesus.  But trials come into the lives of believers because the world is rejecting the Kingdom of God.  When we are for Jesus, the world is against us.  How that looks varies and I don’t know how it will become real in your life.  But a way of examining ourselves when we pick up the broken bread and sip from the cup that points to Jesus’ blood is for us to look at our lives and think about when we have and have not been faithful to the ways of God.  Have we compromised in speech or integrity?  Have we clearly known what God wanted and then we did the exact opposite?  Examining our faithfulness is a way of knowing exactly where we stand when we accept Jesus’ invitation to Communion.  When we know we have failed to be faithful, the appropriate action is not to run away or skip Communion.  No, we take it, but first, with our hearts broken, we confess, repent, and receive forgiveness.
One more word from Jesus on the night of his betrayal as we consider what it means to discern the body.  Peter pledges to go to prison and death with Jesus and Jesus knows Peter will indeed do exactly that, but not this night.  This night, he will deny knowing Jesus.  Later, even after he has shown himself to be faithful Peter will waffle on the issue of whether non-Jews can follow Jesus.  He will get caught between Paul and the Jerusalem church.  In short, Peter’s amazing, inspiring witness rises and recedes.  On one occasion he is the paragon of faithfulness.  On the next, he says something so frustratingly stupid it seems he has not heard a thing Jesus has said.
As we go over all that we know about Peter and we hear Jesus say to him, “When once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers,” then we know, we are him.  Each one of us is Peter.  Each one of us comes to Maundy Thursday and the Lord’s Supper table having at times served Jesus.  Maybe we are unaware of God’s great pleasure in us when we are at our best, but we have those moments where we shine. 
Likewise, we sin as badly as Peter did the night Jesus was arrested and he claimed he didn’t know him at all.  In discerning the body, we give to ourselves and to our neighbors the same measure of grace Jesus gives to us.  We strive for excellence in our discipleship, but we give grace when we fall far below that mark. 
Paul’s guidelines for coming to the Lord’s Supper table are meant to coat our community with humility not to keep people away.  We are a body of broken people who are desperately dependent upon Jesus for life and for love.  And he gives both in abundance.  That is what Paul wants us to know.  The judgment on us is that we are innocent because we are in Christ.  The very words of Jesus when he instituted the bread and cup as a memorial to him help us understand Paul’s teaching.  We come arm-in-arm, supporting each other and granting grace upon grace throughout life. 
The Communion table reveals that all – presidents and peasants alike - are in need of Christ and in His Kingdom.  And in him all are one and this unity extends to all areas of life.    
After the meal, when the forces of evil gathered in the garden to arrest Jesus and take him to his death, his followers fled in fear.  We know how the story turned out.  In retelling it, we come together in humility and love.  We are brothers and sisters, joined in Christ and inspired to share the love he has shared with us. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Fear

The women who followed Jesus came to his tomb after the crucifixion.  They were completely buried in grief.  They had absolutely no expectation of seeing Jesus alive  So, the appearance of the angel made them "terrified" (Lk. 24:5).  The Greek word is 'emphobon,' a derivative of the Greek word that is the root of the English Phobia.  

The word is used almost exclusively in the New Testament by Luke (who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts).  The one place where use by another New Testament author is noted by the Walter Bauer Greek-English Lexicon (1979 revised edition) is Revelation 11:13.  There God exacts judgment (represented by an earthquake) so severe, thousands die and the capital city of the empire is thrust into panic-stricken fear.  It is the type of terror people felt during the terrorist attack of 9-11, 2001.  In Revelation 11, 'emphobon' connotes absolute horror.

Luke's uses of the term are in circumstances of the scale of a cataclysmic judgment.  His uses likely involved subtle moderation of the meaning.  He wasn't depicting something like the Red Sea splitting wide open or a great ocean liner like the Titanic going down.  Still, he chose a word that elicits the sense of great fear.  This is not so much reverent fear; it is terror and shock.

The women stumbled their way to the grave with immeasurable grief clouding their vision.  All was gray until the brilliant colors of heaven ripped through the fog with the appearance of the angels.  

The same word, 'emphobon' describes the fear that washed over the disciples later on.   But they weren't encountering angels.  They were talking in a group when suddenly, the risen Jesus was among them (24:36).  He said, "Peace be with you," but they were terrified.  His inviting love drew them past their fears and to him.  They returned to Jerusalem with great joy (24:52).  Their joy was such that no persecution from Greek, Roman, or other force could hurt them at all.  The resurrection was that scary and then it was that empowering.

 I worry that Christians have lost both the fear and the joy.  Resurrection happened so long ago and we find ourselves so comfortable in the world, that we sing heartily on Easter Sunday, but we don't live the reality we sang once Easter Monday arrives.  I sincerely believe each who would dare call himself or herself a Christ follower needs to seek him earnestly and persistently until He will be seen in fresh ways and heard in louder voices.

This diligent seeking of an encounter with the risen Christ must be accompanied by an uncomfortable honesty.  We have to be absolutely conscious and true about who we are - especially about our sins and how they corrupt the goodness of God's creation.  If we do that, the moment with God will come.  It will be as unexpected as the resurrection was for the women at the empty tomb.  When we are surprised as we will be, then we will be horrified by God's holiness shining next to our sinfulness.  We will be revealed and it won't be pretty.

We need that moment of fear.  Only when we are that aware of who we are can we then receive Jesus' gracious invitation to enter into His peace.  Moving from fear to peace, we will be filled with the resurrection power that changed the first disciples from hiding cowards into bold apostles.  When we enter that resurrection peace of Jesus, nothing in the world around us will appeal to us in any way.  

The first Christ followers were threatened with arrest, floggings, excommunication, and execution.  American Christ followers in the 21st century are lulled by materialism and deceived by patriotism.  When we are filled with the resurrection, the truth and reality of it, we will see the materialism around us for what it is: an illusion of happiness.  We will love our country but also understand what it is: a temporary thing destined to pass away.  We will know that which never dies, Jesus and all who are in Him.  

To fully "get Easter" and to live as Easter people, we need that moment of fear that then leads into the peace Jesus gives.  We all need it and when we have it, we live differently, never to go back to who we were.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Following the NCAA Tournament from Africa

My heart just is not in the NCAA tournament this year.  Usually, I love men's college basketball and especially the tournament.  This year, my favorite team, the Michigan Wolverines, have had a good season.  They were even ranked #1 one week.  Yet, I cannot get myself up for the tournament.  

Every year, I invite my church members to turn in their brackets.  It is not gambling because no one turns in money.  Whoever gets the highest score (scoring is based on picking correctly and in the later rounds, you get more points for correct picks) gets a free lunch, courtesy of the pastor (me).  Last year, I won the pool and treated myself to Mexican food.

I am doing the pool again this year, but with very little zeal.  Like my overall interest, my energy in the church bracket pool is low.  Why?  Why am I so apathetic about this?

There are two reasons.  First, I just returned from 9 days in Ethiopia.  We made our second annual trip to the Children's Hope Chest care point ( and spent 4 days with the kids at that care point.  Without going into details, I will say it was immensely frustrating and rewarding all at the same time.  The frustrations included just a small bit of tension within the team (I emphasize, this was small, but present) and lost bags.  The usually reliable Ethiopian Airlines failed to deliver 10 of our bags, many of which were filled with items we needed for the Bible camp we were going to run for the kids.  Those bags finally came, but by then I was into hour 72 of the same outfit (same underwear, socks, etc).  

Then the care point itself, which is undergoing transition, was also frustrating.  We probably should not have come until the children had been at the new site for another month and the transition was farther along.  But we did not know the transition schedule when we set the trips dates a year ago.  So, we ended bringing a group of Americans at a particularly bad time for the care point.

Still the week went well and new friendships were formed (both among team members who hail from 7 different states and with people in Kombolcha, Ethiopia).  The children were beautiful, loved seeing us, and we enjoyed them right up to the teary-eyed goodbyes last Friday (3/15).  On the flight back to the U.S., all our bags made it!

But, adding to the (very minor) team-tensions, lost bags, and on site frustrations, I picked up  an annoying cold on the return flight that is exacerbating my jetlag.  I know I am whining here, but isn't that what blogs are for?  My heart is not into basketball or preaching or reading or studying.  I want to lay down and sleep.  But when I try, all the Ethiopian coffee I have consumed keeps me awake.  I feel I am walking in an emotionless fog.

There is emotion though and much of it relates to those kids (about 80% of whom are Muslim, probably 75% undernourished, and 100% below any poverty line we might draw).  Will the sticky issues at the care point be resolved?  Can we actually take a team from here and not have unresolved issues clouding our purposes next year?  Are we doing any good?  With these questions on the mind, it is very hard to care about basketball.

And did I mention preaching?  Yes, next week is Holy Week.  As a Christ-follower, I am acutely aware of the importance of the crucifixion and resurrection.  My attentions to this is heightened as I ponder how the resurrection informs evangelism and apologetics.  When I think of Jesus on the cross and then the empty tomb, and I think of what that means for the world, and I think of intelligently, persuasively making the case for Jesus in conversation with Muslims and with atheists, it becomes hard to care about basketball.

Don't misread any of this.  I love basketball.  I love, love, love the NCAA tournament.  If Michigan wins the whole thing, I will enjoy that.  But then again, this year, I might sleep through the whole thing.  Or, I might be wide awake but with my attention elsewhere.  I just have weightier matters on my mind and I don't think basketball merits that much of me right now.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Suggestion for Lent

            It is the middle of Lent, an odd time to begin a Lenten spiritual discipline.  Traditionally a Christ-follower begins a Lenten discipline on Ash Wednesday.  One gives up something for the purpose of drawing attention to faith.  I have, in past years, given up coffee, certain radio programs, red meat, and other things.  When I would long for the burger or the latte, my longing would remind me how much I need Jesus and I would confess my sins and focus on my dependence upon God.

            We are now three weeks past Ash Wednesday, so I am not proposing you give something up Lent 2013.  I am making a suggestion.  Read a book about Jesus.  I am going to read a book by a New Testament, Gerard Sloyan.  I may also consider something by Geza Vermes or Wayne Meeks.  You may not find these works edifying or interesting.  Other excellent writers who have studied Jesus in detail and then written about him are Phillip Yancey (The Jesus I Never Knew) and Tim Stafford (Surprised by Jesus).  Max Lucado has written numerous books that focus on the cross and resurrection.  His works are pastoral and devotional.

            Perhaps you are particularly toward sitting and reading.  If books aren’t your thing, I still encourage you to check out one of the ancient biographies of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).  And also, if you have access to cable TV, watch and see if the History channel is doing any specials on Jesus.  Often that network will devote several shows to documenting aspects of Jesus’ life and the history of early Christianity.  A word of warning: the History Channel is secular and will not necessarily treat the history of Jesus from a faith perspective.  Knowing that and knowing that a program might not affirm your Christian faith, you can glean a lot from the presentations offered by the History Channel even if you don’t agree with the conclusions.

            There are also great movies about Jesus.  The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson was controversial when it came out.  It is worth reading up on the controversy.  For me, the film is a moving depiction of the ordeal Jesus endured.  That film along with The Jesus Film and others you might find have the potential to fix your mind on Christianity and specifically on Jesus as we move through Lent toward Easter. 

            The main thing is setting our minds on Christ.  Whether it is Bible reading, reading commentary by Christian authors (e.g. Yancey), TV or film, shift your attention.  We have our favorite reality shows, crime dramas, sit coms, or whatever.  We have our favorite movies and our favorite novels.  My Lenten suggestion to you is to put that input aside and let Jesus-focused program and stimuli by what you put into your mind for the next three weeks.  In this way, we have Jesus on our minds when Palm Sunday and Good Friday and Easter Sunday arrive.  Making ourselves Jesus-focused, we experience the drama of Easter with keen senses and receptive hearts.  We see Easter in a new way.  And we come out of Easter knowing Jesus at a deeper level.

            That’s my Lenten suggestion to you.

3rd Sunday of Lent


Sunday, March 3, 2013 - 3rd Sunday of Lent


            This past week an NFL superstar quarterback negotiated a new contract with his team.  He took less money than he was owed so that his team could sign other free agents and overall become a better team.  Commentators lauded him for putting the team first.  But, others pointed out that his fellow players might be angry because him doing that would put pressure on them to also take less money so their teams could sign high quality free agents. 

The NFL has a salary cap.  There is a limit on what they can spend on players.  If a team pays one guy $20 million a year, that reduces what they can pay other players.  So this big-time quarterback enabled his team to get higher quality free agents by giving up some of his money. 

One radio personality pointed out that his sacrifice is not that great.  How much of a sacrifice is it to go from a $20 million salary to $15 million?  On top of that, this quarterback’s super model wife also makes millions in her career.  The commentator went on to say that the ultimate joy in life for a guy, a dude, is to have a good routine, a good job, and a good life. 

This quarterback has played for the same team for over a decade.  He knows his city, his favorite restaurants, his routines.  He plays for a winning team.  He’s got everything anybody would want.  When I heard that, one thing came to my mind.  This radio commentator and I see things differently – so differently in fact, comparison is almost impossible. 

On the same station, ESPN radio, I heard another guy say that he only lives for his own happiness.  As he assesses people around him, he wonders how they can increase his happiness.  That is the driving force in his life.  If you never listen to ESPN radio and you think, “Well, that’s just that guy,” allow me to offer another example.  Years ago I talked to a friend who had just gone through an ugly divorce.  He went from family to a life where he lived alone.  As he described his new life as a single guy, he described the emptiness.  He did not deny it.  But his closing remark on his personal narrative was “At least now I am happy.”  We could both see he was fooling himself.  He stuck to his guns.  “At least now I am happy.”

The same type of statement came up in the debates around legalizing same-sex marriage.  What I heard from advocates is “Let people [in this case same sex couples] do what makes them happy.”  My initial thought was that is a foolish way to bolster an argument no matter what the issue is.  I am a happily married man, but I am not happy all the time.  Sometimes the source of my unhappiness is an unfortunate exchange I have with my dear, sweet, beautiful wife.  I say mean things.  I hurt her feelings.  And that is a two-way street. 

Of course most of the time, we laugh together and enjoy life.  But my point is happiness is unpredictable and fleeting.  One piece of cake makes me happy.  Ten makes me sick.  The quarterback will tell you football makes him happy.  But then he loses the big game and he’s so angry he does destructive things.  Life cannot be built around the pursuit of happiness.  It’s something that cannot be caught and if we catch it, it cannot be held.  I tell you this and I think of myself as a generally happy person.  Happiness is important and valuable, but it cannot be our ultimate end.

The radio guy said the football player has it all – a great job; a stable life; millions of dollars.  He has the ultimate success.  I happen to really like this player, but I could not disagree more.  I don’t think the ultimate is career success and financial stability.  I don’t even think the ultimate is happiness.  What is it then?  What is the ultimate thing to have in life?

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).  In the verses leading up to this, Paul cited his own resume – a list of accomplishments that would rank him as esteemed and successful in his day and time and place.  He had the ultimate.  He had it all.  He met Jesus and in the light of Christ – his crucifixion and resurrection – Paul looked what he had, what everyone like him would want, and he counted it as rubbish; millions of dollars – blech; Super Bowl rings – who cares; admiration from crowds of people – don’t want it.  Paul looked at all that we might think would bring happiness in life and he threw it all out like stinking garbage that is smelling up the whole house.  All he wanted was Jesus – the power of Jesus resurrection.

In his comment, one thing is clear.  The crucifixion and the resurrection are tied together.  You cannot have one without the other.  Last week we talked about the view from the cross.  When we see life from that angle, we align ourselves with the poor.  We live sacrificially.  And we live life in complete dependence on the Holy Spirit.  We place ourselves at the cross and live from there. 

Another point from Paul’s statement that might catch our attention is Philippians 3:11 where he finished his sentence saying “if somehow I may attain the resurrection of the dead.”  It certainly sounds like he’s suggesting that by commitment and spiritual achievement we earn resurrection.  Some Bible scholars think that is exactly what Paul is saying.  I do not.  In Philippians, Paul talks a lot about the effort in discipleship we make – we humans.  Our efforts are only possible because on the cross Jesus covered our sin and in resurrection, Jesus conquered death.  We receive what Jesus gives. Paul makes this point throughout his letters and especially in Romans and Galatians.  He also acknowledges in Philippians 2:13 that God is at work in us.  I won’t go into depth on this point.  I’ll just say that everything we accomplish spiritually comes because God enables us and comes after Jesus accomplished ultimate victory on the cross. 

Because of the life he’s granted – eternal life with God in God’s kingdom – Paul wants to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.  Paul wants to experience resurrection.  It is almost as if Paul wants to die so he can fully know what resurrection is.  It is not that Paul wants resurrection more than anything else.  He only wants resurrection.  The ultimate is not anything that we might consider would bring happiness.  The stuff of the world is crap as far Paul is concerned.  He wants resurrection. 

According to N.T. Wright, the great significance of this for Paul and for you and me is we are counted among the people of God.  What brings happiness?  $1 million?  $10 million?  Assurance that we will go to heaven?  Maybe for you none of this stuff.  For you it might be a beautiful day on which you can spend hours riding your bike on offroad trails under a glorious blue sky.  For our good friend Jonathan Elwing, it is fishing off the Florida Coast.  Bishop Tom Wright says no, those things may be wonderful, but the great significance of Christianity is that we are promised resurrection, which in turn means we are counted among the people of God. 

These bodies we have will rise at the final judgment.  In resurrection, our bodies will change.  There will be no injury that could hurt us.  The undefeated enemy, death, and his sidekicks disease and old age will be wiped out.  We will be resurrected, our bodies will be incorruptible, and we will live forever.  But the most important thing to note is we will be counted among the people of God.  The primary thing, says Wright, is “belonging to the Messiah” (Justification, p.151).  Christ.  Nothing is as important to us as the reality that we are his.

Because of the resurrection, we now see the world from the vantage point of God’s kingdom.  Last week we stressed seeing from the cross.  Now we stress seeing from the view of one made righteous, from the view of one in the kingdom.  Is this resurrection perspective the same as the crucifixion perspective?  No, but it is not contrary to it either.  As we grow in Christ, we come to realize how multiple realities are absolutely true at the same time.  When we enter Christ, we enter both his crucifixion and his resurrection. 

We can’t know fully what this means until Jesus returns.  Paul’s statement, “I want to know the power of the resurrection,” shows he did not know it fully and we don’t yet either.  But we know that in the Kingdom our joining with others in Christ is a more powerful than marriage; we are closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ than to our relatives.  The union in Christ is more important than our union with our countrymen.  Family bonds and patriotic loyalty dissolve as our connection Christ deepends. 

Our Kingdom perspective also determines the way we see people who do not know Jesus.  Our heart breaks for them because they have not experienced his joy.  We long for them to have the freedom of forgiveness and the happiness of fellowship in Jesus and with others who are in Jesus. Happiness is important, but we don’t get it by going after it.  It comes when we are in Christ.  People will waste their lives chasing happiness.  Because of the resurrection, we are in the Kingdom and we long to draw those who are outside in as well.

Scholar and Pastor Paul Beasley-Murray adds that the resurrection is a sign that Jesus is divine – God in the flesh.  Peter had declared Jesus to be Lord (Luke 5:8).  But he didn’t really know what he was saying and if we had been in his sandals and not yet known the resurrection was coming, we would not have known any more than he did.  After the resurrection, Thomas looked at Jesus and said, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).  He knew as did Paul that in Jesus he was relating to the God of the universe.

Beasley-Murray thus writes, “In confessing Jesus as Lord, the early Christian were not saying, ‘Jesus is Lord of my life,’ they were saying, ‘Jesus is Lord of the world’” (The Message of the Resurrection, p.223).  The resurrection is the event that determines reality.  Everything we know must be measured by it.  The only conclusion we can draw is that the risen Jesus is supreme Lord of all.   When Christian apologists debate both Muslims and atheists – two extremely different opponents – the lynchpin of the Christian apologists’ argument is the resurrection.  Everything hangs on it and when the historicity of it is established, the debate is over.  Jesus is Lord. 

Paul writes “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”  Such a desire eclipses all others – money, fame, success.  It is all as nothing compared to the resurrection.  The resurrection of Jesus is our hope.  Moreover, as the scholars we’ve referenced show, it is our identification.  We are among the people of God.  It is our priority.  Because of the resurrection, Jesus is Lord and our lives are lived at His pleasure.

I remember a talk with my dad.  I saw him go somewhere.  I looked into his eyes as we talked and he was leaving and happy to be going.  It was seven years ago and we had just done my grandfather’s funeral.  My dad buried his dad.  He was sad as one always is in that situation.  He was also pensive.  It got him thinking about what he would want us to do for his funeral when his day came. 

Honestly he wasn’t too concerned about the funeral service.  He told me he wanted to be cremated.  He said wait for a day when the wind is right.  Then hike up to McAfee’s Knob.  It’s a favorite hiking spot in Roanoke with a gorgeous view of the valley.  He said to take his ashes and fling them off into the air.  “It won’t matter,” he said, “I’ll be somewhere else.”

He was and is in the process of knowing Christ and the power of the resurrection.  He doesn’t think about his funeral in terms of what might be said about him.  When he considers his own end on this earth, he thinks of Jesus and he knows he’ll be with Jesus.  He’ll be somewhere else.

When we live in the resurrection, we are from somewhere else – this world in its redeemed state.  Heaven.  God’s presence.  However you might conceptualize it, the key is we don’t fit here and our future is not here, not as this place is right now.  The resurrection grants us a Kingdom perspective where we know Jesus is Lord.  When we look around, we see everything here from there. 

I don’t have a new spiritual practice this week. Rather, I encourage you as you take up the practices we’ve mentioned in previous weeks to seek the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Seek to know it and to live your life from that perspective – the view of the risen one.  He is the Lord.