Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday 2014: Not Yet

Acts 10:34-43
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18

"IF ... you have been raised with Christ ..." (Colossians 3:1a), what does it mean to us?  That Jesus was resurrected?  Indeed, but before this moment so was Lazarus called forth from his four-day-old grave by Jesus.  The prophet Elijah brought a dead child back to life as well.  All of this is to remind us that in our Lord, "who has become our salvation" (Psalm 118:21), death simply has no authority; that even as we pass from this life, we enter very much alive but a realm over which we have no control. 

Even then it seems debatable whether we retain our own free will which we are certainly not afraid to exercise in this life.  After all, did the archangel Lucifer not exercise his own free will before he was cast out of Heaven?  This one is very hard to get hold of because, as so many Christians have come to believe, how can one not be happy in Heaven?? 

It is the Place of perfection prepared by Messiah Himself, the Place of Eternal Rest.  It is where the Almighty resides, the Holy One who will "wipe away all tears".  It is the Place where there is no more sorrow, no more death.  And yet for all we are told in Scriptures, there was at least one who was not happy where he was.  He expected and demanded more than he was entitled to - and for his rebellion, he was cast out.

Theologians speculate that "the sin" which led to Lucifer's rebellion was that of pride.  Like many of us - too many, actually - Lucifer had convinced himself (and perhaps his own minions) they did not need YHWH, that they could manage quite well on their own.  Now let this sink it for a moment: Lucifer "believed" in YHWH.  So how is it the Bible leads us to believe the devil will never again see the Kingdom of Heaven?

I ran across a story about a great organist who performed a masterpiece on a pump organ.  After the well-received performance, the man who pumped the air for the organ commented to the organist, "We sure did a fine job, didn't we?"  The organist looked at the man with utter contempt and replied, "We??  You may have operated the machinery, but it was I who made the music!" 

At their next performance, in the middle of the finale, the helper came out and sat in the front row.  As the organ ran out of steam, the organist shouted to the helper, "What are you doing out there??  Get back in there and pump!"  The helper calmly replied, "I just wanted to see how you were doing out here all by yourself."

Theologians speculate Lucifer just got a little too full of himself and forgot (or freely chose not to remember!) that as a creature himself, he was then and would be forevermore completely dependent on The Creator whether he realized it or not.  We might do well to heed the lesson for ourselves because simply "believing" the Lord exists - as Lucifer surely went beyond mere "belief"; he KNEW! - may be what is stated in a few short verses and declared by St. Peter ("Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name", Acts 10:43) at Cornelius' house, but there is a whole lot more to it.  There is more than a verse to memorize or a profession of faith to declare; there is a whole life to be lived - and lived well!

Make no mistake, however.  The life we are called to live, "the life which is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3), is not an easy life; for this very life we have died to (as Paul states) is no longer our own.  For the apostles who had been cowering in fear for their own lives, the Resurrection of Jesus changed everything when they knew without doubt their lives were no longer their own! 

Peter was among those who ran when things got tough and even went so far as to actually deny he even knew Jesus, and yet Peter was standing without fear proclaiming Messiah resurrected!  A very dangerous proposition in his time!  But even then the Resurrection did not "settle" anything; but the Resurrection did indeed change everything.

We must also consider that "The Empty Tomb" also settles nothing because when Mary saw the empty tomb for the first time, she immediately thought the Body had simply been moved.  It was not until the Resurrected Christ revealed Himself to her that she knew - she KNEW - nothing would ever be the same again!

There is no compulsion about this transformation of reality.  Our Lord is not going to force anyone to work or to act contrary to what is within us to do or to be.  So we must understand the difference between the disciples who ran and hid out of fear after Jesus' death - and the apostles who lifted themselves up because of what took place!  Death had been overcome!  Beyond any reasonable doubt, it was clear to them now that our burial is NOT our end and is nothing to fear!

But Jesus also said to Mary, "Do not hold on to Me because I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But GO ..."  Go.  Do.  Tell.  In other words, don't just sit there as if nothing happened.  And don't just stand there as if nothing has changed.  Something happened!  And everything has changed!  GO!  DO!  TELL! 

"And when Christ who is your Life is revealed [when He comes again], then you also will be revealed with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:4).  "Will be" means something even more wondrous than this is just beyond the horizon - and Christ our Lord has shown us the Way.  In Him.  With Him.  and Through Him.  NOT without Him - IF He is now our very life.  That is, we do as He did.  We teach as He taught.  We share as He shared.  And we love as He loved.  No longer as those in darkness will not do, but as those in the Light of Christ will do.

So we take this Path which has been laid out before us.  We take this Path because these are the footsteps of the One who came before us, the "first born" of all Creation - when He was risen from the grave; that grave which no longer holds us, that grave which no longer contains us, that grave we once thought is where we "end up". And we take this Path not because we are compelled against our own desires - but are called to, invited to, and to which we joyfully answer because it is the Only Way - and now in this new Life we can have if we want it,  we will want to!

This Path, however, will not make us rich.  This Path which is laid before us will not keep us safe.  This Path which has been trod by Jesus Himself will not make us comfortable.  As the Apostles discovered, this Path was - and still is - the "chalice" even Jesus asked to be taken from Him as He grieved His final hours.  This Path is the "cup from which we must all drink" - if we are to follow Him on His Terms.  It is the Path the world cannot comprehend and will not navigate - because they do not know or care where it leads.  They would much rather their lives be their very own lives.  On their own terms.  And according to their own personal desires.  This does not make "them" bad people; but they are alone and convinced they can go it alone.

You and I have been given a certain knowledge which can come only from the Holy Spirit.  If we believe in the Resurrection of Messiah - that is, believe enough to follow Him and emulate Him - we will be transformed.  Those we once hated we will learn to love.  Those we once ignored will become our friends.  Those we once held in contempt we will forgive - because the life we once believed was our own is no longer our own.

We must hold fast to what is good so we may reap the goodness which was sown.  Choose Life in God through Christ - and live like you've never lived before.  For He is Risen - and death is no more.  Amen.

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