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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Living the Resurrection

As we live beyond Easter it is worth remembering that each of the central days of that festival has particular themes that we could reflect on as a way of shaping our lives as disciples.

Good Friday provides us with the challenge of accompanying with compassion those living in the shadow of death and those who experience the power of death daily through their experience of injustice, deprivation and the ravages of war.

Easter Saturday, the most neglected day of the three, points us toward living with patience, perseverance and an underlying trust in the activity and presence of God in the face of the long haul of everyday life, between crucifixion and resurrection.

Easter Sunday is about resurrection as a way of living not simply as a theological or doctrinal proposition to which we give intellectual assent and then move on with our lives as though nothing has happened.

What we need then are not “Bible believing” or even “resurrection believing” Christians” but Jesus following, resurrection living disciples.

While the resurrection is about the way we live, in the life of the church there has been relatively little reflection and guidance that I could find about what a resurrection shaped discipleship looks like. And this is really strange, because if we were to go into a Bible study looking fir the meaning of the resurrection for our life as disciples as members of the Christian community we would be here for a very long time. Beyond the stories of the resurrection of Jesus at the end of the Gospels, we have Acts and the New Testament epistles that are shaped profoundly by the arguments that they contain on what living out of a resurrection shaped faith is all about.

The Anabaptist tradition has given expression to the significance of resurrection living; it comes to us through a single yet powerful phrase from in the Schleitheim Confession in 1527 – one of the earliest statements from the radical, peace church tradition of the reformation period. Entry into Christian discipleship is for …all those who desire to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ”

Walking in the resurrection was no easy matter for the Radical Christians of the 16th century with their commitment to make the church independent of the state their refusal to bear arms. It was not a matter of a spiritual high detached form the hard realities of life. Many of those involved in drawing up the Schleitheim confession were killed within a matter of months.

To walk in the resurrection is to walk in the path of the Resurrected Crucified Jesus. The one who was resurrected is the same Jesus who healed the sick, who affirmed the value of those caste out from society, who partied with those of dubious reputation, who challenged the religiously comfortable and confronted the Roman Empire with a non-violent witness to God as the true ruler. The Jesus who was resurrected, in whose resurrection we are called to walk, is the Jesus who suffered capital punishment at the hands of the Roman Empire. Walking in the resurrection is to live as those for whom violence and injustice do not have the last word

With the resurrection of Jesus, God created a new world and sent Jesus’ followers off to announce it to the world. If you go to the resurrection chapters in Luke 24, or in Matthew, or Mark, or John, and say, “What do the evangelists think this stuff means; why are we telling this story?” The answer is not, “Jesus is risen again, therefore, we can go to heaven when we die and be with him.” It’s interesting they never say that, those resurrection chapters. Rather, they say, “Jesus is risen from the dead. Therefore, God’s new creation has begun, and you are commissioned to go off and make it happen.” That’s the emphasis. And it’s a new world of justice and freedom; it’s the exodus world, the return-from-exile world, the world where Jesus already reigns as Lord, it’s the world with good news for all, especially as in the New Testament, for the poor. (Tom Wrights The Resurrection: A Sermon Nov 11, 2001) http://www.thefallschurch.org/templates/custhefalls/details.asp?id=29455&PID=244903&mast=

Resurrection is about justice, freedom and God’s new creation. To share in Christ’s resurrection is to be empowered by God to be witnesses to and participants in God’s preaching of peace not as some purely inner spirituality but as part of a whole new creation and to live in a way hat is paradoxical bringing into question the social norms of the time but is the start of a new creation that is lived out in the midst of confusion and pain, violence and political conflict.
So what does living in the resurrection look like?

• The issue is one of the practice of hope. There is a deep connection between peacemaking and hope. We do not have to use violence to make things come out right. Patience, compassion and a non-violence – all are elements of hope.
• Living beyond our means – living with open hands in both giving and receiving - not needing to control or force the outcome. Learning to live generously.
• Embodied life – how could a resurrection life be a ‘spiritual’ life detached from the body. Expressed by Jesus in the sharing of meals – Jesus is recognised in the breaking of the bread. Resurrection about living practicing for a new heaven and a new earth now.
• Living out God’s coming kingdom now – practicing – living the new creation now – wherever there are signs of brokenness, destruction and injustice trying to find practical ways to address them. learning to live generously
• Seeking the justice that God desires now.
• Living with the freedom that we are not controlled finally by the state or the powers of violence, rather witnesses to God’s coming kingdom of peace

The ‘kingdom’ of which Jesus speaks is an entirely new order of relationships grounded in mutual forgiveness, open table fellowship, the sharing of wealth, peaceable politics, healing for the sick, welcome for the stranger, and good news for the poor. “How Easter Brings Regime change” by Simon Barrow (Ekklesia, April 14, 2006) http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/barrow/article_060414easter.shtml

See also
“For they were Afraid” Sermon by Jim Barr (Easter 2006) http://www.canbap.org/sermons/2006/sermon-20060416.html
“Resurrection: The Ultimate Answer to Empire” Sermon by Rick Derksen (2003)
http://peace.mennolink.org/articles/rickderksen.html
“Threatened with Resurrection” by Simon Barrow (Ekklesia, April 29, 2006)
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/barrow/article_060429resuur.shtml

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