Resurrection is a journey of transformation

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  • April 6, 2017

Resurrection of the Lord, April 16 (Year A) Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18

The first Christian creeds were simple, direct and unadorned. The apostles proclaimed who Jesus was, what He did, what happened to Him, and His role in the universal judgment of humankind.

There were no theological subtleties — those would come much later. Sent and empowered by God, Jesus spoke on God’s behalf and would be the supreme judge at the end of time of both the living and the dead.

There is an ominous tone in the proclamation, as well as a ray of hope. They firmly believed this judgment was going to occur soon, probably within their lifetimes. The time was very short and sins probably weighed on the minds and hearts of many.

All those who believed in Jesus would receive forgiveness of sins through His name. This can sound disturbingly like a free pass — a way of dodging the impending judgment. But the end times and judgment they foresaw were catastrophic.

Belief and forgiveness were intended to be a lifeline in the raging storm rather than an easy way out. The tumultuous end did not and has not occurred, which is a continual source of puzzlement for many.

Today we would make a more balanced and nuanced judgment of a person’s overall life. We do not expect the immediate end of the world as we know it, nor do we limit salvation only to those who believe explicitly in Jesus. So what should we proclaim? Just as the text says, but without the sense of fear or exclusion.

Jesus healed people and released those in the grip of the devil. He went about doing good, filled with the Holy Spirit and power. He was also obedient to God even to death.

This is the standard against which all human life is measured: obedience to God, compassionate and humble service, and being a source of hope and strength for others. This is the path we are called to follow, so nothing has changed. At the end of time, we will be asked to what degree we reflected the person of Christ in our life — nothing more, nothing less. Jesus still walks among us doing God’s work, but now He urges us to join Him.

What does it mean to seek the things that are above, setting our minds on them rather than things on the Earth? It does not call for turning our back on life or the world around us. The key to this passage is the reference to being raised with Christ. If we have been truly raised with Him, then we have to be changed.

We are urged to put on the mind and heart of Christ. In so doing, we think in different ways and pattern our lives on a different set of principles and values. Our lives in this world continue, but as very different human beings.

Seeing is not always believing and even believing at times lacks understanding. Peter and the Beloved Disciple dashed to the empty tomb in response to Mary Magdalene’s frantic report. They both saw the empty tomb. Peter was somewhat perplexed and although the Beloved Disciple believed, he did not fully understand.

It seems that the disciples lacked an awareness of what rising from the dead meant. Neither did Mary understand. Things were not as clear as we sometimes suppose. Both the two angels in the tomb and the risen Jesus standing in the shadows asked her why she was weeping. The second, unspoken part of that question might have been, “Don’t you understand that death no longer exists?”

Everything had been transformed and made new. The extent of this transformation was evident in the message that He charged her with taking to the others. She was to inform them that He was ascending to “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”

Humanity had been reconciled to God and the doors to the kingdom of the Spirit were opened. Those walking in God’s light enjoyed a new relationship — that of brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of God the Father. In this relationship, there is no place for darkness, lack of love, separateness or exclusion.

Resurrection means continual transformation as well as a new way of thinking, feeling and living. In order to be authentic and believable, the resurrection must be reflected in ordinary human lives.

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