It was a wonderful day yesterday. Tons of people ascended to Lemon Hill at sunrise, many biking over in the frigid air – including Peter, who purportedly is the youngest ever to accomplish the feat. Crosses burst into bloom at several of our sites, people told resurrection stories, we worshiped with joy, we feasted together – it was a day to remember.
It is so great to get to resurrection, why spoil it by asking what happens next? The main reason to move into what is next is: it spoils the Resurrection to turn it into a mere holiday! We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus because it is a beginning point for us, too, not just a memory. For the first disciples, what happened next after the Lord’s resurrection was totally transforming! Before long they were missionaries, martyrs and leaders of expanding networks of Jesus-followers.
Quite the opposite for for many of us, after Easter there is a glutted sigh of relief that another holiday season is over and we can get back to concentrating on work, baseball season, school, and the addictions we gave up for Lent. In other words, we get to resurrection but never get on with resurrection life. What’s worse for many of us, we’ve heard of this tendency many times before and are adept at ignoring the problem!
But today is another beginning. We are not our past. The promise of resurrection is we are our future. It can all start from right here: our lives, our church, even our society.
Paul teaches us this in Colossians 3 and collects one of the best lists in the Bible about what resurrection life means. It is so brief, and yet so profound! I was so moved by it, I can’t resist offering it to everyone as a great starting point for our response to the new life we have received, right now.
Here is how he starts:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Then he lists five big responses:
1. Meditate on God, not yourself
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
If you managed to exercise spiritual disciplines during Lent, great. Hopefully, they tipped you over into everyday habits for the rest of your life. But maybe you need to keep trying. If you just keep thinking about yourself: your ambitions, relationships, problems and failures, that will be deadly. I estimate that 60% of us don’t even pray in any deliberate fashion every day. That’s why our spiritual lives get anemic and why many people fell away from Christ last year.
2. Put to death your fallen self, not others
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.
“Put to death” sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But Paul is talking about a response to the resurrection of Jesus which begins the recreation of the world! It deserves a large response, not a begrudging addition to our lifestyle! He is pointing out the common things that quench the new light that just got lit in our lives. Leaving the ways we used to follow before we were raised with Jesus takes lifelong devotion, especially these days. Even feeling a tinge of guilt about fornication or greed in the United States is practically illegal now! People express their anger as if it were liberating and can’t stop abusing people on Twitter, just like the president. We’re in a difficult environment for what Paul is talking about. It is hard to even hear what he thinks is an obvious response to new life. He’s not talking about mere morality, he’s talking about supernatural goodness flooding into our lives!
3. Clothe yourselves with resurrection life, not lies
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
It would be so sad if we woke up today into the promise of new life and put on the same old lies: I am alone. I have to make it on my own. Nobody will care for me. I have to be the best. If I don’t succeed I will die. I need to stay safe from others. Add you own — which lies torment you? There are so many self-destructive scripts from our pre-Jesus lives running in our brains that it is hard to shut down the liars – and now we have a massive media machine in our hands all day to reinforce them!
4. Clothe yourself with reconciliation, not judgment
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Life is too short to blame someone else or ourselves. Criticism is easy, forgiveness and reconciliation is revolutionary. During Lent our congregations were awash in new revelation and love. It was beautiful. But they were also attacked with divorce, division and the disease of scorn. The clothing Paul is talking about is like the armor Jesus wore to the cross to overcome the world in his upside-down way.
5. Clothe yourself with love, not division
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Paul’s new love released him from his roots in Tarsus and moved him all over the Roman Empire planting churches as he spread the news about the resurrection of Jesus and all it means. He’s not just talking about fulfilling our dreams of having a nice family and friendship circle. God wants us to live in harmony just like we want, but what God really wants is comrades who will bind things back together with Jesus. Paul closes up with a few things such rebinding means:
It means proactive peacemaking
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.
It means being persistently thankful
And be thankful.
It means speaking the truth from Jesus in love
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom;
It means a life of public worship
and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Jesus is risen, now what? You can see that I am afraid we will have a personal response to Jesus that is just personal and next Easter we will have to decide again if we even believe this stuff. If our faith doesn’t transform our everyday lives, is it really following Jesus? I don’t think Paul was telling us to spend all our time thinking about what we think about Christianity! Like he responded to the resurrection, I think he hopes we will feel life in a new way and find joy in letting resurrection make us new — and the world with us.