Tag Archives: Easter

Jesus is risen, now what?: Listen to Colossians 3

We are risen!

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.

Now what?

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.

The Good Samaritan, after Delacroix, 1890 - Vincent van Gogh
The Good Samaritan, after Delacroix — Van Gogh, 1890

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.

Resurrection: latch on, let go

I saw a particularly sweet segment of CBS Sunday Morning while I recuperating from breakfast on Easter morning. It was about a man who lived across the street from the High School where Gwen used to teach back in the day in our old hometown of Riverside, California. A bartender named Donnie Edison had a stroke in that house when he was only donnie edison34. He was depressed and disabled and laying hopeless on the couch when he heard the ping of baseballs hitting metal bats as the high school baseball team practiced after school. His love of baseball got him off the couch. He made his wife load him into his wheelchair and take him to practice, even though he did not know a soul at the school. But just seeing the kids out there living gave him some purpose. Soon the coach made him an assistant. He learned to walk again. Before long he was volunteering in the high school’s special ed program and then he was going to college to become a special ed teacher. One of the things he did was get the regular team to play whiffle ball with the special ed kids. The segment ends with “There is nothing more beautiful than the sound of a found purpose.”

It is a small resurrection, isn’t it? — I was dead on the couch and now I can walk. Donnie was thankful for the stroke that saved him. His little death led to his unexpected life.

The Resurrection we celebrated yesterday is, however, much more than getting off the couch when you were dead in your depression, as blessed as that is. Once Donnie becomes a special ed teacher, there is a lot more to consider about how to follow Jesus through this dying we are living into the living into which he is leading. We celebrate the resurrection because it happened one time, once and for all. But we also celebrate it every year, religiously, because it keeps happening and it needs to keep happening. The big Resurrection we celebrated yesterday unleashes the many small resurrections we witness every day. The scripture we focused on from John shows that plainly.

Latch on to small resurrections

As you probably know, one of the disciples named Thomas was not with the rest of Jesus’ first followers when Jesus first appeared to them. When they told him they had seen the Lord, he would not believe ALL of them until he saw Jesus himself. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

About a week later the disciples were together in the house where they met. The doors were locked because they were afraid the authorities were going to round up people who were saying Jesus had risen. Jesus came and stood among them. Almost immediately, he turned to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

This story speaks to an entire segment of the population about how they relate to the resurrection. You need to put your hands in the wounds of the resurrected Jesus and stop doubting. Thomas was disconnected. He needed to latch on. We don’t generally respect “doubting Thomas” for needing something more than just hearing the story from someone else. But a lot of us do need more.

thomas caravaggioDonnie Edison needed to convince his wife to heist him into his chair for weeks and wheel him over to the baseball practice for whatever reason. You probably need to put yourself into a place where you did not belong before. Thomas had to put his hands into the Lord’s side. You think about him doing that and it seems so gross. Getting faith can feel so gross, so awkward, so out of line, so unacceptable, that you might just stay on your couch. A few people reading this might have no faith in Jesus, so the resurrected Jesus comes to you in a story, in the Spirit, and in the lives of people who give witness to their relationship with Him and questions your lack of faith. Others reading have the faith you used to have before you had your latest stroke, or got your latest job, or got married, or had kids, and now you need to latch on to the resurrected Jesus this year. Stick your hand in. Do it.

Let go of your past resurrectrion

If you were at the empty tomb yesterday morning, you heard what happened on the morning Jesus rose. The message the Mary is essentially the exact opposite of what Jesus told Thomas, which I say was “latch on, stop being disconnected, lay hold of resurrection life.”

The scripture in John about the morning speaks to another segment of the population, as well. In the morning it was “don’t hold on to me.” After Mary recognized the risen Lord, she apparently fell at his feet and embraced them or hugged him. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

mary do not holdLike many of you reading, Mary was in a condition you might not want to leave. She as not skeptical about Jesus at all, she loved Jesus. She was connectable and she was connected. But she needed to let go of the Jesus she had known intimately as she followed him throughout his ministry after he had freed her from what tormented her. He was moving into what was next and she needed to go with him, not hold on and try to get him to stay where he had been or where she still was.

Some of you have had a great decade. You’ve shown great faith, made faithful choices. You connected to Jesus and his people. Now what? — ride it out at that level for the next 20-30 years? If you meet the resurrected Lord today in that assumption, thinking that tomorrow is going to be like today only maybe better, the first thing he will have to say to you after he speaks your name is to tell you, “Don’t hold on to me.” The same thing goes for the whole church, Circle of Hope has been great, but “Don’t hold on to where we have been,” Jesus says, “move with me into where I am going.”

The paradox that people could be told to latch on at night, right after they had been told to let go in the morning is the kind of thing that makes people not like Easter! It is too mysterious. They get frustrated with the death and resurrection and return to following religious law in one way or another. Today’s the day they do it – glad to be over Lent and the big Easter celebration and ready to get back into what is regular.

I want to follow Jesus and become like him in his death and so become like him in his resurrection. The fact is, just as that sentence shows, laying hold and letting go are both happening at the same time if you are following someone into new territory. With every step, we take hold of something new and let go of something old. As soon as we let go of one thing along the way of Jesus, there is something new to grasp. We don’t “get it,” we follow. I for one have loved that journey and I can hardly wait until next Easter to see what I have discovered about life in Christ next.