Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday in Easter Week: Meditation on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

We rise from the joy of Easter Sunday to the Monday after. What kind of day will it be? Monday can seem like a descent. In the world which most know, which popular culture reinforces, Monday, the first day of the work week, presses down like a large stone rolled over life. What kind of day will this Monday, the Monday after Easter, be?

Jesus did not die on a Friday – that Friday we know as Good Friday – to redeem Mondays for us and make us happy about them. Yet because he rose on a Sunday – that Sunday we know as Easter – Mondays can never be the same. The week can never be the same. Life can never be the same. On Good Friday the old days died. On Easter Sunday all days became new.

The question is whether – this Monday, this week, and the days which follow – we will live in the new days or not. If yes, how will we live in them?

The answer to both questions lies in death and resurrection. In Jesus’ once-for-all death and resurrection, our old self must die, and our new self rise. Our old days must die, and our new days begin. In these new days, by the power of the risen Jesus in-Spirited within us, we must make choices to give our self to God and to our neighbor in faith, hope, and love rather than mistrust, despair, and hate.

This connects with Paul’s affirmation of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. As Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth, in and by this good news we are saved. Jesus died for us. Jesus rose for us. Not figuratively, but actually. Thus he made life new for us. Not figuratively, but actually. We stake life itself on this good news, or we have heard it in vain. Therefore, we must dwell decisively in these new days, in this new life, by letting our old self die and our new self rise in such truth, beauty, and goodness that we can only begin to imagine. Mondays should never be the same.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How Luminous the Common

how luminous
the common –
of daffodils
lifted up
from bulbs
bound in earth
to mass of green
white and yellow –
this glory-passioned lawn
and morning’s first hour

Happy Easter!

It is for the ills of our mortality as well as our sinfulness that Jesus, in and by God's steadfast mercy and love, suffered and was raised for us. Hence, it is a happy Easter on the least glorious of our days as well as the most.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Meditation from the Seven Last Words of Christ. "It is finished." (John 19:30.)

As he was about to die, Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished.”

Imagine, if you will, that Jesus had said, “I am finished.” That would make sense to us. After betrayal, arrest, rough interrogation and accusation, flogging, and crucifixion, it would have been the normal human thing to think or utter as death neared. It is likely that the other two crucified that day, as well as the many thousands and thousands crucified in the ancient world, despairingly thought much the same on their crosses.

“I am finished.” It is what I would have thought and said were I on that cross. It would have been the gasp of a person giving up in the face of suffering and death. It would have been a resigned or bitter admission of defeat before circumstances and forces – religious, political, social, and physical – which could no longer be resisted.

But Jesus did not say, “I am finished.” He cried out, “It is finished.” Jesus’ exclamation – “It is finished” – was a cry of victory, as one commentator has astutely observed.[1] Following long and excruciating humiliation and suffering, at the brink of death, where all the world would see only utter defeat in its most desperate and stark reality, Jesus declared victory. This is not victory as the world sees it. This is victory as God and Jesus see it.

That little word “it” showed all the difference. When Jesus declared “It is finished” he meant his whole mission on earth was fully accomplished. What God had sent Jesus to do, Jesus did. On the cross, Jesus finished what God intended him to do to overcome sin and death, to restore us to God and to true life.

The way Jesus fulfilled his mission – the “it” of his exclamation – was to take on himself all that separates us from God and destroys us. In obedience to God and love for us, Jesus refused to wield sin and death in the world. Rather, he suffered our sin and our death so that they would be destroyed by God’s life-giving love, first in him, and then in us. By suffering and dying on the cross, Jesus accomplished this mission. As the painfully dying Jesus cried out in victory, “It is finished.”

Now, what Jesus finished on the cross for us, he wants to acconplish in and through us – namely, to live God’s love in the world against the forces of sin and death that seek to destroy us and others. May we, with Jesus, walk in the way of the cross. It may seem like defeat to the world, and even to us at times, but in God’s good purposes it is the way of true life and love.

[1] Newbigin, Lesslie. The Light Has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1982), p. 256.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Some Thoughts on Romans 8:26-30

Many of us (I include myself here) may be sorely tempted, perhaps unknowingly, to a limited and limiting perspective on life. The emphasis is on surface appearances and the immediate context. In this view, present circumstances seem to constitute the sum of existence, of what we can know and expect of life. Hope may wane. Life may frustrate or even terrify.

When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, Nero was emperor, but his pitiless cruelties against them stood nearly ten years away. Still, as we can infer from this letter, those Christians must have already known something of the struggle for authentic faith amid their fitful transformation into holy people, the swirl of competing worldviews and religions around them, and slanderous rumors about their beliefs and lifestyle. Of course, before long they would in fact face the excruciating reality of fierce and fearsome persecution against them for being followers of Jesus in the center of the Roman empire. How did they face those many challenges to their faith, including Nero’s ravages upon them?

Into our various milieus, whether first century Rome or now, the Spirit comes to God’s people, to followers of Jesus, with tenderness and compassion to plumb the depths of our lives, to encourage and strengthen the heart and will, both in the present and with eternity in view. When we cannot articulate our frustrations and fears, our disappointments and sorrows, to God or even to ourselves, the Spirit wells up from the chambers of our being and speaks to God for us. As well, the Spirit flows from the chambers of God’s being and speaks to us for God. We may not fully comprehend at any moment the Spirit’s language of dialogue, but we know on some core level the Spirit’s transaction of love.

Thus in and through the Spirit, communicating and comforting and transforming us, does God work all things for good for us, whether in the present or with eternity in view. Surface appearances and immediate context, though sometimes limited and limiting, even difficult and fearsome, take on holy depth and meaning when, in the Spirit, God’s word speaks to them and from them, when God’s love embraces us in them. Thereby, in-Spirited with divine assurance and hope, we are borne up to bear our circumstances faithfully and well, in likeness of Jesus, in this life and the next.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Brief Thoughts on Romans 5:2b-4

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:2b-4, New International Version.)

We who follow Jesus exult in the eschatological divine splendor which will be ours. But more than this, in this life we exult in our present sufferings, because by bearing and enduring them we stand as proof of God’s love and splendor, now and future. By enduring rather than being done in by sufferings, we confess and manifest that greater reality. Thus God transforms our selves, our lives, into signs, into little sacraments, of the present and future reality of divine grace.