Our resurrection faith

“Christians should always be ready to do two things: They should always be ready to pray. And they should always be ready to die.”

I only heard my bishop say those words once. It was actually an off-the-cuff comment. I could’ve missed hearing them at all. But that one time was enough to fuel my discipleship for years to come.

I suppose there are other activities and realities Christians should prepare for. These two, though, connect to our Bible reading today. Both help us understand an important part of what Resurrection Sunday means to us.

Our readiness for both praying and dying depends upon God’s work in Jesus Christ. Without Christ, doesn’t praying amount to wishful thinking? Without the resurrection, what victory do we have at all? 

The resurrection of Jesus makes us who we are. We are resurrection people. At Easter Sunday, many of us sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!” One of the themes of that hymn by Charles Wesley is the connection between heaven and earth.

Listen to their bond:

  • Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
  • Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
  • Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
  • Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!

By the way, every line from that hymn ends with an exclamation mark. We don’t just sing the word Alleluia. We declare with boldness and excitement our praise to Christ as our exalted head of the church.

As we take the time to reflect on what impact the resurrection of Jesus has on our lives, we learn to do something important. We learn to live in the reality of the connection between heaven and earth.

Remember when Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? That reality shines in the resurrection. That connection between heaven and earth becomes real to us as we pray.

Let’s consider a sports analogy.

When a team develops a winning culture, other teams pay attention. Often, a losing team will pursue a coach from a winning team. The expectation is that winning culture will follow them. The resurrection of Jesus swallowed death in victory! That’s more than a winning culture. Jesus took the sting of death and shook it off.

Again, with his Easter hymn, our brother Charles Wesley helps us understand a part of the resurrection’s power: Christ has opened paradise. Once, we were susceptible to the sting and power of death. Now, the Victor over death has taught us his way.

Instead of us asking Jesus to be on our side, he brings us to his. Knowing that we have his victory, we labor to know Christ and to make him known. That’s what a resurrection faith does. In part, our resurrection faith teaches us that when we’re ready to pray, we’re ready for our work here on earth. When we’re ready to die, heaven awaits us.

Stay blessed…john

Then what?

Growing up, I heard a lot about Johnny Appleseed.

For a short time, that was my nickname. My friends thought it was funny. I remember learning his name as we all studied history. To my young mind, Johnny gave America all its trees. I use to wonder if he ever made it to the shores of Galveston–maybe he planted that tree outside our window.

I know now that Johnny Appleseed is a mixture of reality and legend. Most of what I remember about him likely falls on the legend side.

Several years ago, I read an article about John Chapman. He’s the real Johnny Appleseed. The article talked about his life outdoors and his adherence to a least-traveled strand of Christianity. Johnny shared his faith as he went planting trees. What struck me was that Chapman decided to help build his legend as Johnny Appleseed along the way.

He intentionally shaped the Johnny Appleseed I grew to wonder about.

I’m writing this devotional on Good Friday morning. My church and I haven’t worship today yet. As the cross becomes unavoidable to us, we will tremble. Then, of course, resurrection!

By the time you read this, we’ll have shouted, “Christ is risen!” As a reminder, Easter is an entire season of the church, not only a day at church. So, you should still shout with joy and boldness, “Christ is risen!”

Then what?

Sometimes, it feels like the only thing left over from Easter day is all the confetti from the cascarones. I bet your church had special music yesterday and even decorated the sanctuary in beautiful splendor. There were people there you haven’t seen in a while and everyone had on their Easter Sunday best.

Then what?

The apostle Paul addressed two questions about resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? His response comes as part of a longer conversation about resurrection. As Paul saw it, he was arguing with fools.

How are the dead raised? The simple answer is God. What kind of body? An imperishable one. In a ways, Paul reminds us that Johnny Appleseed didn’t plant apple trees. He planted seeds. Seeds become something different than what they are. Seedtime and harvest remain two distinct seasons.

And so it is with resurrection.

Something changed about Jesus, apparently. People didn’t recognize him and now he’s floating through locked doors. Let’s also remember that Jesus didn’t raise himself. God did.

Before, Jesus had to make the decision to be obedient to God. I don’t see how that was a choice after his resurrection! How can you experience resurrection and not recognize God’s power? Not change?

I’m not saying get rid of the lilies in church or the special music. I do think we can let the fluff of Easter get in the way of resurrection power. I’m asking you to be willing to intentionally cultivate your walk with God. You don’t have to create a legend of yourself. Just consider if you’ve experienced new life as a result of the resurrection of Jesus.

If you haven’t, why not? How do you even know for sure? If you have, then what? If you walked into worship yesterday, how does the resurrection of Jesus make you new today?

Stay blessed…john

SINCErely

I’ve heard it said, “Sincerity is not to say everything you think, but to mean everything you say.”

If you’re insincere, you’re holding back. There’s a feeling you have within you that doesn’t reflect what you’re saying about yourself or your situation. Even what you say about someone else. Insincerity relates to falsehood or being fake. You might hear the word hypocrite as well.

To be sincere, then, is sharing what is true to you. This is why people want to hear sincere apologies or sincere concessions. If you’re not going to mean what you say, others aren’t all that interested in listening.

It’s this same sense of sincerity that the writer of Hebrews commends to us. As a reminder, Hebrews has shared a high Christology. The writer shows how Christ came to be our high priest, prophet and king. Since Christ is all we need, we can trust the faith God has given us.

“Since” is a common thread throughout Hebrews. You’ll read it some eighteen times. All the writer asks of us is possible and worthwhile since Christ is who we know him to be.

And since Jesus is the new and living way we approach God, Hebrews tells us to turn to God with a sincere heart. Other translations call it a true heart.

Taking what we’ve already said about sincerity, let me offer a reflection question. Why do we find it hard to be sincere with God?

Is it our assumption that God sees us as others do? I know why people are insincere with other people. We don’t like to be vulnerable to others. What if we share too much? What if they use all we share with them against us?

That kind of thinking snakes in every community. I know preachers hesitant to share with colleagues their struggles. They fear having tough conversations because they may irritate the system. Then who’s everyone going to blame?

I’m not convinced we can build Christian community with insincere relationships. Oh, we can build something with a Christian name. But it won’t be Christ-like.

Our sincerity with others begins with our sincerity with God. Since is even in the word sincerely. Hebrews reminds us that we can be sincere with the Lord. If you’re insincere with God, you aren’t hiding from God. You’re fooling yourself. There is freedom for your soul in offering God your sincere heart.

I can’t recall who said it, but someone once offered these wise words about who we are: We prefer the slavery we know over the freedom we don’t.

But our faith tells us, perhaps on Good Friday more than any other day, there is a new life for us. By the grace of God, since Christ fulfills God’s promise, you can live in truth and honesty with the Lord. God will never shame your sincerity.

Stay blessed…john