What a wonderful day this second Sunday of Easter has been! We heard the first sermon in a series of three about the raising of Lazarus as recorded in John 11. Alongside this preached word, our Sunday school class completed the final chapter of Mike Slaughter’s book, Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus.
How do you grapple with the meaning of resurrection? It’s a physical historical core principle that Christianity is founded on. Our Christian faith is based on believing that Jesus was raised from the dead. We believe that his death was the penalty paid for, not only our sins but the sins of the world (John 3:16)! Once we accept the proof of Jesus’ resurrection as expressed by the gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, lets move back to Jesus’ teaching in John 14 – which opens with Jesus reassuring us in some fashion, “Let not your heart be troubled; if you believe in God, believe also in me. I am going away to prepare a place for you so that where I am, there you will be also!” We believe and accept that death will transition us from this life to a life with God because of our relationship with Jesus the Christ and his sacrificial death.
Is there an expectation for any impact on our current journey on earth now that we know these things about Jesus’ promises? Do we live into these promises as we await that promised transition to be with Jesus? Yes, I would say we do! We know the story about Peter’s life as it is laid out in the Gospels. He was among the first disciples who walked with Jesus to champion the ideas shared by Jesus but when Peter was given an opportunity to put his words into action, he declined to act favorably to that current ministry that he seems to wholeheartedly embrace (Luke 22:31-34; 60-62). Yet, we find and marvel at how God used Peter to write two letters of encouragement to …
“God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” I Peter 1:1-2
We are among those receiving the promise of resurrection to life eternal, an everlasting life beyond the comprehension of our finite minds and limited vocabulary! Yes, there is a comforting element of Christianity to keep us moving towards the mark of the higher calling by God for us. The model set forth by Peter also brings us front and center with the struggle we all face in ministry, in our call to serve, in our going out and our coming in. You see, we practitioners of Wesleyan theology grab hold of our faith and remember, we are not yet perfect, we are moving on to perfection. Peter helps us acknowledge the ongoing tension between good and evil; light and dark; trust and doubt. But we don’t find relief by denying the obvious. We gain strength by asking God daily to help us and move us beyond the doubts of each day.
We are Easter people! We still sing the “Hymn of Promise” (United Methodist Hymnal, #707). We hear of and live through the impact of parents being taken away in death from their loving children and families. Lord we surely don’t understand. We hear of teens being caught up in criminal activity and causing pain to their birth families and families impacted by their senseless decisions. Lord, we hide our faces in despair and shred tears. Lord, have mercy!
Peter wrote of God’s grace (I Peter 5:12). Wesley reminded us of God’s strategic offering of grace to draw us in close to himself. Through our fellowship with each other, God’s grace calls forth our human response and discipline to our call to serve.
Yes, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and we embrace a renewed hope of faithful trust in God that minimizes the influence of the frailties of our own thoughts and yield a full submission to the fruitful gift of being Easter people. People of the Cross (Luke 9:23)! People of the Resurrected Christ (Acts 11:26)!