Sermon Discussion: on the third day...
Jesus rose again from the dead. - I Corinthians 15:3-8 / 20-28
The topic is more timely than we might first think, because a healthy view of Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead helps us escape some of the prevailing destructive world views that course through the veins of history. Which ones?
1) the notion that we will eventually evolve to a state of collective perfection. This is a difficult view to own with much conviction if one looks at history for the reality is that, while we've evolved in some area (consider the 109 year old African American woman who voted last night - she is testimony to how far our country has come), there are countless areas where darkness continues to grow. Children continue to die of treatable diseases. Should I mention Darfur? Rwanda? Congo? The Middle-East? Cancer? Environmental degradation? How long until we reach the state where, through our own powers of education and value structures, we achieve perfect justice? Apart from Christ, never, that's when, because the reality of human evil is rooted deeply in our individual and collective humanity.
2) the last sentence in point one is the seedbed for a 2nd, equally grievous error: our disengagement from this world as we passively wait for a future rescue by Jesus. Such a faith is not only stripped of all power and relevance for most of the world, it's also rooted in a grave misunderstanding of what Jesus had to say about his kingdom. Nevertheless, being certain that we're not "left-behind" and trying hard to get our neighbors in the lifeboat too remains a high priority for many who claim the name of Christ.
In contrast to both of these views, the early church declared, not a future kingdom of God someday when Jesus returns, but a kingdom present in seed form, so that visible outposts of justice, hope, peace, and generosity could be here on the earth right now because Christ's resurrected body is here on the earth right now. And yet, mysteriously, though He's here, it's equally true that He is yet to come, and that only when He comes in fullness will the reign of Christ be full and complete. On that day, all enemies will be conquered, and all the universe shot through with the glory of God. This "now" and "not yet" mystery is at the core of the bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ. It roots us in a deep commitment to the present while equally calling us to a confident hope in Christ final triumph. Learning to live in this space is deeply connected to my belief in the bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus, as we'll see this Sunday.
1. If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, is your belief rooted more in the right side, or left side of your brain (right = subjective, emotive) (left = scientific, objective)
2. Would Christianity have any value if Jesus didn't rise from the dead? Why or why not?
3. How do you relate Jesus' resurrection to your thoughts at funerals? How does this resurrection affect your politics?