Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!
This week we declare our confidence in the resurrection of Jesus. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins . . . but in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20). The joy of Easter rings in our worship and in our hearts for another year.
But is this where resurrection confidence ends? No. If Jesus is the firstfruits, then he points toward a full harvest of resurrection. All those who are in Christ are headed for the New Creation where we, too, will be raised from death to life immortal. We look forward to a new, glorified body, fit for eternity, endless beauty, wonder, worship, love, purpose, and joy.
Christ is raised from the dead: we will be raised from the dead. Eternal hope is ours.
But these Christian essentials, glorious though they are, do not satisfy the joy of this season. The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t just guarantee that our faith in him is solid and secure. It doesn’t just guarantee that we will stand before God forgiven and accepted forever. It doesn’t even just guarantee that we ourselves will be resurrected with a new body fit for heaven. It also guarantees that we have a new life now. Today.
Listen to smattering of the many biblical declarations about life in the here and now. “The first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). “. . . always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:10). “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk [present tense] in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness . . . that you may become partakers of the divine nature . . .” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
I’d be surprised if you don’t already fully believe these words. But regardless of your theology, how do you live now? What do you experience internally in your most earnest efforts to do good and follow Christ? How do you resolve battles with sin and temptation? In your deepest doubts and fears, how do you go on? Regardless of your heartfelt desire for any of 1001 expressions of Christian life and faith, do you strive for godliness with an edge of hope, or an edge of self-condemnation?
I ask these questions out of (unfortunately) too much personal experience. But I also ask them out of a renewed awareness that Jesus has brought me resurrection life now. While I certainly am responsible for the inclinations of my heart and will, God’s Spirit (the Helper!) is my constant companion on the journey (Romans 8:13). I am called to cultivate the life of the Spirit, but the deeper truth is that it is a life that already exists, as eager to burst forth as birdsong in spring. Brother Paul spurs me to press on to perfection, but he strives out of the knowledge that “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” God will reveal where I fall short not to condemn me but out of a commitment to complete the good work he has already begun in me (Philippians 2:5, 3:15, and 1:6).
Brothers and sisters, it’s the Gospel truth: the bullies of condemnation, self-recrimination, and hopelessness are shadows that fade in the full light of the resurrection. We are given the life of Christ now, to live out now, for all the days that God grants us on this earth. We live now (as the seal of our Diocese quotes) with “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”
What does this mean about the possibilities for an Eastertide life?
Turn the grinding “I must / I ought to / I am TRYING!” in your spiritual pursuits into “Father, you know that I long to do or be _________. You also know my frame. Help me by the power of your Spirit to walk in your ways.”
Face all temptation with the confidence that our Lord has already faced every battle on our behalf, and the battle has been won. Sin’s power is defeated.
Receive the gift of rest – physical rest, and even more, spiritual rest.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called.” Yield to peace.
Know that every step you take into the work of the Kingdom is a step into the work God is already doing.
Know that the Father is not looking at you with constant disappointment. Instead, know that “the Lord takes pleasure in his people” (Psalm 149:4).
Strive to be who you already are (his daughter, his son) by praying often Jesus’ own prayer, “Not my will but yours be done.” Sit with those words. Let them guide you.
Cultivate the desires of your heart by receiving, and yielding to, life and love.
The lyrics of the song, Be Ye Glad, have long ministered to me. They still lift my heart. Here’s a link to the original group singing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCle-iTWyVU Alternatively, you might enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0IFctGMnfs (though I can’t for the life of me figure out why all five guys in this quintet look so much alike!).
By the grace of God, you who are in Christ are alive forevermore now. You have received the resurrection life of Jesus now. You will be presented to the Father, holy and blameless, by the One who bought you with his own blood, but your life is being transformed toward that end even now: you are even now becoming the living icon of Christ in this world.
It’s all good, brothers and sisters, it’s all good. He is alive, and we are too. Now.