As I alluded to in last week's letter, this week is about a central theological understanding that we are Easter people. Granted, that is a pretty strange term for some. The designation of “Easter people” highlights the significance that we are people of the resurrection. Meaning that we have an understating that death is not the end but a new beginning.
For Christians, we believe that there is nothing to fear in death since our salvation has been secured through the death of Christ. The image life after death is not lost to the timing of the Easter. In the spring as the lifeless winter ends, new life emerges from everywhere, both the new life we like (Flowers) and sometime that which we don’t (BUGS!). All in all, the new life that we are surrounded by is a reminder of the life in which new beginnings are always possible, and sometimes we need to let things go in order see their fullness once again.
It is interesting that in the adult human body between 50 and 70 billion cells die each day. This process is called Apoptosis. When everything is working well the adult will be healthy, but when this happens in exces, this will cause atrophy. Moreover, when an insufficient amount of apoptosis happens, it will result in uncontrolled cell proliferation, such as cancer. This thing that I find so fascinating is the fact that within the body, in order for us to be healthy, we have to die a little each day. How interesting is that? Obviously, as those cells die, new cells are created. I am not a scientist, nor is this meant to be a science lesson; the image here is that for an individual to grow and be strong certain things must come to an end.
When it comes to faith, the same thing is true: there are times when things need to die and times when things needs to be born. The understanding of resurrection as a part of life was not a new message to those who followed Christ. While it is true that many Jews did not, nor still do, believe in a resurrection, some Jews and many Mediterranean cultures had come from a realization of a life that extended beyond this one. They understood and could conceptualize a life that extended beyond this one.
What Christ brought to the belief in the resurrection was how we are to attain that life. What makes the resurrection story so profound is that since He is the sacrificial lamb, all we have to do in return is to give our faithfulness to him and we will be promised eternal life. However, many people struggle with just what faithfulness means and how we are called to live out that faithfulness.
This struggle with faithfulness is often where the religious battles ensue. We often fight over the questions, of how we are faithful, yet the promise that Christ gives is one that points us in a clear direction to a life that is not bound to this world. Thus, we are called to live into the promise and hope of a new life. This means that within the Christian world, a life lived for self-protection and preservation is a life that will ultimately lead to a separation from God. Just think of it as the example of apoptosis, if the cell were protected so that it would not die it could cause horrific consequences. If we do not continually allow ourselves to be made new, we run the risk of being separated from the fullness of life which God wants for us, possibly becoming so separated that we even lose ties to our faith in God.
Remembering that we have no fear of death, we are able to live each day. Moreover, when our time in this world comes to an end, we will live on! We can strive to make community, and to meeting people where they need to be met. Even when it makes us uncomfortable, we know that whatever might happen next is and will always be a Gift from God.
As we listen to the Easter story, we have to remember that we are Easter people; called each day to live fully so that when our days are ended, we can fully appreciate the glory God has in store. In living with God, we must be able to let go, even to let some things die in order that we can live and fully experience God. In true celebration of Easter, we will look upon the empty cross and remember Christ’s victory over death and the promise of life.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen