[From the Conversation at Spring Lake on “Easter Sunday” 2017]
An Indestructible Life
When the primitive church moved the “gathering day” to Sunday it was out of the understanding and celebration of the Day of Resurrection – the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, the celebration of the empty tomb was every Sunday. The early church taught that a true understanding of the Resurrection was vital to authentic Christianity, for it is the basis for life as a Christian, and as the Church.
Not only that, but the early church lived out of Resurrection Life, daily. They did not simply live in remembrance of the resurrection, but their lives were powered by Resurrection Life. Remembrance defines an historical event that occurred somewhere back in the misty recesses of time. Resurrection Life empowers a living definition, spoken by the living Christ, of what it means to be a Christian and the Church, today. If the Church simply remembers the historical resurrection event then it loses touch with the present power of Resurrection Life.
Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ left the tomb empty by the power of an Indestructible Life. That Indestructible Life, likewise, resurrected humanity in the form of the Church; in the Form of the Crucifixion (the Cruciform). The power of the empty tomb is the power at the center of the life of the Church today. If Christ is resurrected, then Christ is alive. We don’t simply reminisce about resurrection; we live according to its power in Resurrection Life.
Followers as Witnesses, according to the Life of Christ
In the gospel accounts the disciples experienced the Life of Christ. In his first letter, Peter is recorded as saying that the Historical Christ was “benefacting;” that is, “giving gifts and mercy as would a ruler to his subjects.” He said that God preached peace to Israel through Jesus Christ. Peter describes himself (and certain others – i.e., the disciples) as “witnesses” of all Jesus had done, including His hanging from a tree, His resurrection on the third day, and his command to tell others about the good News. In Acts, Peter mentions (speaking from the Jewish Scriptures) that all who believe receive forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus (10:34-43). Where Peter sees followers as “witnesses” to the life of Christ, Paul, on the other hand, calls us “expressions” of His death.
Form of Expression, according to the Cross of Christ
Obviously, for Paul, the life of Christ is an historical fact; but, for Paul, the life of a follower of Christ begins at the Cross of Christ. In his letter to the Romans (6:3-5) he states that anyone identifying with Christ through baptism (the “Christian” identity) has been baptized into His death – the Baptism of Death. The Cross of Christ is the point where we abandon our fallen identity and embrace our new identity in Christ. This identity, however, necessitates a death like His; which death then brings a resurrection in the same power as His. Not because we are a certain few; not because we magically become Jews; but because we have buried, and then died with Christ (don’t miss the burial then death).
In his letter to the Colossians (2:11-14) Paul explains that believers are pierced from within. The “circumcision of Christ” is the killing of the flesh on His cross. As we are crucified with Christ, not in a literal sense for Paul, neither is this spiritual jargon, but in a mystical/organic union with Christ has our flesh, too, been nailed to the cross. As we mystically experience the death of our “natural/religious selves” on the killing cross, God, through the faithfulness of Christ, gives us life from the dead. The fact of forgiveness of sins is effectual for us, not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in the Resurrection Life of Christ in His “form” – the Church.
Resurrection Life – Life for Living the Now, But Not Yet
According to Chapter 3 of Colossians (1-4) this resurrection is not just an eschatological (last things; end times) event, but also a fact of life for the community, today. It is by the resurrection of Christ that we believe we will be resurrected as well (1Corinthians 15), and it is by this future resurrection that we experience Resurrection Life, now/today, as the Community of Christ (Now, but Not Yet). Today, we don’t “remember” the Life of Christ, and attempt to follow him in our natural/religious selves (Eph. 2:3-7), but we experience the Killing Power of the Cross and live in Resurrection Life (Eph. 2:8-10).
Writing to the Philippians (3:10-11) Paul gives us the clearest definition of what it means to express Christ. To “witness” of Christ is to speak of the things He has done, but to “express” Christ is to experientially know Him; to experience the power of His Resurrection Life, being willing participants in His suffering (Col. 1:24) by becoming like Him in His death (the death of the natural/religious self), and finally attaining to the future Resurrection of the Dead, now/today.
This is no self-help ideology. Nor is it a kind of self-denial in the name of Christ. But this is an experiencing of the Resurrection Life, right now/today! This Resurrection Life in the present is the equipping of the church as the full expression of Christ in creation. This Resurrection Life is a guarantee of the future Great Resurrection of the body, entire. And it is the reason for the raising from the dead of Jesus Christ, bodily, to Resurrection Life.