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I Believe In the Life Everlasting - April 2, 2017

Luke 24:36-49

It's a little early to be talking about the least in terms of Lent and Palm Sunday and Easter. And yet, I don't think any of us need a spoiler alert...We know Jesus rises from the dead. That's why we can handle the betrayal of Maundy Thursday and the suffering of Good Friday...because we know that's not the end of the story. There's Easter. There's always Easter. There is always the hope and the promise that good things have the final say, not the bad things.

Some of us try to rush through the stories of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

We don't want to be stuck in the darkness of death and suffering...we want the joy and light and celebration of Easter. So we are quick to highlight that death isn't the end of the story.

And in many ways, that's the essence of our faith in general...there is hope. There is life. There is light. There is joy. There is cause for celebration. There is Easter...there is a resurrection. We know that darkness, betrayal, death and suffering happen. As much as we wish they didn't, they still happen. And, because of Christ, we also know that light, forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and hope are possible. And not just possible, but plausible. And that almost makes the suffering tolerable.
Off and on over the last 17 years, I have struggled with depression. It comes and goes depending on what life is handing me. Some bouts have been worse than others. And in one particularly bad season a few years ago, my best friend called every day. I'd ask if it would get better...would the depression stop and she would say, "Yes. I don't know when but yes, it gets better." And she has always been right. She could never give me a specific day and time to look to, but she knew it would get better. Why? Because the darkness and melancholy don't win. Light and life stand victorious. How? Through Christ. He's the victor. He's the one who suffered it all and died and then on the 3rd day he rose again. And he didn't just do that for himself. He did that for us. And he promises us that through his death and sin do not prevail.
I'm afraid I can't make it all make sense, any more than I can make sense of God pre-existing all else and creating everything out of nothing...I won't be able to rationally explain either, but I can say I've experienced life and hope out of the darkest and bleakest situations. I have found reconciliation and forgiveness possible when there was no reason they should prevail. And I have found, every time, that my depression wanes. It's not scientific or methodical. It's mysterious and heavenly. It's beyond reason. Just like the resurrection.

Jesus dying on a cross and resurrecting 3 days later makes no sense. Let's just own that. It makes no sense. It's not plausible, but it was possible and it did happen. And we aren't the only skeptics....even the disciples doubted. Luke 24 tells us, "They were terrified and afraid." The women were afraid. The men were afraid. The disciples were afraid. The Pharisees were afraid. It wasn't something they expected. And it didn't make sense. And yet, in the midst of their fear they also found joy....if it was Jesus they saw if it was Jesus they could touch, who sat down to break bread with them...then life after death was possible. The impossible could actually happen, and that was marvelous.
So, with the disciples and others, we come to see and believe in a risen Christ. We believe in the resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of the body because so many have seen and attested to Jesus' resurrection. Now, when we claim his resurrection, we also claim that through him we can be resurrected.
I want to stop there for a moment. I can't tell you exactly what resurrection of the body looks like...some of us get hung up there...we imagine a resuscitation of our earthly bodies that looks something like the Zombie apocalypse. That's not it. I may not know all the details, but I know that resurrection is not the same as resuscitation. And I know that we are restored to glory...not gory....gLory...the way we were created in perfect relationship with God, where our bodies weren't sick, frail or broken. If we look to Jesus for insight, we will see that he was the resurrection, not resuscitated...that's why the 3 days matter. It means he was dead. Not just kind of dead. So when he was restored to life, it wasn't because he'd had CPR. It was because God resurrected him. And as a resurrected man, he somehow looked different. Mary Magdalene didn't recognize him, she thought he was the gardener. The men on the road to Emmaus didn't recognize him for 2 days. The disciples were terrified and afraid...they didn't recognize him...something was different. Something where he could be known, but somehow looked different. So, we can infer for ourselves that something might also be different. We don't know what age we might be restored to. We don't know what shape our bodies will be in...but we know we will be healthy and whole.
The Apostle Paul tells us this in his letter to the Corinthians:
A rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won't ever decay. It's degraded when it's put into the ground, but it's raised in glory. It's weak when it's put into the ground, but it's raised in power. It's a physical body when it's put into the ground, but it's raised as a spiritual body...And when the rotting body has been clothed in what can't decay, and the dying body has been clothed in what can't die, then this statement in scripture will happen: 'Death has been swallowed up by a victory.'" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54)
We can imagine what we might look like. We can imagine what heaven might be like. But realistically, we don't know for certain. We have the promises of scripture and we have our imaginations. Beyond that, we have to look with hope for what will someday be. We don't reside in the future. We live here. And here, in this moment, is the only moment we are guaranteed to live. So, let us live with hope. Let us live with light and life, and let us share that with those around us. We may be chained with sorrow, a reality this Holy Week is meant to acknowledge and embrace. Sometimes we face the hardest and darkest things, abandoned and betrayed. But that difficulty will not have the final word...for Sunday is coming. In that, there is always hope.


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