Dead and Alive
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11 NIV)
Holy Week has long been my favorite week of worship celebrations because of the variety of visual and visceral ways to remember and in some small way re-enact the passion of Christ Jesus. I loved an annual simple supper; a Seder meal remembering the final Passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples and friends. On Good Friday reflecting on Jesus’ last words from the cross has included the once a year wearing of a black robe (which was the weekly year around standard when I began ministry). Next followed a somber Tenebrae service. Saturday night the Easter vigil started with a fire outside and then the light enters the sanctuary. Then comes Easter Sunday. I looked forward to sunrise service in a cemetery even wearing winter coats with my fingers raw in the cold attempting to lead singing with guitar. There in the cemetery celebrating dawning light in the midst of darkness, life in the midst of death, the promise of resurrection.
From Jesus cleansing of the Temple, “triumphal” entry to Jerusalem, Passover, betrayal, arrest, trial, brutal floggings, mockery, crucifixion, death, and burial to resurrection, we are invited into a highly experiential rehearsal of key events in our Christian faith. These events set the stage for the journey of Christian experience continuing with Pentecost and a personal/communal following of Christ for over 2000 years.
The apostle Paul in his powerful Romans treatise reminds us that Christians do not simply remember past events, we actively participate in the life of faith. We are no longer under and old law of judgement. The New Covenant of forgiveness and new life means that we need not fear judgement or even death. We are forgiven and loved and connected with God in a marvelous new way. We are liberated! Past, present, and future sin is put away as we trust the crucified and risen Christ. Moreover, we are made alive through the Holy Spirit! Forgiveness and Life as an ongoing reality is something to celebrate! John Wesley held that the two most central tenets of Christian faith are “justification by faith” and “the new birth.” In other words, in the cross of Christ we know right relationship with God while the inner working of heart change occurs as the Holy Spirit works Christ’s life within us. And so, John Wesley found his heart strangely warmed by the experiential grace of God, and that transformed his life and ministry. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. And most importantly Christ invites you into this living relationship of transforming love.
Amazing God, thank you for the mystery and grace of the Cross and the empty tomb. May our lives grow in exhibiting the freedom experienced in forgiveness and grace and the joy known through embracing your abundant and eternal life day by day. We pray through the risen Christ. Amen.