Monday, April 10, 2023

A sad change . . .

How sad it is that Easter has moved in our minds from a holy season of our Savior's resurrection to a Sunday and that dominated more by what we eat and the candy found in Easter eggs than the Christ whom death and the grave could not hold.  It shows up in various ways.  From the low Sunday after Easter (at least in comparison with the Easter crowds) to the way everything seems to go back to normal on Monday morning with the old routines of work and school.  It does not have to be that way.

The preaching and teaching of the Church need to be about the resurrection as the foundation of our hope and the resurrection of the body specifically.  Our day has pretty much made its peace with death and no longer aches for the promise of the resurrection or looks forward to new and glorious bodies or a new heaven and earth.  Instead we have already decided that this life is enough -- at least as long as you can live this life pretty much on your terms.  It may even be that we are relieved to surrender ourselves into death when we face the prospect of physical or mental decline.  Why, who would even want more life if that is the kind of life we have?  Furthermore, we have come to terms with death also because we see any future existence more in terms of the great circle of life and a spirit reunion with the other spirits and forces of life sort of like Avatar.  Who needs a God or at least a God who dies or even a God who dies and rises again if you have already decided the virtual life is better than the real one and death may actually be some sort of liberation?

If the person in the pulpit is wise and faithful, he will resist the impulse to move on past the resurrection, the new and glorious bodies Christ wears and has promised to us, and the victory over death that is the key to God's work for us and in us.  Our people are gravely tempted by the promise of living your best life now or making peace with death and we need to preach even more urgently this resurrection and its fruits for our own lives.  Popular talking heads who claim to be pastors have already decided that the resurrection and the resurrection of the body are not all that important.  It is essential that we challenge their corruption of the Christian hope.  Our best life now is a lie and a betrayal of all that Jesus said and did.  It is a shallow gospel and an empty hope that is at best a bandaid for the hurting but without any power or promise to offer anything more than here and now.

Have you gone to any funerals lately (ones outside our Lutheran circles)?  The eulogy has replaced the gospel as the crown of the life of the dead and the only comfort for the living.  We think that the best we can do is to tell stories at the expense of the deceased, laugh through our tears, and go home to go back to making the best of the here and now.  Who needs a Jesus for that?  Who needs a Church?  That is the point.  There is so little of Jesus, so little of His death and resurrection, spoken at funerals it is no wonder that we have called these little gatherings a celebration of the life of the deceased.  While we might have expected this from those outside the Church, it is a fool's errand for those inside the Church to take the same cause and to disdain what Christ has said and done for us.

Easter is not a diversion or a distraction or a party.  It is the risen Jesus standing over the ruins of sin and death and the devil with the promise of a hope more real than death itself.  This is not imagined or imaginary but a new flesh and blood, a new and glorious flesh and blood, and a new and glorious heaven and earth to replace the one whose glory has been fading since Eden.  Christ is risen not in our minds or in our hearts but in flesh and blood and that body He now wears is the key and promise of our own future.

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