Giving Up Life and Death, Old First E-pistle 03.27.13

Giving Up Life and Death, Old First E-pistle 03.27.13

Even the title of the E-pistle seems backwards — that one has to give up life in order to be able give up death. But that’s the promise of faith, counter-intuitive as it might be.

God creates life ex nihilo, “out of nothingness” as surely as from our hopelessness and from all the dead places in us, in our communities and in our world. The Bible is full of such paradoxes… miracles, really– for no other reason than God is God.

For people familiar with Christian faith, this may be a fairly common idea, even understood, but rehearsing it never hurts.

And, as a church that is trying to engage people without much experience or understanding of what Christian faith offers, this might sound new and a little hard to grasp.

As Jesus tells it: trying to hold on to, preserve or save our lives is counterproductive. It leads to death. Whereas those who give up their lives for others begin really living. Huh?

Abundant living, Jesus is suggesting, can’t be focused too much on one’s own needs. Instead, it’s about thinking of others, and how we can help with their needs. Instead of a small life revolving around or being all about you, Jesus coaxes, invest yourself in a life expanded in service to others.

You can try and figure the economics of it all out. You can say its absurd, impossible. Pie in the sky. Utopian. Or you could just let go of all the pride and fighting involved in having to be in control and go with it. See where it takes you…

We are so used to thinking of life in terms of our efforts, of what we can accomplish, of where we stop and others start, of boundaries, fixed beginnings and ends. But the story of Jesus calls us to throw away our old categories of limitations and fears.

Easter calls us out of our hiding and shadows and death… to embrace God and possibilities well beyond us and our capacities. A larger vision; hearts that can keep giving; time as eternal; abundant life that begins here and now.

Jesus’ generosity to us despite the suffering cost him is intimately tied to his rising on Easter morning. More than some showy miracle to engender fear in his attackers and awe in his followers, in Jesus’ rising, God was righting the universe that had become and is still so often misordered.

Resurrection promises that not even Death has the last word. Because the last word — whether you hear it as hope or grace or love — that last word spoken from God’s mouth is Life. Suffering and Death end, but God’s Reign lasts forever.

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14 — Have you ever seen life come from death?

Read John 11:1-45 — Do you know death some place in your life? Could Jesus lead out of that tomb?

Read John 20:1-18 — What’s the turned-around promise of life coming from death mean for you?

See you in church (maybe for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter?!),

Michael