"Because Jesus Is Risen!"

(Sermon manuscript from 21 April 2019. The audio file is here)
Because Jesus Is Risen!
Colossians 2.6-15 (Job 19.23-27)
O Lord, who delivers from death, who lifts up the lifeless, who fortifies the feeble, who arouses the apathetic; O come and capture our minds and imaginations, our allegiances and expectations by the blessing of Christ, and the working of your Spirit. Amen

Today many churches and people around the U.S and the world are saying: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! But wait! What if Jesus was only “raised” in the hearts of his followers; what if only the memory of Jesus was resuscitated and infused into the life-stories of his disciples; what if the resurrection of Jesus is simply just a spring time legend (a rehashing of the Horace/Isis myth); what if all that remains of Jesus is the “spirit” of Jesus; what if by “resurrection” we mean only that the timeless-teachings of Jesus still go on; what if the rising of Jesus is only about some fertile freshness blossoming in our hearts? What if…!!! But because Jesus is risen from the dead:

We Live Different (2.6-10): Look at all the “walk in him”, “in him” “Rooted…in him” “filled in him” “alive together with him” language. Because Jesus rose from the dead – body, blood, bones, toenails and hair, no longer under the crushing weight of mortality and misery, then something new, restorative and transformative has entered time and space and history (see especially 2.9-10, “filled [peplaromenoi – crammed full] in him”). We can be emancipated from the determinisms, fatalisms, preprogrammed defeatist scripts of victimization, prejudice, sociological predeterminism, and so forth. We can now live new in our marriages and singleness, relationships and solitariness. We can now function differently in our business endeavors and social activities. We can address our depressions, our physical debilities, our calamities and catastrophes with hope-saturated confidence in the God “who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1.9)! So that we can “abound with thanksgiving” (2.7). Because Jesus is risen from the dead we live different. But we also see different.

We See Different (2.11-15): Because Jesus is risen, we can face ourselves honestly and squarely as rapscallions who need rescue; scallywags who need saving; and scoundrels who need scouring. And, thank God, we are no longer justly condemned for being rapscallions, scallywags and scoundrels, but are graciously liberated from those lifestyles (2.13-14). Further, we now have a new identity – 2.12 (The ancient practice of baptism on Easter…renewal of our baptism; Romans 6.8-11; Galatians 3.26-27). And our baptism reminds us that what Jesus is by nature he has made you by grace! Therefore, the Father says of you what he said of Jesus at his baptism, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased!” We are no longer branded by dignity-destroying Alcoholism and addictions, sexual predations or homosexuality, lethargy and lassitude, victimizing and violating, anorexia or bulimia nervosa, etc.!

And because Jesus is risen from the dead – body, blood, bones, toenails and hair – nevermore subject to mortality or misery, we see our bodies differently! Our Lord became that man, with that body, who bore our sins in that body, was raised with that body, and now reigns by that body! Now, when Paul says, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (2.11), he is not trashing our bodies. “The body of the flesh” is these bodies enslaved to immorality, irascibility, instability, infidelity, insatiability, etc. These bodies ravished and ravaged by the dominating and damning drives of hate, rage, murder, lust, envy, and pride. Thus, being united to Christ crucified and resurrected the power of “the flesh” over our bodies has been snapped in two so that we may know the love of God body and soul! Paul is announcing the good news that our bodies are good, and Jesus has rescued us and is remediating us body and soul! Because Jesus is risen from the dead we see different!

But if it’s not true that Jesus is risen, then none of what I have said is valid; there is nothing new, no way to really break free of the old patterns and old ways. No flourishing in fresh lives. We’re only left with v.8, the vacuous philosophies, empty deceits and self-absorbed human traditions with all of their multi-generational abuse cycles, multi-generational racisms, and multi-generational biological determinisms: the “elemental spirits of the world” (2.8). Then all that is left to us is the empty, barren wasteland of our personal peccadilloes, arresting addictions, and barbaric bullyings – and then we die. If Jesus has not risen from death, then you and I are shackled to the savage, dead-end existence of dog-eat-doggishness (“dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,” 2.13). You and I are trapped in the snare of crawling and clawing out our ruthless, red-in-fang-and-talon-might-makes-right bloodthirstiness – and then we die!

Therefore, I am encouraging you to boldly embrace the historically dogmatic truth that Christ died for your trespasses and was raised for your justification (not metaphorically, not figuratively, not conceptually, but really, physically, bodily, substantially raised); and then to get up and get going to live, relate, talk and risk loving others in that confidence. I urge you to see yourself for what you were (and sometimes still struggle with) and what you are becoming because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection on the 3rd day. If you embrace Christ resurrected, then you can actually confess your sins to those whom you have wronged, you can repair those relationships you have mutilated, you can face the dead-ends of life with the sure and certain confidence that death and deadendedness are not the final word. You can clear your head and bravely confront the tumultuous chaos and turbulent pandemonium raging sometimes in you and sometimes around you. You can lift up your head and look beyond the pain, brokenness, catastrophes, and calamities of your bodies and your world to an unparalleled joy of unending life with God, body and soul! And so, I say to you what the Scriptures say: “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10.9-10). Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


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