Christ’s Resurrection Light

 

I posted this prayer on Facebook this morning. It was so popular that I decided to add a photo and post it again here. enjoy!

Christ's resurrection light.001

Living into the Resurrection – What Does It Mean?

Mural outside Simple Way

God’s peace is at the centre of our equipping

The focus for my next few weeks will be “Practicing resurrection”. I am starting each morning by asking myself the question: “How do I plan to practice resurrection today?”

This morning I found my thoughts focusing on my images of God’s new world – what I call God’s resurrection created world. What do I think this will look like? Unless I have a clear vision of this world there is no way that I can live into it.

Usually I confine this kind of imagining to Sundays. God’s rest on the seventh day was a rest of satisfaction, when he looked around at all that had been accomplished in the previous six days and said “It is good.” That is the kind of Sabbath rest that we are meant to live into. What I try to do on Sundays (and some Sundays are more successful than others) is relax and rest in the presence of God and God’s shalom world.

I was really inspired some years ago by the Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel who said that the Jews regarded Sabbath as a glimpse into the eternal world. I realized that my Sunday practices looked nothing like what I hope God’s eternal world will look like. So I started to try and realign my Sunday activities to reflect more of what my vision of God’s future eternal, shalom filled world will look like.

Easter tends to be a more successful season for this focus in my life. Thinking of the resurrection makes it easy to reflect on my images of God’s eternal world – A world in which the language is love and the culture centres on mutuality and generosity. A country where there is no more crying or oppression or pain, a place where justice will come for the poor and the sick will be healed, a place where God’s creation is restored and there is abundance and prosperity for all.

This is a world with very different values and culture than ours. In fact I think that many of us will suffer severe culture shock when we enter this world because we have spent so little of our time and energy living in this culture here. 

So this morning I thought about where I have caught glimpses of God’s shalom world in this past week. I got quite excited as I thought about the people I have connected to and some of the friendships I am developing. I was encouraged as I thought about my friends in Parish Collective, The Overflow Project and Mercy Ships and the wonderful work they all do in reaching out to their neighbourhoods and the marginalized around the world. I also experienced a deep sense of satisfaction as I thought about the day Tom and I spent in the garden on Saturday planting the spring garden.

I went to church Easter Sunday very much aware of God’s presence with me which of course made it much easier to enter into the spirit of Easter in the liturgy and particularly in communion. Sunday afternoon we celebrated Easter with a richly multicultural community of friends – a glimpse into the diversity of God’s international family.

I thought too about the things I have done that are not representative of God’s resurrection created world – the times I got irritable with Tom, times I resented sharing the bounty God has provided us with, times I turned away from those who are hurting and in need because I wanted to put my own needs ahead of theirs. Because of Christ’s resurrection we can live in a way that is very different from the culture around us but we need to keep reminding ourselves of what that culture looks like and what we need to do to live into it.

Sunday for me, is always a day to realign my life and all my activities not just to the celebration of God’s shalom future but to how God can use our lives to bring glimpses of that future into our world. Obviously Easter Sunday and this season after Easter, is a very special opportunity to do this.

It is a season for celebrating our restored relationship to God, our reconciliation to our neighbours, our renewed responsibility to steward God’s creation. So why not jump start your celebration of God’s resurrection culture, by spending time reflecting on God’s eternal shalom world, this resurrection created life that God expects us to live into? Get a vision for how your life and your activities could make a difference in the lives of others and in God’s world. We cannot bring God’s eternal world into being by our own efforts but we are meant to live as citizens of that new world and live with the values and customs of that new world at the centre of our lives.

Practicing Resurrection – Being Radical by Brian “Wolt” Wolters

Easter Sunday has come and gone and its time to practice resurrection living! As I mentioned in my post Practicing Resurrection yesterday, Easter is not just a day it is a season, in fact it is the framework for the rest of our lives. Over the next few weeks I plan to share a number of stories of creative ministries and initiatives that do just that. Today’s post is written by Brian “Wolt” Wolters, director of The Overflow Project.  It was first published as Being Radical, Good Friday on the MSA website as part of a series on the Overflow Project. The MSA team are all joining the initiative this year and we hope you will too.

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Over the past several weeks I have found myself coming up with excuses to drive to work instead of ride my bike.  Even before I get in my truck I tell myself, “Oh, one more day of driving and then I’ll start riding my bike,” or even on a sunny day I’ll say “Oh, it may rain today, so I’ll just drive.”

Why is it that we often have good intentions of doing something we think is best, but then opt for something easier or more convenient? Why do we form habits as human beings that prevent us from being radical?

Many books explore these questions. Some prescribe easy “steps” or even “recipes” for breaking out of patterns and molds that develop over time. On the flip side, other materials suggest creating new habits for life change like setting aside time for prayer and exercise daily.

Insert Good Friday.  Jesus’s death on a cross is radical I think.  He does not conform to culture or take the easy, most comfortable option.  He also does not say oh today, I’m going to start “effective habits.”  He even goes against his own desire and chooses to die!  If you want a vivid reminder the horror of his death, pick up the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of Christ.

The reminder of Jesus death on Good Friday inspires me to be more in tune with God’s voice for my life – instead of my own desires –  and explore being radical by forming new habits and breaking old ones. I pray I am who God made me to be and that I my eyes open to see my comfort zones.

I shared these thoughts about Easter with MSA last year, and am just as excited about The Overflow Project’s initiative this year.  The opportunity is great: to join with others in a unified effort to live with a little less and be able to give a little bit more, following the mold of Jesus death on the cross and celebrating on Easter his resurrection.

Perhaps today is a day to break a habit or start a new one. Jesus leads us in His way and with His death.

An opportunity to celebrate his resurrection on Easter exists.

Join in a challenge for the 50 days of the Easter season.


This is the fourth post in a Friday series about The Overflow Project that was published on the MSA blog, leading up to the 50 Day Challenge starting on Easter.

Periodically during the 50 days, various Challenge participants with share how they are taking the challenge and what they’re learning.

If you decide to take the challenge, please register on their page and share your story!

The Overflow Project is an initiative committed to a new way of living, a way of living that breaks down the walls that divide rich and poor. Using a 50-Day Challenge, The Overflow Project helps individuals, groups and churches simplify their lives in order to give generously. Donated funds provide clean drinking water – a vital resource for community and economic development.

Practicing Resurrection

Celtic cross Iona Abbey

Celtic cross Iona Abbey, Scotland

Its Easter Sunday, for many of us the culmination of our faith, the day for which all of us have waited, hoped and longed for. For many of us this seems like the end of the story, at least that is what you would think by the way we act during the rest of the year. Easter Sunday comes, we give our shouts of Alleluia, sing a few songs of praise, and then we pretty much go about life as usual. Tomorrow we will wake up, drink a cup of coffee or tea, and as I said in a previous Easter post What Have We Done with Jesus, go back to our pre Christ encounter jobs totally unchanged by all that Jesus has said and done.

Easter Sunday is not an end but a beginning. And it isn’t just a single day, it is a whole season that extends until Pentecost. How could we possibly celebrate the wonder of God’s new world which was ushered in by the resurrection, in a single day? And how can we possibly confine the practice of this incredible event to a short church service.

This is the season to practice resurrection, the time to go out and not just shout about the new life we have in Christ but to live it. Jesus resurrection transformed his  disciples. They left homes and families and jobs to live radically different lives. They sold their property and shared it with others. They looked after the sick and cared for the marginalized, and guess what, this small band of disciples became a world wide movement that still transforms lives today. What difference has it made in our lives?

In my study guide Celebrating the Joy of Easter, I ask

What kind of God do we want to incarnate to our world? Is it a God of love and compassion who leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to rescue one that has gone astray, or one who constantly accuses those who do not follow God’s ways? Is it a God who gets his hands dirty by entering, in a very personal and human way, into the pain and suffering of our world, or one who inflicts pain and anguish as punishment for our sins? Is it a God who celebrates life with enthusiasm by turning water into wine at a wedding, or one who strips us of our joy by placing heavy burdens on our shoulders? Is it a God who hears our cries and brings justice for the poor and oppressed, or one who stands aloof and indifferent to our pain?

Easter is the season to show others what kind of world we believe Jesus resurrection ushered into our broken world. It is a season to get out and practice hospitality, compassion, love, healing, generosity and care for creation. It is a season to show by our words and actions that we really do believe Jesus is indeed alive and is transforming our world… through us!

Even Resurrection Pauses For Sabbath Rest

Photo by Monette Chilson

Photo by Monette Chilson

It is Holy Saturday, that day between death and resurrection when most of us pause to draw breath. What did not occur to me until I read these words Even resurrection pauses for Sabbath rest, in the Episcopal Relief and Development Lenten guide this morning, that today, for the Jews is indeed the sabbath day. This full day of Jesus time in the grave is the day into which all their hope and longing for the future is poured. A day to look forward with anticipation to the day when God does indeed make all things news.

The last words that Jesus cried before his death are It is finished. The work that God has sent me to do is done. It is indeed time to pause for rest, but what is God’s sabbath rest all about? Sabbath rest is not a rest of exhaustion, a pause before we get going with the next busy thing. Sabbath rest is a rest of fulfillment, of satisfaction for a job well done and as I sit here this morning I can well imagine God resting in the satisfaction of the amazing job that Jesus had just completed.

For the Jews Sabbath also carries with it a sense of longing and promise. It is the culmination of their week, that day on which they hoped to glimpse God’s eternal world and on this Sabbath rest 2,000 years ago they did glimpse it, though they did not know it. As Jesus entered Hades and released those who had died, the first signs of God’s resurrection world emerged in expectation of the fullness of God coming into the world on Easter morning.

Why Do I Believe in the Resurrection?

From head to heart

Do you believe in your heart?

Yesterday I received an email from a friend who told me they were not sure that they believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus. I was surprised because this person has a strong Christian faith. And I know that if I scratched the surface of many of my friends I would find the same doubts and struggles. In fact I struggle with this myself sometimes.

Why then do I (at least most of the time) believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and that because of that I want to commit my life and future to him? As a young Christian my belief in the resurrection was a purely intellectual belief. I believed because I read it in the bible and because theologians I respected told me it was true. I knew in my head that Jesus had risen from the dead, believing it in my heart was another matter.

There came a point in my life when this intellectual faith was not enough. As I struggled to make sense of my experiences in refugee camps and in communities of poverty where kids died every day from malnutrition and easily treatable diseases, I needed a dimension to my faith that intellectual knowledge just did not provide. That was when I cam across the writings of Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster and others whose deep heart centred faith inspired and enriched mine.

Part of what they helped me see was that heart knowledge is far more profound than head knowledge. Heart knowledge comes not in the place of discourse and reason but in the place of silence and contemplation. I started to see that unless I intentionally took time to draw aside and immerse myself in the presence of God, my doubts and uncertainties would grow and my faith would eventually crumble. My confidence in the resurrection of Christ has grown over the years, not because I have immersed myself in theology but because I have learned to immerse myself in God an allowed the resurrected to Christ to take up residence in a bigger and bigger part of my heart and my life.

Something else that has rooted my faith in the resurrection of Christ in recent years is my growing connection to the story of God as it lived out in the garden. At my seminars on spirituality and gardening I always tell participants We read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but experience it every time we plant a seed and watch it burst into life. I think that one of the reasons that God entrusted the stewardship of creation to us is because it is in tending what God has made that we most intimately connect not just to the creator but to the creator’s story.

More than that God’s story of life, death and resurrection is lived out in the very fabric of our being. Our bodies are constantly living and dying and rising again. When astronauts first went into space, one of the problems they faced was the sloughing of their skin cells as the epidermal layer of their bodies rapidly died and replaced itself.

It is good for us to doubt the foundations of our faith. These doubts however should not move us away from God but encourage us to explore those deep and inner places in which we are assured once more of God’s faithfulness and love. Trust in the story of God, though founded on intellectual knowledge will never survive on that alone – the wisdom propounded by the people of this world is totally inadequate to understand the holy creator of our universe and the story that is being lived out in our midst through the power of the risen Christ.

So my question today is: How do we move from head knowledge to heart certainty? How do we encourage each other to move our understanding of God from intellectual assent to indwelling presence?

April Synchroblog – What If Jesus Did Not Rise

resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection of Jesus

For the April 2012 Synchroblog, we are exploring the question,“What if the resurrection is a lie?”

Make no mistake, we are not challenging the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. We firmly believe in the historical reality of the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

But we also know that soon after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians were accused of inventing this story. Some critics claimed that Jesus never died. Others said that the apostles stole the body of Jesus from the grave. Today, there are countless millions of people who still believe that the resurrection is a hoax.

Here is a list of bloggers who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. If you participated, please include this list of links on your blog!

If the resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?

Stained glass window

Stained glass window

This post is my contribution to the April synchroblog The Resurrection Hoax.

If the resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different? How would I be different? Would it matter? I have spent a lot of time over the last few days thinking about these questions.

In some ways it is hard for me to conceive of a life which does not revolve around my belief in the resurrection of Jesus. I became a Christian as a teenager, entered medical school because of that decision and then went into medical missions because I believed that was what God wanted me to do with my life. Resurrection living is part of the fabric of my being. It gets me up in the morning, it inspires my day and it sets my priorities in all that I do.

I think resurrection life is part of the fabric of all humankind whether we believe in Jesus or not. The ways of God are written on our hearts. Without the resurrection there is no life in our world at all. Every act of kindness, every gesture of love, every tear of compassion proclaims that Jesus resurrection life is active in our world, transforming what is broken into wholeness, what is captive into freedom, what is despised into love.

Would my decisions have been different if I did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus? Some would have been, others would not. Fundamentally what would have been different is the motivation for my life. Belief in the resurrection has inspired me to be concerned for others and not just myself, that I suspect is something that I know does not come from me but from God.

Would the world be different if the resurrection did not happen? I like to think so. The resurrection gives us love and compassion. It gives us joy and peace, and it places within us an ache for the hurting and the forgotten, for the poor and the suffering. And more than anything it gives us hope that one day God’s dream for a restored world of peace and love and abundance and wholeness will come into being. Without the resurrection I am not sure that these things would ever be attainable.

Resurrection Has Come – Are We Really Ready for It?

easter Morning - He Qi

Easter Morning - He Qi

Some of you may have noticed that I have not been posting much in the last few days. I have been laid low with one of the worst cases of flu I have had for a long time. Definitely ready for a season of resurrection. The fact that Seattle’s weather has been bursting with warmth and sunlight has certainly helped. And the daffodils, tulips and flowering shrubs are magnificent. The spirit of resurrection is definitely in the air.

Much of my reflections in the last couple of days have revolved not around Easter Sunday but around Easter Saturday. It has never really occurred to me before that this day was the Sabbath, the day that all Jewish people saw as a celebration of God’s new order. Yet for Christ’s followers there would have been no celebration that Easter Saturday. Their expectations of a new kingdom in which God’s people reigned triumphantly had been shattered. Their hope for the restoration of Israel had not become a reality.

What was very hard for Christ’s followers to realize is that God was doing something totally new. They were expecting restoration of the old order of things. God was bringing resurrection and a totally new order into being. In some ways the  disciples still hankered after the fleshpots of Egypt. They were hoping for the establishment of an kingdom that looked very much like the roman empire only with them in power. God was bringing a totally new kingdom into being – a kingdom in which justice and righteousness reigns, in which the poor are fed and the captives set free, in which the sick are healed and abundance comes for all people.

How often do I miss the ways of God because I am looking for restoration of the old rather than resurrection of something totally new? How often do I cling to old expectations and struggle to embrace the new ways of God? In some ways I feel that our whole world is in this situation at the moment. The economic and political turmoil of these last few years are giving birth to something new but we are still hoping to go back to the old. And unfortunately much of the new is not good news for those who really need to see a new world of justice and abundance come either.

In the last few years the gap between the richest and poorest people has grown in most wealthy countries, but particularly in the U.S. In some ways even more concerning, the education gap has also grown meaning that poor people are less and less likely to be able to move out of poverty. we see the same trends in health too and those who live in communities of poverty in the US and UK can expect to live 10 years less than their more wealthy neighbours.

So my question this is Easter season is not so much how will I view the resurrection but how will I enable others to enter into resurrection life? The celebrations of the Sabbath day called for rest and provision for all – people and animals alike – because this was seen as a preview of God’s coming world in which all creation would be provided for. We are still a long way from that day. What will we do in this season of resurrection to help bring it into being?

Looking for Healing When God’s Plan is for Resurrection

Sculpture Seattle Center

Seek resurrection not healing

Yesterday in my post Where there is no hope in God’s Promises I talked about the friends I know who are struggling in hard places wondering if and how God is present.  It was in fact just one of a series of posts from the last couple of weeks on this theme.  The others are:

Whatever Happened to Thomas – When Doubt OVerwhelms Us?

The Promise of Hope

Are We Deaf to Silence

These have been some of the most popular posts I have written over the summer, partly I am sure because I have shared my own struggles but also because many others are in the same place of struggle.  Our lives and our emotions are as volatile as the stock market has been over the last couple of weeks.  But when we struggle what do we do?  How do we struggle through the birth pangs that invariably accompany resurrection?  How do we find again the hope in our salvation that God intends to be the lifeblood that sustains all our efforts?

There are of course no simple solutions, but fortunately there are practices that can bring us into the place of peace and joy that God intends for us – and some of those practices are not what we think.

When Elijah fled into the desert because of his fear of Jezebel God did not start with spiritual activities – God started by giving Elijah rest and food, a very good place for all of us to start when we are in tough places.  So here are some suggestions:

  1. Get plenty of sleep.  When we are down and struggling and not sleeping our perspectives get distorted.  Sleep is rejuvenating not just to our bodies but also to our souls
  2. Eat the right food.  We react to stress and struggle either by binging on comfort food like chocolate or by stopping eating all together.  Neither of these responses are good for us.  A balanced and nutritious diet can go a long way in restoring our tattered equilibrium
  3. Spend time outdoors and get plenty of exercise.  These usually go hand in hand.  Walking, running gardening, swimming (in the sea not an indoor pool) are all ways to connect to God’s good creation and the energy that such connections make for us.
  4. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles.  Fear is one of the most gripping and demoralizing of all emotions.  It saps of our energy, it paralyses our minds and often results in panicked responses that are nothing like what God intends.  But when we share our fears with others their support and encouragement is often all we need to overcome it.
  5. Listen to the silence that God stirs up within us but also to the wisdom of friends, colleagues and consultants.  If God intends resurrection when we are looking for healing then we may not be very open to the new ways that God plans to move.  In the last few days I have talked to a number of friends whose advice is I am sure part of the wisdom that God wants to impart as we seek a way forward
  6. Move forward in company with friends.  I think that one of the most powerful lessons God is teaching all of us at the moment is that we are not isolated individuals.  We walk the journey towards God as part of a great company of Christ followers – we walk together with those who have gone before, those who surround us now and those who will come after.  And some of those who walk with us have wonderful stories to tell of the resurrections God has accomplished in their lives.  Listen to them, draw encouragement from them.
  7. Pray – and I don’t mean intercede telling God what you want and how you think it should happen.  Sit quietly in the presence of God reminding yourself of the ever loving ever caring One who never leaves not forsakes you.  Spend time soaking in God’s comfort and compassion.  Allow God to speak to you in the silence of the moment.  Open yourself to the power of God’s resurrection life transforming and making you new.