by Brad Duncan
I think I see Jesus differently than other people. Sometimes I feel out of place, to be honest, when people are talking about him and doing the things they do to honor him. I don't want to offend, and I certainly don't want to judge or force someone else to think or believe the way that I do.
But what a person sees, they cannot un-see. Just like Saul on the road to Damascus, when you see Jesus it changes you. It's meant to! The right thing to do is to let Jesus transform who you are, shifting and remaking you as a person, so that you can reflect his nature in the way that you carry out your life. Jesus is like that! Dynamic. In motion. Alive. ALIVE! Alive in me!
And for me the right thing to do is to write it down and try to describe it. I suppose I have a unique perspective -- it makes me feel out of place, but it also makes me feel alive. Let me tell you what I see:
I often feel out of place with traditions. So much of celebrations and traditions are focused on re-creating a moment in the past, when something happened or when someone did something. We use often vague symbols like Easter eggs in a basket and a cross on the wall to tell us about the story of Jesus. We may sing a traditional song and cook a traditional dinner, and voila! We are capturing a moment in time, so that we don't forget it.
Even Jesus told the disciples to do this on the last supper -- when you eat the bread and drink the wine, do this in remembrance of me -- and I think he didn't want them to forget. But more than not forgetting, Jesus wanted his disciples to be empowered in their daily lives. Through the life-giving force of his body symbolized by the bread, Jesus wanted the disciples to be strengthened and healed in their physical lives, empowered to take action, encouraged in their times of fear and pain, and carried through the tough times in the loving hands of their Father. Even more-so, through his blood, symbolized by the wine, Jesus offered a total transformation of spirit, soul and mind -- entry into new life lived in interaction with God.
Today, we are the disciples. The symbols of bread and wine were meant to provoke us into LIVING! When we feel that we live in dark times, we are to embrace the true life that Jesus offers. Jesus is active in our lives and he offers very real and material help, strength, guidance, and healing. He takes care of us in ways that we cannot take care of ourselves. Even more-so, Jesus is breathing new, transforming life into our spirits, waking up what is dead, bringing us into the life that he always intended for us.
Life is now! In our church service this week, I was reminded that the resurrection of Jesus was not just an event. As Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life!" -- instead of being something that happened to Jesus, it is something that Jesus is doing. He owns it! He is it! Jesus is actively resurrecting, bring life to things that were dead. Isn't that the gospel message? Not just a belief in something that happened, as if a box is to be checked on our spiritual resume, but rather, isn't the gospel the good news of life itself? Life that can transform our struggle and pain? I need that life,
I feel out of place with heaven. Ok I said it. It's not that I don't believe that life is eternal. The spark of life that I see in this earthly body is, to me, so much more than cells and electrical impulses. There is a spirit there. There is life there! And just as I fully believe in God surrounding me and living in me, I don't believe that either God or my own spirit is bound by time. But life is not about death and "after-life". Life is LIFE -- a steady stream of light that needs to happen now, not wasting time and thoughts on re-living the past, or waiting for the future.
The words we use to describe God are transcendence and imminence. God is both above us and with us. But both of these words are about the state of our spiritual life NOW -- we live in association with the eternal God, who gives us life, who is resurrecting us now. Life is happening -- don't miss it!
So, I guess what feels disconcerting to me about too much emphasis on traditions, is that it feels that we could try to find comfort living in the past, but avoid facing (and enjoying) the life that is right in front of us. And what feels disconnected to me about living for an eternity in heaven is basically the same thing. It feels that we could try to to find comfort in future release from pain and worry, but avoid jumping headlong into the current storm, facing the figurative death that is eating away at our time and resources in this moment.
I know for me, I need to see Jesus resurrected, every time I look in the mirror. I need his life-giving body to bring me strength. I need his transforming blood to awaken my spirit. I need his perspective to help me see life today for what it truly is -- a very limited opportunity!
So use each breath, for all it's worth! Live in the resurrection that Jesus brought. Listen to the good news that death in the here and now has been vanquished, and that life with God is happening now.
History is meant to guide us, but as we all know, in many ways the challenges we have to live today may have no equal in past experience. Sometimes history has nothing to say that can help me. I need new and fresh interaction with God, that may not have precedent in past stories.
The future (the certainty of heaven) is meant to bring us hope, but that hope is to strengthen me today so that I can bring a better future into existence. I need to love those around me, show compassion and speak the truth today so that a better future will come from the life that I am living.
I suppose it's human nature to live in the past, or to have our head in the clouds, trying to find comfort from life in another place and time. It's also human nature to look away, to avoid facing the storm that lies right in front of us. It's human nature to fear, to shrink away, to undervalue our contribution to changing things. It's human nature to die, a little bit every day. But that's why we need the resurrection! We need human nature to be re-imagined into what Jesus saw when he designed us.
Will you let him wake you up? Will you let him bring you a little bit more into life every day?
Until you see him looking back at you, when you glance in that mirror?