“I Remember the Day…”

Writing admission essays to seminaries is, in small ways, declaring your identity. In the act of answering questions or prompts, you find yourself defining what you believe as concisely as possible and mapping out what you hope to achieve with a degree from the seminary you’re applying to. Who I am and what I hope to do have been milling through my mind a lot recently, which I think is why I haven’t written anything for a small while. Yet during Sunday morning’s message from Scott Lamb, I think I finally got something settled.

He was speaking out of John 3:1-8, a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. This is also a passage I had studied a while back when I was writing a research paper on Christian baptism. Although most of the scholars I read who had commentary on this passage said Jesus wasn’t discussing baptism in literal terms, it’s still an important passage for Christian identity. As Scott told us Sunday morning, there is more going on in what Jesus says to Nicodemus than baptism or any religious rite for that matter.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3

Such a puzzling thing to say. You see, Nicodemus didn’t inherently understand Jesus as saying that one needs to become a Christian in order to see God’s kingdom; “born again” did not yet equate with “Christian” – if “Christian” was even a term used in their time. So what on earth could Jesus possibly mean by telling Nicodemus he needs to be “born again”?

Something Scott mentioned later in his message gave me a clue. He was talking about identity and how we try to find it in strange places. He said, “Do you find your identity in what you can do or do you find it in what Jesus did?” In other words, do we try to find our identity by what we do, what we have, who we’re friends with, or what people say about us? Or do we find it in what Jesus did, what He has, who He is, and what He says about us? Being born again isn’t simply getting baptized; it is accepting Jesus’ words over us.

Earlier, before Scott’s message, we sang a song that hits pretty close to home for me. A couple years ago I was on a retreat with Cross Training and when we sang that song, which I had only heard a couple times before, I had certain flash backs to earlier points in my walk with God. The song is called “I Remember,” and it was written by a few folks from Enter the Worship Circle and mostly by a man named Aaron Strumpel. According to their website, the song was inspired by Psalm 77, which, after reading it late last night, I have found to be a wonderful declarative statement. As for the song, though, its words and melodies struck chords in my heart as we sang on that retreat two and a half years ago.

“I remember the day You called my name, You said I was Your child” reminded me of the night I had been praying at another retreat and saw visions of myself as a child running into my Father’s arms – a sensation I had never experienced. It was a night I wept for joy at being named a son of God.

“I remember the day You wrote the words, You wrote the book of love” stirred deep emotions over the numerous times I’ve read verses and passages that moved me beyond words and drove me into deeper studies of God. As many of you know, I love to read, but there has never been nor ever will be a text that evokes so much emotion and intrigue out of me as the Bible does. I know it’s confusing and mysterious and sometimes outrageous with what it says, but I love it. I cannot not read it.

“I remember Your deeds, O Dad, my God, I think I’ll trust in You” stirred so much in me that night. “Your deeds” sent a flashback to the night in middle school when I sat alone in my room with a pair of scissors in my hand ready to kill myself. “O Dad my God” is such a painfully wonderful phrase. Painful because I’ve never called anyone “dad” and wonderful because I get to call God my dad. Even writing about that last line now simply stirs so much inside me.

Heading into Scott’s message, I was already emotionally engaged due to that song. So when Scott asked us if we find our identities in what we do or in what Jesus did, I knew what Jesus was talking about when He said we need to be “born again.” Whatever we were, whatever we had, whatever we did, whatever other people once said about us (and we believed) – it’s been tossed in Jesus’ empty tomb. We are sons and daughters of God.

“If there’s anything you take away from today’s message – know that Jesus is desperately in love with you. And that is all you need to know,” Scott told us yesterday.

We live today because God loves. He loved us before the world saw the light of day, before sin came along and messed it all up, and before we decided to turn away from Him. He loved us in the most crucial moment: on the cross, begging that we be forgiven for we know not what we do. So whatever job we have, whatever profession we give ourselves, or whatever degrees we may attain – we are sons and daughters of God.

Our identities begin and end with Him. Not us.

“Doves You send to fly overhead/My son I am so well pleased,” – “I Remember,” Enter the Worship Circle

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?” – Psalm 77:11-13

God bless.

Ever Present, Ever Patient God…

Not to steal the thunder from the mothers of the world or from my little sister who turns 20 today (Happy Birthday Jessica!), but today is also the day I was baptized. Eleven years ago in a small church in Lincoln City, I stood in swim trunks and a t-shirt in front of some 40 or 50 people (15-20 regulars, the rest visitors) on Mother’s Day dedicating my life to following the Lord. Last year I wrote a post reflecting over the ten years I had been a Christian and in that post, I mentioned how it felt longer. This year, I’ve been wondering why that is.

Believing and trusting in God has had an odd affect on how I think of the fourteen years prior to my baptism. Having grown closer and closer to the Lord over the past eleven years, it is difficult to remember those earlier years without seeing God in the picture. It’s like watching a highlight reel of all the significant moments of my life and finally noticing the Figure in the background, watching over the characters in the foreground. Instead of seeing a fourteen year-old kid sitting alone in his room with a pair of scissors pointing toward his chest, I see the strong, but gentle Hand gripping his wrist and pulling it away until he dropped the scissors.

Simply because I have acknowledged God’s presence for eleven years doesn’t mean He’s noticed me for only eleven years also. He was there all along waiting – waiting for the right moment when He knew I’d be listening, when He knew I’d be paying the most attention. God waited fourteen years just to have these last eleven with me. And He would have waited longer in order to have a shorter time. That is the kind of God He is.

Seeing God in all the horrible moments of my past, in a weird way, gives me courage. Sure, it beckons the question of why He was there during my worst moments, but did nothing to prevent them, but it also tells me He’ll be there when I experience even worse things. And perhaps if I think of those moments long enough, if I freeze the highlight reel and simply notice everything going on at the time, maybe I’ll see how He was doing something – how He was preventing even worse things from happening. Maybe I’ll see and recognize those moments, as Sheldon Vanauken describes them, of “severe mercy.”

Our ever present, ever patient God never stops waiting. Even after we’ve dedicated our lives to following Him and living out His ways, we get busy. We take up jobs and causes or we marry and raise families or all of the above and all our free time is spent on our to-do lists and projects. In these seasons God is often pushed to the back burners, often told – whether we realize it or not – to wait a little longer. But then bills start piling up or a loved one gets hurt and hospitalized. Soon after that some other bad thing happens and we start to worry how we’ll make it through. We become so fixated on what’s happening now that we forget what happened back then and we certainly don’t see how things will happen down the road.

In the past couple of weeks, I have felt that worry. As some may know, I am hoping to attend seminary in the fall of this year and what I’ve been wondering about lately is how much I’ll owe in student loans. And then I think of car expenses and medical expenses and credit card debt and I begin to feel suffocated by worry. Such a time is critical to remember God’s presence in past moments. If He was there that night when I wanted to end my own life, what reason do I have to believe that He would not be there to help me find a way to pay back the money I owe? Why do I have this unspoken belief that I’m alone in this?

God is waiting, even now, for us to turn to Him for help, for guidance, for peace. He doesn’t want to remove our problems and trials; He wants us to hold His hand as He walks us through them – as He helps us overcome them. Believing and trusting that He’ll appear in tomorrow’s highlight reels is tough. Seeing Him again and again in yesterday’s highlight reels, even before I was consciously aware of His presence, makes it a whole lot easier.

Worry, fear, and distrust are all natural emotions. When it comes to trusting God, we feel these emotions all the time because we’re learning how to let go of the control we think we have. We’re learning to wait on God instead of making Him wait on us. Our nature is changing.

This morning Scott shared a message out of John 2 focusing on the wedding at Cana. He told us a couple important pieces of information that aren’t really spelled out in the text. He said that wedding celebrations would often last a week or so, which meant that all the supplies (food and especially wine) would have to last that long. So when Jesus’ mom tells Him that the wedding’s run out, it’s safe to say she was a little concerned for the families involved; they would have both been embarrassed.

Of course we all know what happens next, Jesus turns a bunch of water into wine and saves the party. But, as Scott pointed out this morning, notice what Jesus says to His mom, Dear woman, why do you involve me?… My time has not yet come, (2:4). In other words, Jesus is reminding His mother who He really is and that His public ministry was not ready to begin. So when she tells the servants, Do whatever he tells you, she’s actually acknowledging that Jesus is going to help in His own way. He’s not going to buy more wine; He’s just going to make it.

In the midst of Mary’s concern (and presumably the concern of all those who knew the wine had run out), Jesus makes a lot more and makes it better. He responds to worry with celebration. We’re constantly trying to do things our own way and create our own realities as if we were J. Gatsby, but the real celebration – the one that comes free of worry or anxiety – is the one where God takes control. While we’re trying to create bread crumbs, He’s waiting with baskets full of bread loaves.

In 25 years of living, I have known God. It took 14 of those years to notice Him, but looking back I now know he was there all along. Now the trick is to remember He’s still there when things get crazy, when the wine runs out.

May we never forget God’s everlasting presence.

God bless.

Reflections of a Ten Year-Old…

Believe it or not, I’m only ten years old as a follower of Christ (baptized May 12th, 2002). Yes, I understand that years do not really equate to spiritual maturity (neither positively nor negatively), but it feels strange to me that I’ve only been a practicing Christian for the past ten years. It feels much longer.

I’m in a very weird spot in my tenth year of Christianity – spiritually speaking anyway. Actually, I’m in a weird spot in life also; I have a degree and two jobs, but I know I want something more – I just don’t know what “it” is. But regarding my spiritual life, I have no home church. In the previous nine years, this was never the case.

Of course, it runs much deeper than simply not having a home church; I’m still getting over the changes made with the last church I was a part of (Calvary Fellowship). I still wish my old pastor was in town and preaching. I still wish I was helping with the leadership staff. And I still wish I was able to discuss theology so openly.

It’s not that every church I’ve gone to in the past five and a half months doesn’t discuss theology; it’s simply that I’m nervous about discussing controversial issues. The things I’d like to discuss might make everyone else nervous because it might be attacking the very foundation of their beliefs. And yet I’m eager to break it open and talk about it. I just no longer have the atmosphere I had with Danny and Calvary Fellowship.

Even though I feel as if I don’t have a home, I must reconsider what I’ve learned in the past ten years – if anything at all. I must reconsider what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God rather than one specific church. I must reconsider how that identity then affects my life in this world (politically, socially, and economically). And I must reconsider what this race we run is all about – speed or endurance? Because if I take a look back at the bare roots of my faith, finding a church home where I feel safe and secure isn’t one of those roots. If anything, my faith is rooted in something – Someone – that makes me rather uncomfortable as a human.

Being a part of God’s kingdom means we’re using our time differently – seeking truth and understanding rather than the “right” answers. It means we’re using our money differently – recognizing first and foremost that it isn’t ours to begin with, and then stewarding it wherever we believe God would be most glorified in. And it also means we’re living our social lives much differently – not seeking popularity, but instead a Godly reputation.

Once we’ve adjusted our social lives, we find we’re thrust right into difficult discussions in the political realm with subjects such as gay marriage, abortion, and fiscal responsibility. And we’re allowed to ignore none of these issues regardless of how many enemies we create with whichever direction we cast our vote. Beyond this we’re asked to do something even more challenging: Love those who hate us.

And after all the aspects of our lives are reconsidered – and all the changes we’re asked to make understood – we then arrive to the most difficult part of being a Christian: Continuing. Going the distance. Persisting. Remaining steadfast. Enduring. And no, I don’t mean keeping a church-attendance-streak going for several years; I mean continuing to love others as God has loved us. I mean continuing to show gays, Muslims, Democrats, librarians, officers, lawyers, stock brokers, baristas, hippies, KKK members, AARP members, and even that driver who cut you off while flipping you off a continuous and unending love and friendship. It’s the kind that God has given us life with.

What I’ve often noticed about myself in my walk is that I like to make small goals. I fast for so long or I pray for so long or I commit to a devotional for so long, etc. And yet what Christ teaches us is more than a periodical commitment: It’s a life-long commitment. It’s not enough to commit so much of my time, so much of my talent, so much of my money, or so much of energy to loving God and loving others for a certain extent of time. It’s enough when God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If all of this is what I’ve learned in the past ten years, then I think I’m doing okay for being without a home church. Not to say that I’m not making mistakes or that I don’t need improvement, but to say that I think I’m still on the right track with God. It isn’t easy, but then again, it was never meant to be. God has asked us to change our ways completely from what we’re compelled to do – it’s like teaching a dog to walk on its hind legs and not eat its own poop; it’s not impossible, but it takes a lot of work.

In my final words to Calvary Fellowship and Danny O’Neil, I had said that Jesus was a wanderer. His faith and relationship with God was with Him wherever He was. At this juncture in my life, this aspect stands as a model to emulate in my own walk. Wherever I go, I’m still with Jesus. I will always have a home. Such news is the only news that is truly worth living – and even dying – for.

God bless.

Baptism Part 7: Introduction to Christian Baptism…

Baptism gets interesting when it’s brought to Christianity. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, ritual immersion plays a major role in the belief system and practice at Qumran. But in the New Testament, there is a rich diversity of what baptism means and how it’s practiced. It’s difficult – probably near impossible – to give one decisive meaning for baptism, which then makes it essential to look at each text in and of itself to see what possible meanings can be deduced.

In my paper I broke it down to five main spheres of influence: John’s baptism (which combines the various Gospel views), Paul’s baptism (drawing from Galatians 3:27-29 and Ephesians 4:5), Acts 19:1-7 (which is an interesting turning point in the Christian baptism), 1st Peter 3:21, and – since it was a discussion of early Christianity and not just New Testament Christianity – Didache 7, which probably has more of a philosophical interpretation than the others.

I really didn’t get to discuss these varying facets at any real length, just briefly highlighting one or two main points. But since I’m not trying to fit any 12-15 page limitation, I’m hoping to break open each of these more fully. Also, after writing two 13-page papers on people being dunked in water, I’ve noticed other verses and passages in the NT that offer an interesting view of baptism and I’m looking forward to discussing those as well.

Right now, my plan for this next set of posts is to implement Gerd Theissen’s thoughts mixed with a couple other scholars (Everett Ferguson, N.T. Wright, and others). Theissen’s book, The Religion of the Earliest Churches: Creating a Symbolic World, acted as the framework of thought for Dr. Falk’s Early Christianity class in the winter, so I thought it’d be interesting to present some of his main points and invite readers into some of the discussions we had as a class.

Since from here on out is a long discussion on Christian baptism, I think it’d be best to title this set of posts as such; “Christian Baptism.” Of course there will be references back to Qumran or Greco-Roman washing rituals to discuss certain similarities, but ultimately my focus will be on the New Testament books as well as some of the non-canonical books (books that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into the New Testament).

Ultimately the goal is to see/discuss the formulation of Christian thought regarding baptism’s role in following Christ. Was it simply an initiatory rite or could an early Jewish-Christian still partake in purity rituals? Was it thought of as simply a metaphor or did one need to physically be baptized? In answering and/or discussing these questions, I’m hoping to read through the New Testament and relevant books to see the evidence with fresh eyes. As scholars indicate, we can’t look into the minds of the New Testament authors and know what they were thinking when they penned their letters/gospels. But what we can do is read the text for what it is and go from there.

As N.T. Wright says, though, it can’t simply be a discussion based on speculation and mystical fantasy; there must be some grounding in historical evidence. Currently I’m reading his book The New Testament and the People of God, which I hope will provide some historical insight that isn’t otherwise present in the New Testament. I’ll also borrow information from Bart Ehrman and his textbook, A Brief Introduction to the New Testament.

There isn’t much time left in the summer, so I’m hoping to milk it for all it’s worth. Once again, though, I open the floor to any who would like to share questions, thoughts, or possible conclusions on the various things I write. What drove both my religious studies classes last winter wasn’t a long series of lectures from Professor Falk (although I’d pay just as much for that as well). No, what drove those seminars were the class discussions. Students’ thoughts were shared, challenged, and refined and I’m hoping something similar happens through these posts.

***For all the previous posts on baptism/ritual immersion, please click here or the “Baptism” tab on the side.

Baptism Part 6: Immersions in the Greco-Roman World…

To read (or reread) the previous posts regarding baptism, here they are: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments on any of these posts.

Ritual purity was not an exclusively Jewish or Christian idea; paganism had a major emphasis on purity through immersion as well. As a friend commented on my last post, it was a way to keep the gods happy so that bad things wouldn’t happen. Newborn Christians in the ancient world, especially the Gentile Christians, had to come face to face with the surrounding pagan view of immersion. Much like separating from Judaism, Christianity now had to separate itself from paganism.

And yet, as discussed below, there was something unique about pagan rituals of immersion that one doesn’t necessarily find in Jewish immersions: washing for personal hygiene. Baptism within the Christian mythology and teachings needed to be interpreted as something more than a ritual and more than a simple bath. Everett Ferguson (the scholar who discusses quite a few similarities and differences between John the Baptist and Qumran) outlines 4 main points for Greco-Roman pagan washings: general usage for purification, washings in the mystery religions, bathing practices, and then a special case from mythology (25-37).

a.      General Usage for Purification

Ferguson notes that these washings were already so common in the Second Temple time period that little information exists that details how they were conducted. But basically, paganism within the Greco-Roman world believed immersions were necessary in order to be cleansed before entering a temple (i.e. the temple of Athena at Pergamum), after warfare, before handling sacred things (i.e. one’s hand-made idols), and/or in order to set oneself in a spiritual position to properly obtain an oracle. As I’ll discuss in later posts, Christian baptism appears essential in order to receive the Spirit of God.

b.      Washings in the Mystery Religions

While the Mysteries had similar themes to the Christian baptism (i.e. “ideas of forgiveness, rebirth after a mystic death, eternal life, and illumination,” – Ferguson 28-29) their immersion ritual usually was a preliminary preparation for the entire ceremony of initiation. I’ll get into this a little deeper later on, but it’s important to emphasize the preliminary aspect of the immersion ritual. The whole ceremony for initiations was usually concluded with a meal (which in and of itself was similar to the Christian Eucharist or communion, but that’s a topic for another post).

c.       Bathing Practices

In Roman society, as Ferguson notes, bathing was regarded as healthy and encouraged amongst the Roman men. The “ritual,” as he suggests was as follows; “The typical order of the baths was a warm bath, a hot bath, and a cold plunge, and the baths had separate rooms for each: the tepidarium [tepid’ water], the caldarium [hot water], and the frigidarium [‘frigid’ water],” (35).

d.      A Special Case from Mythology

Of the four points from Ferguson’s outline, I found this one most interesting, especially in regards to the baptismal idea of complete immersion. Thetis, the goddess of mother of Achilles, dipped him in the River Styx in the underworld in order to make him entirely invulnerable. Where she held him at – and the only point on Achilles’ body that was not immersed in the water – was his heel, which implicitly stresses the importance of complete immersion. In John’s Gospel, when Jesus bends down to wash Peter’s feet, Peter cries out, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (13:9). It isn’t entirely clear whether or not this mythological example influenced the early Christian idea of full immersion, but it’s an interesting resemblance nonetheless.

This is the world surrounding Christianity when it emerged. As is the case on several levels of theology, immersion into water had to be redefined for the early Christian. If it wasn’t so very different from pagan or Jewish rituals, then the whole message of the gospel could have been disregarded. As I’ll discuss in the next couple of posts, the early Christian world had some difficulties in defining what baptism meant, but ultimately, it had to be more than a bath and more than a purity ritual. Christian baptism had to contain a key ingredient that superseded all other versions of immersion. As the NT makes clear, there is indeed such an ingredient: the Holy Spirit.

Baptism Part 5: John the Baptist and Qumran…

Once again, I’ve taken a long break from this series (this time, two months), but I hope to finish them off by the end of this summer. If you haven’t read (or would like to re-read) any of the previous posts, here they are: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4. Feel free to ask questions and/or make comments.

Comparisons between the Qumran Community and John the Baptist aren’t that difficult to make. Both were related with Jewish priests in a unique way; both seemed to have a large age-gap between parents and children; both were located in the wilderness (possibly very close to each other); both ministry’s were based on Isaiah 40:3; and both practiced – in a unique way – immersions (Ferguson, 87). And as I discussed in my papers, both believed that their practice of ritual immersion was a part of their ministry to usher in God’s eschatological kingdom.

What was different? Quite simple: Qumran’s immersions were repeatable whereas John’s were not. With Qumran, as we’ve seen, there were three categories of immersion: Initiation, renewal, and purification. But with John’s baptism, it was once and only once. And yet even beneath that surface-level difference, it appears to have meant something different to each, as well.

Qumran’s immersion was a way of entering and then re-aligning oneself in the pathway of God. John’s baptism, which eventually became the model for Christian baptism, was a foreshadowing of the baptism to come; a one and done practice wherein one would enter the kingdom of God without needing to be ritually immersed once more. And yet the book of Acts contains an instance where John’s baptism is explicitly superseded by the baptism into Christ, but I’ll save that for a later post.

Both Qumran and John the Baptist utilize immersion in a central way to their overall movements, but with different purposes attached. Qumran’s was an important pathway-check to make sure each member wasn’t only studying the Torah, but strictly retaining purity as well. With John, though, purity was given in one act, “For the forgiveness of sins,” as Mark indicates (1:4). Perhaps a good way of looking at the comparison (though definitely not a perfect way) is to think of a sports team’s tickets throughout the season. Either you can buy an individual ticket for every game or you can buy a season pass. That’s sort of what the differences look like.

Yet it’s crucial to emphasize that both John and Qumran were intensely focused on genuine repentance. Neither would view the act of baptism as the redeeming factor; one’s heart and mind must be authentically in a repentant state. And it also wasn’t as if you could simply get baptized with a repentant heart and have that be the end of it. In both movements, following God’s commandments was an additional, crucial element to ushering in God’s kingdom.

Christian baptism followed John’s model of a one-time immersion, but added a major element with a major difference as to what was happening. It’s clear to me that both Qumran and John the Baptist believed something extreme was changing in their worlds and that they were playing a major role – especially within their immersion practices. And yet, Qumran thought that God’s kingdom would arrive through their movement – within their community. John believed that he was merely preparing the way for the One, Jesus.

In the next several posts, we’ll see how baptism is portrayed in the Gospels, NT letters, and even some non-canonical texts that discuss baptism’s role. In addition to all of that, the history of baptism in the pagan community stands out as something that the Christian baptism needed to distinguish itself from. And so we’ll look at the elements of Greco-Roman immersion.

Easter’s Resurrection Experience…

Today was my last Easter celebration as a college student. Well, at least as an undergrad. When I think back to my first Easter Sunday here in Eugene, I recall skipping both services of church and even the Easter celebration at CCF (Collegiate Christian Fellowship). Why? I missed church in the morning because I wanted to sleep in and I missed CCF because I had some homework to catch up on. For whatever reason, I just didn’t feel like partaking in the festivities this day brings. It took me five years to finally take seasons like Easter’s seriously.

Danny’s message this morning was a quick summary of Jesus’ narrative, more specifically the passion. Taking bits and pieces from each of the Gospels, we tracked from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to the empty tomb and Jesus’ appearances to the disciples. The main thing Danny wanted to highlight was what the news of Jesus’ resurrection meant for the disciples. It wasn’t a mere “Oh, glad you’re okay” type of mentality; it was something much more. There was a message delivered to the disciples beyond the basic news of the empty tomb.

Mark’s Gospel is probably my favorite gospel for tracking the story of Jesus. It’s simple and to the point. Its original ending, verse 8 in chapter 16, cuts off at the empty tomb and the women being told to inform the disciples, but ultimately running away in fear. Such an abrupt ending to the gospel, though, might make some feel uneasy. And thus we stumble upon the rhetorical value of Mark’s account; its short ending was meant to cause a stir amongst the early readers.

It was meant to cause the reader to reconsider the story leading up to this point of resurrection. What the news of Jesus’ resurrection did for the disciples was very similar; it caused them to reconsider all the teachings He had given – especially the predictions about rising on the third day. As Danny said this morning, the disciples experienced a resurrection of their own on Easter Sunday: The religious systems they had grown up with were killed on Friday and raised to life in a completely knew understanding – a new faith.

On my way home, I considered what it really means to have a resurrection experience. N.T. Wright discusses this very issue and, drawing from Romans 6, says that our souls experience this death and resurrection in the act of baptism. Our old ways of understanding how the world works and how God works were killed in going under the water and we were given a completely new life – not a mere refurbishing of the old – in Jesus Christ. In many ways, I think our experiences with Jesus’ resurrection ought to be like those of the disciples; a complete alteration of everything familiar.

What I’ve been trying to do throughout this weekend is power through Luke’s Gospel and do so in way that I’d feel, as best as possible, the severity of the situation. I wanted to feel the pain, confusion, and pure anxiety of the disciples in the wake of Jesus’ death. I wanted to wrestle with the day in between where I’d be in limbo with wanting to return to my old life but having an overwhelming compulsion to live something new – based off my experiences with Jesus. And I wanted to experience the confusing and bewildering joy of hearing about the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Instead of my freshman-year Easter experience, I wanted to milk this one for all it was worth. When it was all said and done, I came back to Starbucks, plunged through the rest of Luke, and came across a simple verse that I think encapsulates Easter weekend and what it is meant to do.

“Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation,” – Luke 22:46.

In the hour I first truly saw what it meant to be a follower of Christ, it was a spiritual awakening. Here Jesus was rebuking His disciples for literally falling asleep, but in light of Danny’s message this morning, I felt the spiritual implications. As N.T. Wright says in Surprised By Hope (discussing Paul’s understanding of the resurrection), “It’s time to wake up,” (248).

But haven’t you already had this spiritual awakening, this resurrection of the soul? Haven’t you already felt the powerful revelation of God? I would answer “Yes” to those questions, but with one clarification: Just because I’ve experienced a spiritual resurrection doesn’t mean that I’ll always be awake for time immemorial. As even Jesus’ disciples struggled, strained, and stumbled in the wake of His resurrection, so we also are prone to slide into a comfortable form of Christianity that demands little from us and yet gives us all the reassuring about living forever that we could need. “You’ve been saved; there’s not much more than that,” is the message we might here. And yet the Scriptures indicate otherwise; in fact, Jesus indicates otherwise.

In His foretelling of future trials and tribulations for His disciples, Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your lives,” – Luke 21:19. Or as Matthew says, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved,” – 10:22. So then this race of salvation doesn’t just stop with the believing; it continues on until we can run no more, until we pass from this world to the next. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow we run, but rather that we run and complete it.

If you, like me, were moved by your pastor’s message this Easter Sunday, that’s great. But we would do these messages injustice if we were only to apply them on Easter Sunday and no other day. N.T. Wright suggests that we ought to strain to live like Easter people – people of the resurrection, people of the very kingdom of God.
If Jesus’ teaching in Luke 8 about the word of God taking root is any indication of what our lives are supposed to be like, then perhaps we ought to pray that we are the good soil – fertile enough to be fruitful for a lifetime.

Happy Easter and God bless!

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” – Mark 16:6