Sunday, April 11, 2021


When the Resurrection is Not about Personal/Individual Salvation

ACTS 4. 32-35

32 The community of believers was of one mind and one heart, holding everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to testify with great power to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they were all given great respect; 34 nor was anyone needy among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them 35 and give the money to the apostles. It was then distributed to any members who might be in need.
—Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward. 

There are certain things about the early church that give us a look at what being Christian is like. We can see these things particularly in the book of The Acts of the Apostles in Chapters 2 and 4. While the verses from Acts 4 are noted above, the text from Acts 2 follows.

ACTS 2. 42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instructions and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 A reverent fear overtook them all, for many wonders and signs were being performed by the apostles. 44 Those who believed lived together, shared all things in common; 45 they would sell their property and goods, sharing the proceeds with one another as each had need. 46 They met in the Temple and they broke bread together in their homes every day. With joyful and sincere hearts they took their meals in common, 47 praising God and winning the approval of all the people. Day by day, God added to their number those who were being saved.
—Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition. 

It is amazing what God can do. It is equally amazing what God can do with and among a people.

The Christian Faith, at its core, is the Gospel (i.e. "good news") that God has acted in a way that starts something new. It is something like a "do-over." The way this plays out is simple in theory...much more difficult in praxis. Allow me to explain.

We are given the gift of life. Life is lived in a world (i.e. nature) and among other people all created by God. Furthermore, in creating God pronounces all of creation—including you and me and the rest of the world—as being good.

Yet, somewhere along the way, the goodness gets broken. There are several explanations as to what causes this brokenness and what the brokenness is called. But, basically—for our purpose here—the fact that something is broken will do.

So, into this brokenness comes God—not as if God was ever absent—as One who is here to heal what is broken and the broken themselves.

We look to the Christ event...the birth and life and ministry and teachings and acts and crucifixion and resurrection of see how it is that God in the brokenness. And, as we contemplate the things to which the Christ points and represents, we discover God's full mercy, compassion, and love. These things of God have always been with us, but it is in our brokenness that they take a particular shape.

It is not as if God comes to remove us from our life context. No, in fact, God meets us in our ordinary days. In this meeting, God works to turn things around, to turn the world upside down, to right side creation and all that is in it.

The world as we know it, is born anew each every nanosecond...if you will. In a world where might means right, money means power, power means control, control means manipulation, and manipulation means oppression.

This grand reversal is what Mary (the mother of Jesus) has a song placed upon her lips, words—in fact—that is a quoting of Hebrew Scripture. And, so, her song comes forth:

LUKE 1. 46-55

“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, 
47 and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior. 
48 For you have looked with favor
upon your lowly servant,
and from this day forward
all generations will call me blessed. 
49 For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your Name. 
50 Your mercy reaches from age to age
for those who fear you. 
51 You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit; 
52 you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places. 
53 You have filled the hungry with good things,
while you have sent the rich away empty. 
54 You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy—
55 the promise you made to our ancestors—
to Sarah and Abraham
and their descendants forever.”
—Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward.

And, that is the thing. Much like the beatitudes in Luke's Gospel, and the above-noted texts from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Easter and the Resurrection an act of God that changes everything—big time. They are the cosmic rectification making all things new and calling us into a covenant of peace with justice.

Peace with justice is a fitting summary of what the early church looked like. Embracing one another in reconciliation, sharing with others the material things needed to live a full life, treating each other in kindness and gentleness, holding all that is most important in common, seeking to be a witness as to what God has done and what God is doing.

This is certainly different than the world we live in. Consumerism and capitalism celebrates the American Dream and places an emphasis on success. The values within our nation are heralded as being Christian, when in fact, our culture rewards the wealthy, the powerful, the male person, the caucasian community, and marriage that is heterosexual.

There are few times and places where the poor are given equal access to wealth, where the voiceless are given a voice, where people of color share the dignity and respect of all, where women are given the same opportunities with the same compensation as men, where LGBTQ+ persons are included and their relationships celebrated.

Too often, Easter and the Resurrection, along with an understanding of what it means to be Christian, is purported to be getting one's self right with God. If only we could follow a list of requirements having to do with personal belief and behavior, Jesus will get us into heaven. Unfortunately, that is a perversion of the biblical witness and what the church in orthodoxy teaches.

If these days of Easter are simply about getting a reward of eternal life in some otherworldly paradise, then they fall short of what we mean when in joy we utter the words: "Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Easter calls us to conform to the way of Jesus, to the way of life that is expressed by Mary in the Magnificat, by Luke in the Sermon From the Plain, by the first generation church as depicted in both passages from the Book of Acts. If our Easter is not about establishing relationships that uplift one another, that creates equality and equity, that is a benefit for one and for all, then we have missed the point.

In these Great 50 Days, let us live in kindness, with justice, and in walking humbly with our God.

"The community of believers was of one mind and
one heart, holding everything in common."

Thanks be to God!