Holy Week Meditations (Easter): Matter Matters
Today we celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. While the tomb has been empty for two thousand years, the miracle of Easter carries power for Christians around the world in their every day and seemingly ordinary lives.
Many assume Christian faith, or religion is nothing more than escapism, or a spiritualized coping mechanism to deal with the harsh realities of life.
Christian faith escapism from the big bad world and a passive waiting for heaven. Faith in Jesus is an opportunity to separate ourselves from the ills and issues of the day while we turn a blind eye and think about playing harps on clouds in a future heavenly bliss.
On the coping end of the spectrum many assume all Christianity is, or other religions, is merely a spiritualized form of therapy for dealing with the melancholy of our souls, and the pain of a world spiraling out of control.
A little weekly Jesus-juice at church will do the soul well. Maybe I can forget about the real issues of life and the world for an hour or two.
While my generalizations may be overstated these are the ideas floating around from the watching world based on the lives of many Christians. Jesus nothing more than a symbol of love and inspiration for coping with life. Jesus’ death and resurrection shrunk down to a bumper sticker faith having no bearing on the issues and destruction on the earth.
But, regardless of our anemic Christian witness to a watching world, Christian practice when rooted in a robust resurrection theology has massive implications for not succumbing to escapism or some kind of weird therapeutic deism.
The resurrection is still a real and actual event which happened in time and space. Jesus walked out of the tomb conquering death, sin, hell, and Satan. And anyone who encounters the risen Christ is changed. Two billion Christians on the planet can testify to this reality, and so can the hundreds of people who started the movement after seeing Jesus alive with their own eyes two thousand years ago.
Before I end this short series on Holy Week, I want to address the problem of escapism, and the realities of resurrection for everyday life. To do this, I want to quote Frederick Buechner, Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, and from the Bible, Apostle Paul:
“RELIGION HAS OFTEN BEEN DENOUNCED as escapism, and it often is. To deny the prevalence of pain in the world and the perennial popularity of evil. To abdicate responsibility for them by assuming that God will take care of them very nicely on his own. To accept them as divine judgment upon the sins especially of other people. To dismiss them or to encourage others to dismiss them by stressing the promise of pie in the sky. To pretend like a Forest Lawn cosmetologist that there's no such thing as death. To maintain your faith by refusing to face any nasty fact that threatens it. These are all ways of escaping reality through religion and should be denounced right along with such other modes of escape as liquor, drugs, TV, or any simplistic optimism such as jingoism, right-wing evangelicalism, moralism, idealism, and so on, which assume that if everybody would only see it our way, evil would vanish and all would be sweetness and light.
But the desire to escape is not always something to be denounced, as any prisoner or slave could tell you. Jesus said, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). Free from sin, he explained when they pressed him. Free from imprisonment within the narrow walls of your own not all that enlightened self-interest. Free from enslavement to your own shabbiest instincts, deceits, and self-deceptions. Freedom not from responsibility, but for it. Escape not from reality, but into it.
The best moments we any of us have as human beings are those moments when for a little while it is possible to escape the squirrel cage of being me into the landscape of being us.”
-By Frederick Buechner, originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words
Buechner calls for a balanced escapism. We’re not called to belittle and ignore death, suffering, and the pain of life. But, we are also finite and not able to see straight, and our instincts and ideas, are often incomplete and marred at best. Escapism can serve a purpose.
Second, on resurrection for daily life. This quote is Francis Shaeffer’s daughter commenting on how Christian faith, and resurrection shaped her father’s work:
“His view of death and his own death was having confidence that life matters and that the world matters, that life and existence is something real, true, and eternal and is not going to just disappear into thin air. Because of that you fight to live, and because of that you need to go and fight the good fight. You do matter, and God does exist. So put your hand to the plow, you work and you struggle- you do what you can in all different areas, with passion. You don’t sit in a corner and wait to die. You don’t embrace death. You see death as a terrible, terrible enemy. What you look forward to is not death, but the Second Coming. You are longing and working for that. Contrary to what people say- that you can’t take anything with you- yes, you do take your work with you. It’s biblical teaching, that what you do matters and will continue into eternity- building houses, walls, and hiking paths and the whole of human existence. You live with energy.” -Francis Shaeffer: An Authentic Life (pp. 203)
Matter matters because of resurrection. The work we do matters now and will matter into eternity. How so? Not sure. But 1st Corinthians 15:58 makes a stunning statement at the end of a long section about the resurrection of Jesus:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Wrapped up in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our future resurrection, is the cure for a balanced escapism and energy for daily life and work.
The resurrection of Jesus opens a world of possibilities.