Video of the full Easter service
1 Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. 2 Think about the things above and not things on earth. 3 You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. (CEB)
Raised with Christ
Two weeks ago, when I preached on Ezekiel 37, I made the comment that familiarity with a text can stop us from looking for something new, or even render us unable to hear or see newness. Certain holy days have the same air of familiarity to them, and Easter Day is probably the most familiar of them all. Almost everyone who has had any contact at all with Christianity knows the story of Easter in the simplest terms: Jesus was raised from the dead. We can even sum it up in one word: resurrection. (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen).
But it is reality isn’t it? You might assume that Easter should be an easy preaching experience. I mean, it’s Easter! It’s the most important holy day of our Christian Faith! This ought to be easy, right?
But I will confess to you that there have been times when the preacher in me has dreaded the approach of Easter. Not because I don’t love the holy day, not because what we celebrate on Easter isn’t important, but because it’s intimidating and difficult to approach a subject in a sermon that everyone already seems to know about. I mean, even people who only show up to church once a year know what Easter is about. For some, an Easter sermon is the only sermon they ever hear. We’re all experts on Easter. Everyone is an authority on Easter. We know what happened. Even those who don’t believe in resurrection know what we Christians believe happened. We know about Easter.
Yet, knowing about Easter is hardly enough. It doesn’t take a deep examination of the people around us, or our broader society, or—dare I say—ourselves, to realize that we Christians don’t always live Easter very well. We—and I mean all of us, including myself—often fail to live out the ways our resurrection life ought to be lived. We either forget, or we close our eyes to the fact that there are ethical implications for resurrection people. Jesus was raised from the dead, not merely so we can live with God in heaven at some future point in time, but also so that we can live resurrection lives now and share that resurrection life with others.
Time is always a strange and fluid thing in our faith. We can talk about one subject as something that has been definitively accomplished, something that is currently being accomplished, and something that will yet be accomplished. Salvation, for example, is talked about in Scripture as a done deal: we are saved (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:5, 8). Yet, salvation is also described as something currently underway and something we have to continue to work out: we are being saved (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 15:2; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Philippians 2:12). And salvation is described as something that will yet be, a future reality: we will be saved (Romans 5:9-10). Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all three are true at the same time.
Regarding our own resurrection, Paul talks about it as something that will happen in the future in Romans 6. Yet, in Colossians, resurrection is described as something that we experience now. In Romans 6, Colossians 3, and 1 Corinthians 15, we’re told that the resurrection informs how we live, now, while we’re still in the flesh. Paul tells us to sober up, act like we ought to act, and don’t sin (c.f. 1 Corinthians 15:34). So, if resurrection is not only a future event, but something we live now, then what does your resurrection look like?
Colossians 2:12 says, “You were buried with him through baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (CEB). Later in chapter 2, we’re asked, “If you have died with Christ to the way the world thinks and acts, why do you submit to rules and regulations as though you were living in the world?” (Colossians 2:20 CEB).
And, while the author of Colossians was talking about erroneous religious practices and philosophies that were creeping their way into the church—human traditions rather than Christ (c.f. Colossians 2:8b)—the point has a broad application. There are foolish deceptions and philosophies that we hold to that are not of Christ. What are the ideologies and values to which we offer our loyalty and even rationalize as Christian that are not of Christ? Would we know how to identify those things within ourselves and begin to take the log out of our own eye? Certainly not without the grace of God.
Easter is the biggest reminder of the Christian Year that God’s grace is with us. Easter helps us to remember the truth about ourselves: that we belong to Christ, that God loves us deeply, that the trajectory of our lives has been fundamentally changed, that our values are the values of God, not the petty and transitory values of sinful human beings. Our values begin and end with love. If the way we treat others, speak about others, or think about others is anything less than love, then we can be assured that that particular ideology or value is not one that God shares with us. Easter reminds us whose we are, and who God’s grace has made us to be.
I remember hearing a story years ago about parents who dropped their son off at college. And, after the hugs and tears, they told him two things before they drove away: 1) Remember that we love you. 2) and remember that you are baptized. When we remember, continually, that we have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we remember that the life we are living ought to look different to the eyes of the world.
Our baptism stands as a reminder to us that our allegiance has shifted dramatically from the things of this world—the world below—to “the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side” (Colossians 3:1b CEB). Do you remember the promises that were made in your own baptism and confirmation? “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?” (The United Methodist Hymnal, 34).
How do we live out these baptismal promises? How do we live our resurrection life? The author of Colossians tells us to look heavenward.
“Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You have died, and your live if hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3 CEB).
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we should despise everything on Earth. The author is not teaching us that earthly things are nothing. God made the earth. God made the life and life-sustaining systems that are on earth. In fact, our misuse of the earth and its resources, the damage we cause to creation, are matters over which we’re called to repent. We’re called to care for and tend creation. But earthly things and worldly power are finite and perishable. Earthly things are not worthy of our greatest loyalty, nor are they worthy of being our ultimate goal. God is. If we have died to this world and been raised with Christ, then our values will begin to reflect the values of God’s rule and reign.
We’re told that our life is hidden with Christ in God. Our life is not hidden from the world. Rev. Cathy Hoop, a Presbyterian pastor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, talks about this text by describing the game of hide-and-seek. It’s a game that evolves with age. We start children out with peek-a-boo when they’re toddlers. Then, we move into the actual game of hide-and-seek, but it can take young children time to get the point of the game. Little children tend to hide in the same place over and over again, yet they’re amazed every time their parents find them. (I mean, when you find a good hiding spot, you might as well wear that thing out). Kids that age trust in their hiding place. If our life is hidden with Christ in God, then we can trust in that perfect hiding place, and we can trust that, though hidden, we are not lost. In fact, we’re perfectly found.
Then, the game evolves again. The best version of hide-and-seek is sardines. It’s reverse-hide-and-seek where the person who is “it” is the one who hides and everyone else gets to seek. But, every time the person is found, the finder has to hide with them until they’re all packed into a single hiding space like sardines in a tin. It’s curious that the element of fear in regular hide-and-seek is that you might not be found by the one who seeks. The element of fear in sardines is that you won’t find the hiding place with all the others, and you’ll be left wandering the darkness alone.
God is our hiding place, but we don’t live hidden from the world. We want our family, our friends, our coworkers—everyone—to discover that perfect hiding place where we are wrapped in God’s love and grace-filled presence. After Jesus was killed, the disciples tried to hide from the world. But the Holy Spirit compelled them to go out into the world instead. They had a story to tell. They had a hiding place to share. As Jesus Christ sought out the lost and forsaken and rejected people of the world, so must we.
The ethical implications of resurrection life means that we welcome others into the love of Christ our God. In all things, love is our measuring stick. Love is our guide. Because Christ is our life here, now, and beyond time itself. When Christ is revealed, we will be revealed with Christ. We will find ourselves found. And no matter what happens, we can trust that we are safely protected and securely hidden with Christ in God.
We have been raised with Christ. What does resurrection life look like to you? That’s the question I hope you’ll discuss with your family and friends throughout this Easter week and season.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!
Rev. Christopher Millay