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Lenten Devotional: March 23, 2024

by Rev. Margaret Rountree, Pastor of Community Life


Living the Resurrection


Scripture Passage: 1 Corinthians 15: 50-58 (NIV)

“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

55 ‘Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?’

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”


For the past six weeks, I have led a Bible study on The Third Day: Living the Resurrection, written by the bishop of our Florida Conference, Bishop Tom Berlin. We spent six weeks learning about several individuals who encountered the Risen Christ, including Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Thomas, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and Paul. The overarching question that I am left with after finishing the study this past week is this: “Why is it that we spend so much time talking about Christ’s crucifixion and death compared to how little we talk about the greatest miracle of all time, His resurrection?” Heck, it’s even apparent in the jewelry that we wear: always a cross, never an empty tomb. The forty-day season of Lent is typically focused on the difficulty and sacrifice that is involved in following Jesus. In our “Baggage” sermon series, we have been talking about the baggage we carry, whether it is the baggage of complaining or busyness or peer pressure or self-centeredness or idols or fear. Perhaps at the start of the Lenten season, you chose to give up or take on something for forty days, so that you could focus less on yourself and more on God. If you’re anything like me, then you have probably found yourself struggling at times, which then resulted in breaking your Lenten commitment. Lent can seem like a dark and even hopeless time.


Tomorrow, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week. We will offer ample time to consider the triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, the meaning of the Last Supper, and Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We will take communion on Maundy Thursday and hear a beautiful Tenebrae that will commemorate Christ’s suffering and death on the cross on Good Friday. All of this is done for the best of purposes. Christ’s suffering and death are the means through which He secured hope and salvation for all people.


But the pinnacle of this season is to be the joyful celebration of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The resurrection is the pivotal event of Christianity. Without the resurrection, we have absolutely nothing. Without the resurrection, there would be no such thing as “Christianity.” A cross without an empty tomb on the third day is just bad news. So, why is it then that we limit this celebration to a sixty-minute service before quickly moving on to other matters?


At Christmas, we often reflect on this Scripture passage from the Gospel of John. This is a Scripture passage that is of course extremely relevant at the celebration of Christ’s birth, but I would argue it may be even more relevant at the celebration of Christ’s resurrection: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV). The Gospel writer, John, knew what would happen at the end of Jesus’s life. He knew the end was not His crucifixion. He knew the end was not the moment his body was laid in the tomb on the first day. Jesus’s end was not the second day, the Sabbath day, where His followers grieved His death. John knew the end of the story. The end of the story was the third day, the day of resurrection, which is the beginning of all our stories. It is the day that hope broke through and forever changed the world.


As we begin Holy Week tomorrow, let us not look at Easter Sunday as just another day during this set-apart week that we celebrate for twenty-four hours and then move on to other matters in life. Instead, let us be transformed by it. Let us go out in this world and live the resurrection. Christ’s victory on the third day offers us so much more than eternal life. It offers us a new, transformed life. A life that is full of meaning and purpose. A life rooted in a Perfect, Almighty, Everlasting God. Really, the hope of the resurrection means that God is not done with humanity or the world which we live. There is still a lot of work to be done and God longs to use you and me, if we allow the truth and power of the resurrection of Jesus to inspire and empower us, to advance God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” We can experience the kingdom of God as a present reality rather than some far-off future hope. Of course, we know that the work of God’s kingdom will not be complete until Christ comes again in final victory, and He returns to permanently establish the new heaven and earth in all its perfected glory. But God is not done with you, friend. And He’s not done with me. Being a “follower of Christ” is our way to proclaim the transformative power of the resurrection in our lives and to remind ourselves of Paul’s encouraging words to remain, “steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NRSVUE). This year, let us not only celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, let’s live it all the days of our lives.


Prayer

Redeeming God,

Thank you for loving us as we are and loving us too much to leave us there. We are grateful for the miracle that is the resurrection, the gift of your Holy Spirit, and the ongoing transformation you are doing in each of us. Help us to cooperate with that process and continue to guide us in the specific ways you would have each of us serve in this season, working with you to bring hope and healing in this broken world. May we “work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity” (Galatians 6:10); in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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