The Resurrection Doesn’t eliminate Suffering

barbwire-1315925I’ve been preparing for a series on Mental Health that’s coming up. And I came across this one line from a book called Darkness is My Only Companion, by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

It just so resonated with me, and it’s something to sit and ponder because there is power in its simplicity.

Suffering is not eliminated by the resurrection but transformed by it.

Amen.

Why 4 Year Old’s Are the Best Theologians

I think I might be raising a theologian, or maybe better put Hudson is teaching me to be a better theologian. Hudson shared this with me about his grandpa who died, but whom he desperately wants to see.

“Daddy you know Grandpa is coming back because he loved God, just like Jesus who loved God died and came back”.

Yep that about covers it, that’s Easter, resurrection, and good theology all wrapped up in one simple sentence. Sometimes the young are the smartest.

How Hudson Reminded me of What Resurrection Means and Why It Matters

30026_10150185277700328_2981872_nYesterday was the anniversary of my dad’s death. I say death, and not passing, because death sounds like a harsher word. And it is a harsher word; it speaks the hurt that happens because of it.

Since I was feeling quite down, I thought the best thing would be to talk to my sons about why I was feeling sad. I didn’t want them to think it was about them, and thought I could share a bit about their grandfather with them.

So Hudson sat with me and I told him that I was feeling sad because my dad, his grandpa, died on this day a few years ago.

Hudson didn’t know quite what to make of that. So he tentatively asked, “He…died.” I said yes he did. He said, “Like this”, and proceeded to make a face with eyes closed and tongue stuck out. I said yes like that, and thought maybe having this conversation was a bad idea.

The next 10 sentences we shared together I doubt I’ll ever forget. They sound made up, but they were true and unforced and untouched. I believe God can speak to us through anyone, and I think he chose to speak to me through my son. And this is what he told me, and why I think sometimes 4 year old are closer to God than anyone.

He said, “It’s okay dad to be sad, but just for a little while. I miss grandpa too. He loved me, and loved to scoot me around and he loved you. Grandpa told me I was special. I miss him too. So you can be sad because he died but just for a little while.”

I asked him why just for a little while. And this is what he said, “Because daddy, Jesus died too right? (I said yes he did). But Jesus is here now. He’s alive. He told me so, and so did you. So grandpa is with Jesus now. He died and is living just like him. He’s here too, and he loves us daddy. So its okay to miss him, but it just for a little while because he’ll be back again right…just like Jesus”

And I said the only thing I could think of, “Of course you’re right Hudson”

Hudson then gave me a big hug, and said “I love you daddy, and I love grandpa too” And then because he is also a four-year old he asked if we could play trucks tomorrow, and if Jesus had wings, which we then talked about.

I write all this because sometimes in the hard times, you just need to be reminded of what is true. And sometimes that takes a 4-year old who remembers what you teach him, so he can remind you of what matters.

Resurrection Changes Everything

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Sunday was Easter. The biggest day of the year for Christians. Because on this day 2000 years ago all of life was changed. On this day 2000 years ago death was beaten. On this day 2000 years ago darkness was beaten. On this day 2000 years ago sin was beaten.

In short, Jesus won and life overcame the darkness. 

And this is radical, momentous, and something I can’t even put into words. Yet the significance of this day is something that seems to get overshadowed by bunnies, Easter eggs, and a familiarity with this death-shattering day. Our familiarity with Easter causes it to lose some of its power.

So on Sunday I talked about resurrection. Because Paul makes a radical and life-changing statement: “that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you”

Do you understand how utterly life-altering that one statement is?

The power that broke death…is in you.

The power that trampled evil…is in you.

The power that conquered all darkness, sin, difficulty, and disease…is in you.

Paul’s point is that resurrection isn’t just something that happened 2000 years ago, resurrection is something that is happening now. The same power that raised Jesus, that resurrected him, is in you.

So on Sunday we asked the radical question: what does God want to resurrect in us? Because Easter isn’t just that some guy was raised from the dead. Easter is about the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was raised from the dead and  now that power dwells in us.

Jonathon Martin writes this,

Resurrection changes everything. If that man could get back up, anybody could get up. If hope died and came back to life, then hope can rise again for the whole world. If even God can die but come back to life, then anyone can come back to life.

That was our main point on Sunday: resurrection changes everything.

Resurrection changes everything. We live in a world strangled by the language and reality of death. We see dreams die, relationships fracture, hopes crushed, and lives defeated. Yet resurrection says – new life is possible, new hope is possible, a new reality is not only possible but here. Because resurrection changes everything.

So on Sunday we asked one simple but life changing question: what do you want to resurrect in our lives Jesus? If resurrection isn’t something that just happened, but can happen today – what does that look like in our lives?

And while I don’t know what that might specifically look like  in your life I know some things about it. Areas in your life where death reigns, where darkness covers hope, where defeat directs your life, where fear rules, where sin shames – do not need to stay that way. Resurrection happened and resurrection is happening.

So today if yesterday just slipped by like any other day, why go one more day without resurrection in your life? Go to Jesus, he is alive, he is risen, and he has resurrection power he wants to give to you. Why not go to him and see what he might do in your life? Because 2000 years ago life burst from a death-filled ground, and it changes everything…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea:Resurrection changes everything…

Take Aways…

+  Resurrection means that new life can begin, even out of death.

+  Jesus, what do you want to resurrect today?

+  Entropy is a law of nature in which everything slowly goes into disorder.

+  Another important point is that Jesus’ death was a political death. If you ask one of the crucial theological questions – why was Jesus killed? – the answer isn’t “Because God want us to love one another.” Why in the world would anyone kill Jesus for that? That’s stupid. Its not even interesting. Why did Jesus get killed? Because he challenged the powers that be – Stanley Hauerwas

+  Fear’s a powerful thing / It can turn your heart black, that you can trust / It’ll take your God-filled soul / And fill it with devil’s and dust. – Bruce Springsteen

+  “What we have then in the apostolic circle, is a group of disillusioned, frightened, guilty, mournful, semi-traitors” – James Allison

+  “Resurrection changes everything. If that man could get back up, anybody could get up. If hope died and came back to life, then hope can rise again for the whole world. If even God can die but come back to life, then anyone can come back to life. Jonathon Martin

+  Resurrection changes everything…

+  Death can do its worst, and Jesus will do his thing

+  What is it you need resurrected in your life? And are you ready to receive it today?

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? In what ways is your life under the “shadow of death”? Can you relate to the disciples feeling full of fear? Talk about the quote from Jonathon Martin. How does resurrection change everything? How has resurrection changed your life? How might God want to change your life today? What do you need Jesus’ resurrection power to touch in your life today?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to you kids about what Easter is. Share with them that Easter means that when things seem darkest and most difficult – Jesus can show up and change everything. Talk to them about how fear holds us back, but God wants to take away our fear. Ask them if there is anything in their life they need Jesus to help them with – and then believe and pray about it. Jesus resurrection power isn’t just for adults, its for everyone. 

Challenge for this Week: Live in Jesus’ resurrection power

 

Lent, Suffering, and Bonhoeffer

“Only the suffering God can help.”  Dietrich Bonheoffer.

1208573_69660271This is brilliant, true and full of hope for us during Lent. During Lent the disturbing reality is that we focus on a God, who in the person of Jesus Christ, was beaten, broken, and buried. This is the God we follow, one who died. Is it any wonder Paul said preaching the cross was foolishness…The world follows power, display, and strength; our God demonstrates sacrifice, weakness, and a willingness to enter even into death.

This though is why only the suffering God can help. We do not follow a God who is above suffering, empathy, and distantly removed because of his power. Instead, we follow a God who knows what it is to be beaten. We follow a God who knows what it is to be broken. We follow a God who knows what it is to be buried.

So if you have ever felt beaten down by life…have hope. If you feel broken in body or soul…have hope. If you have lost someone, or feel like you yourself are being buried under darkness…have hope. Because our God felt all those things, but broke through them to show us the way. Our God didn’t stay in heaven removed from the muck and mire of humanity and our struggle. Our God chose to enter into our struggle, to empty himself of all power and privilege to join us. This is why only the suffering God can help, because only the suffering God can understand what we go through. So you are not alone. God knows what it is to feel betrayal. He knows what it is to look forward and see darkness. He knows what it is to die. But the message of Easter is he also knows about resurrection. He is the resurrection and the life. It is through him that all of the world is changed, in a blinding moment of new creation, new life, and a new future. He enters into suffering to lead us out…so may we reflect and remember that this Lenten season. Let us not rush past the suffering to the resurrection of Easter. Let us remember that only the suffering God can help…

Living in Light of Easter

The biggest challenge of Easter isn’t to believe it happened; but to actually live in light of its happening right now. In essence,Easter isn’t something we are called to just believe in but to be transformed by.

So on Sunday I shared how resurrection can transform us, and why Easter matters. You can download it here. We talked about how when we are in the dark, resurrection teaches us that light is coming. No matter how dark, and “tomb-like” our lives may feel, light is coming. Darkness didn’t win. We explored how sin is disconnection and broken relationships. But Jesus, in his death and resurrection, takes on all separation, disconnection, and brokenness so that we can be made whole and holy. And lastly, even in the midst of death, life wins. Death would have us live in light of its lies: that life is over, that relationships are lost, that dreams can be crushed. But Easter reminds us that Jesus says it is finished, not death.

So this is why Easter matters. But if the point isn’t just to believe it, but to live it. So how do you do that?

Well that’s the hard part isn’t it, because we live in a reality where darkness seems to last, linger, and cover over us. We live in a reality that is fragmented with broken relationships, broken selves, and a broken planet. We live in a reality where death seems to win and loss seems irreparable. So how do we live out resurrection in this reality?

Well maybe a simple way to start is to let resurrection shape our reality.

We do that by holding onto Jesus, and onto hope. We hope even in the darkest, most broken, and death filled places, that life, light, and healing can still spill forth. Because that’s the message of Easter. This isn’t simply positive thinking. This is deep trust in the God who doesn’t let death, darkness, or sin win.

Andrew Root writes,  “Optimism says, ‘Something good will come out of this experience’. Hopes says, ‘In the midst of this hell, God will act'”. That’s the message of Easter, that out of this hell, God will act. That’s how we live in light of the resurrection by holding onto hope even in the midst of hell.

So hold onto hope, hold onto the trust that the God, who was active in raising Jesus from the dead, is still active in your life as well. Hold onto the God who is active in the dark. Hold onto the God who doesn’t let anything but life, light, and love have the last word…

Easter is Coming; Resurrection is Happening

Why does Easter matter and what does it actually mean?

That’s what we will be exploring on Easter Sunday. Yes I know that Jesus’ death and resurrection atones for our sin. But what does that actually mean for our lives? Because if Easter is true, it shouldn’t just affect our beliefs but our very lives. The point isn’t to just believe in Easter and Jesus’ resurrection, but to be transformed by it.

So that brings us back to our question. What does Jesus’ death and resurrection actually mean? Why does it matter?

Why does it matter to you? And why should it matter to our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends? Because Jesus didn’t just die for us, but for everyone. So how does Easter change all of us?

That’s the question we’ll be tackling on Sunday. We’ll be looking at it very personally and practically because if the message of Easter doesn’t change our lives’ then we’ve missed the point. And if Jesus’ death and resurrection doesn’t first change and impact our lives, how can we expect it to change others?

So that’s our journey for Sunday. And if you don’t have a church to join in with, please join us.

But for now, what do you think Easter means? How does it change your life? How does it change you? And most importantly,how does it change our entire world?