[While I realize that this blog post is utterly impractical and gives little consideration to the realities of the church as an institution, I write as one who is convinced that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were neither practical nor business-minded.]
Just last week, we relived the radical story that stands at the center of who we are as the body of Christ: we visited the empty tomb, expecting to find the body of our Lord, but instead heard the good news of his resurrection. As a church, we joyously shouted the words that echo through the ages:
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
But as I look around the church today, I have to wonder if we truly take the truth of the resurrection seriously. Have we really considered the implications of being a community for whom death has been overcome by the resurrection of Christ?
Honestly, I think we have forgotten who are as a resurrected people. In my own denomination, the rhetoric of death and decline has taken hold, and our discourse is driven not by the truth of resurrection, but by a paralyzing fear of death. We are so terrified of our demise as a church that we have closed our ears to the gospel of life.
And you see, the resurrection is not just about Jesus, it is also about us, the church, the body of Christ. Since the church is the body of Christ, when we shout “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” what we really mean is that we are risen, indeed.
The resurrection gives us a new way of talking about who we are and how we are as the people of God. And more than that, it gives us a new way of being the body of Christ. We are a risen people, not a dying people. To use language of death to describe the church is to deny the power of the resurrection. And while I understand the need to address the reality of our local churches and our global church, it is time that we start doing it in light of the empty tomb rather than in the darkness of the shadow of death.
Almost two thousand years ago, a few women found themselves staring into a tomb, fully prepared to tend to Christ’s dead body. Today, it feels to me like the leaders of my church are standing in the very same place, forgetting that there is more to our story than death.
“The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’” [Luke 24.5-7 NRSV]
Why are we, as a church, looking for the living among the dead? Why have we forgotten that death is simply a precursor to new life, and that Christ’s resurrection is our own?
Friends, the body of Christ is risen. We, as the church, are a resurrected people. We can either live into that truth, or throw Jesus into the tomb again and roll the stone back into its place.
I hope we choose resurrection.