Uninterruptably alive

Now all is filled with light,

heaven and earth and the realm of the dead,

The whole creation rejoices in Christ’s resurrection,

which is the true foundation (…)

Let us embrace one another.

Let us speak to those who hate us:

For the resurrection’s sake

we will forgive one another everything.

And so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead.[1]

Jesus is back, and not just in one place at a time, but in all places, in all moments, and in any circumstance. He is back, with life and authority, not to scold or revenge, but to forgive and to bless, and to continue to go ahead of us. This is the day that the Lord has made, the first day of the new creation, the day of our salvation. This is the day when even middle-aged white Protestants could be tempted to dance in the aisle, singing and clapping and rejoicing in the Lord! The whole creation rejoices in Christ’s resurrection, which is the true foundationof hope, of joy, of life in fullness.

We have heard the story of the women at the tomb, the first moment when the new reality was only beginning to sink in. And we have heard a snippet from the letter of Paul to the church in Colossae, reminding them and believers of every generation that it is Jesus who is seated at the right hand of God, the Lord of the universe. The grace we have encountered in Jesushis compassion, his friendship for sinners, his power to heal and unleash life, his humility, his teachings, all of ithas been vindicated by God. The priests called it blasphemy; kings and governors suspected rebellion; the crowds first shouted their welcome, then their rejection; the disciples were confused, afraid, ashamed, and heart-broken—but God raised Jesus from the dead. In the resurrection of Jesus God has unveiled the infinitely greater capacity of divine goodness, subverting all human power plays, and wooing us towards a pattern of relationships not founded on fear and envy, greed and violence. At the heart of the universe, love reigns in faithfulness and unceasing generosity. The resurrection of Jesus reveals the crucified one as “fully and immediately and uninterruptably alive with the everlasting vivacity of God.”[2]

Now we’re not here just to hear the story. It’s not like we’ve been invited to be the well-dressed audience for the drama of Christ’s death and resurrection. We’re here because we want to let it sink in a little deeper yet that we are participants, and not just amateur theater participants, but real-life participants, in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We’re here because Christ has embraced our life as his, and now we’re invited to embrace his life as ours, the life that is “fully and immediately and uninterruptably alive with the everlasting vivacity of God.”

“Therefore,” writes the Apostle, “since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

Christ’s solidarity with the sons and daughters of humanity, his friendship with sinners is so deep, his embrace of us all so wide, that we are all raised with him. “You have been raised with Christ,” the Apostle writes, like it’s already happened, and it has, because our resurrection is not something that happens after or in addition to the resurrection of Jesus, but is part of it. His life is our life. His life is human life like it’s meant to be. When we trust his word and his way, we begin to live in the new creation, and together we embody the new humanity, made in the image of the firstborn from the dead.

Did you notice that Paul wrote, “you have been raised” and only in the next sentence, “you have died”? It’s a curious reversal, isn’t it? It’s like he wants to tell us first and foremost what is our new identity as the people whom Christ has made his own, “you have been raised with Christ.” And then, because believers have always struggled to fully live our new identity, he reminds us that our former life under the reign of sin and fear isn’t who we really are, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” And so the Apostle urges us “seek the things that are above” and to “set [our] minds on things that are above.” One commentator suspects that to some of us this may sound “like religiously justified absenteeism from real life, scorning the workaday vocations of family and state and economy to dwell daintily in a celestial starscape. It sounds like that most scorned version of Christianity, ‘pie in the sky by and by,’ heavenly hopes to the exclusion of earthly engagement.” [3] But that’s not the point at all. Paul doesn’t tell us to abandon the earth or the struggles for justice on earth. He points to the one seated on the throne, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, who reigns as Lord of the universe. ‘Seeking the things that are above’ and ‘setting our minds on things that are above’ is not about escaping the world for some imaginary ‘above’ but about re-orienting our allegiances to the Lordship of the crucified Christ and having our imaginations shaped by his rule, so that whatever we do, in word or deed, we do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus; that way we give our attention and worship to the Lord of heaven and earth instead of pretenders to the throne. And that way we grow in our life in communion with God.

Believers in Colossae, like believers of every generation, struggled with letting this new life be their whole life. There were other teachings that sounded similar enough to what they had heard from the evangelists; there were other allegiances shaping public life, and there were other theories being debated in the markets and the academiesmuch like today. Life in first-century Asia Minor was very different from life today, but I imagine it was also very similar: folks wanted to know what a good life looks like; they wanted to understand what is means to be successful; they wanted to love and be loved; they had bills to pay; they hoped the kids would treat others with respect; they wished they had different hair; they worried about forces beyond their control; they wondered how all the pieces fit together.

We wonder how to fit all the pieces together. How do you do it? A little what momma said, a little Jesus, a little Hollywood, a little patriotism, a little Oprah, a little liberalism, a little yoga, a little momastery, a little network news, a little baseball, a little mountain music, a little historyand somehow it all comes together, doesn’t it? You work hard to pull it all together and keep it together.

Paul in Colossians and elsewhere urges us to let this day be the first day of our life; to see in the death and resurrection of Jesus not just the heart of reality in general,  but to let it shape our life day to day, year to year, and season to season; to let Christ be our beginning and our end, our going out and our coming home.

The Apostle includes in his letter a beautiful, hymn-like passage:

Christ is the image of the invisible God,

the firstborn of all creation;

for in Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created,

things visible and invisible,

whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—

all things have been created through him and for him.

Christ himself is before all things,

and in him all things hold together.

He is the head of the body, the church;

Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,

so that he might come to have first place in everything.

For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,

whether on earth or in heaven,

by making peace through the blood of his cross.

The world is one because ultimately divine love subverts all human power plays. “Your life is hidden with Christ in God,” the short reading for this day ends. “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” Glory is the last word. It has light bursting through it and song, it’s a word the angels whisper and thunder in eternity. It’s a word describing the unhindered and unending presence of God. Glory is the last word; the fulfillment of life.


[1] Easter hymn of the Orthodox Church; quoted in Moltmann, Passion for God, p. 84-85

[2] MacIntosh, Divine Teaching, 101-102.

[3] Sarah Hinlicky Wilson http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3218

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