The Bodily Resurrection

As an associate pastor, my ministry is far more specialized than it was when I was a solo pastor in rural churches.  As a result, I spend the majority of my time teaching in assorted settings.  One of the things I love about this role is the way I get to respond to people’s questions about the faith.

When I come across a resource that helps me think through why I believe what I believe and teach what I teach, it’s like discovering a new tool for the toolbox. Thanks to Allan R. Bevere I came across one of those resources this week.

Professor Craig Blomberg, of Denver Seminary, wrestles with the question, “Must I Believe in the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus?” If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s the summary of his answer,

Without a supernatural, bodily resurrection we are still dead in our sins and of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:12-19).  Without Christ’s bodily resurrection we have no bodily resurrection to look forward to.  Death ends everything and we might as well “eat, drink and be merry” (in moderation of course, so as not to get sick) and not bother with any of the sacrifice and self-denial that even just following Christ’s cause requires.

If there is no life after death, indeed if there is no embodied life after death as in the new heavens and new earth…then we are idiots to be Christians and should give it up immediately.  If there is, on the other hand, then being a Christian makes all the difference in the world—and in the next!

At a conference I once attended the speaker said, “Jesus is alive every time we remember him in our hearts…” to which the more seasoned pastor sitting next to me replied, “Yeah…so is Elvis.”  With my friend, I believe that Jesus is more than a memory.  I believe in the bodily resurrection.  Jesus is alive, whether we remember him in our hearts or not.

Finding the Jesus You Thought You Had Lost

This is one of the transcripts from the teaching videos I’m doing each Sunday.  This one is based on Luke 2:41-52 and owes a lot to N.T. Wright’s interpretation in his “Luke for Everyone” commentary.

Growing up, I lived on a small country back-road. If you ever drove down it, you might even think it was a back-road off of a back-road. In many ways, my life was something like that of an earlier time. On one side of our property you had my great Aunt and Uncle, the Fitzgeralds, across the street were the Sisks, and on the other side you had the old Reich place. Behind our house there was a little branch called Jackson Creek, and just across our pasture were the Potato Hills. There were so many times when I’d leave the house in the morning and tell my mom goodbye. She would just wave and say, “Make sure you’re home before dark!” We knew everyone up and down that little back-road, so she wasn’t worried. Besides, if I got in trouble, she would know before I got back home!

My kids will grow up in a different world. Even if we lived in that same place, I think I’d be a little more cautious about letting my kids run wild. There’s no way we’re going to let our kids leave the house and not know where they are all day long!

Today’s scripture passage takes place in a world much more like the world I was raised in. Luke tells us that Jesus’ family lived in a tiny village called Nazareth. Everything we know about Nazareth from sources outside the bible and archeologists suggest that it couldn’t have been more than about 500 people. Undoubtedly Mary and Joseph would have had extended families and friends throughout the village. It’s no surprise, then, that they could set off with a large group of travelers making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover without keeping a close eye on Jesus.

Yet after a day’s travel, when they looked around to see if Jesus was there, he was nowhere to be found. Jerusalem was a bustling city of around 70,000 people in pretty tight quarters. It was one thing to let a twelve year old boy run free in Nazareth, but the city was full of dark alleys, strange people, soldiers, and traders. You can almost feel Mary and Joseph’s anxiety and urgency when they run back to Jerusalem to search for their son.

I get paranoid if I lose sight of my kids when we’re out shopping even if they’re in the same store that I’m in. But can you imagine realizing you’d left your child in the big city, when you assumed he was traveling back with your family and friends?

So they rushed back to Jerusalem…and notice something interesting…they didn’t find him in the first place they searched. We read that after three days they found him in the temple. Three long days this couple from Nazareth searched Jerusalem: walking the back alleys, asking merchants, calling out his name as they searched. And finally, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers. Rabbis didn’t stand at the front of the class when they taught. They sat and their students gathered around. It’s important to notice that twelve-year-old Jesus is sitting among the teachers, listening, asking questions, and amazing everyone with his grasp of the faith. Actually, the Greek word used here is existanto, and you could translate the passage literally, he was shocking them with his understanding and answers.

Mary and Joseph were blown away (explagesan), and Mary reacts as any good mother by saying, “You had us scared half to death, how could you do this to us? Your father and I have been searching for you like crazy!!!” But Jesus reminds us of something extremely important with his response when he says, “Why were you searching?? Didn’t you realize I’d be here in my Father’s house?”

This passage is filled with meaning, and to be honest the only way we can wrap our minds and hearts around it is to treasure it in our hearts in the same way Luke tells us Mary did.

I can relate to this story all too well on several different levels. There have been times in my life when I’ve went my own way, assuming Jesus was with me, taking Jesus for granted, and all of a sudden I look around and he’s not where I expected him to be. Again and again, the times that I have decided to strike out on my own and do it my way, I’ve struggled. Like Mary and Joseph, I’ve at least had enough awareness to search for Jesus. But also like them, I’ve often spent three days looking for him where he can’t be found. And Jesus will say to us, “Didn’t you know where to find me? I’m here going about my Father’s business.”

As Christians from the Methodist Tradition we have a strong belief that God has given us a map of where he can be found. We call this map the “means of grace.” These are the means where God promises to meet us: in worship together as the Church, in prayer, in studying Scripture, baptism, Holy Communion, authentic Christian community, visiting the sick, caring for the poor, giving. Are you looking for Jesus? Believe it or not, you can still find him in his Father’s house. I want to invite and challenge you to return to the tried and true places where God has promised to meet his people. Don’t waste your time looking anywhere else, and you’ll find the Jesus you thought you’d lost.

Who is Jesus??

Andrew Conard asked an interesting question over at Thoughts of Resurrection a couple days ago.  He heard someone ask, “Who is Jesus to you?”  So, he wrote,

Jesus is my Lord and Savior. He continues to teach me about what it is like to live as one of his followers in a kingdom that is not of this world, but is coming into the world.

He then got an interesting response from someone who attends the church he serves,

I think this is very similar to what most mainline Christians (including myself) and especially those who grew up in “the church” would declare. However, I would throw out these questions:

  1. What is a “Lord” in modern terms and vernacular? We don’t have Lords anymore.
  2. What is he a “Savior” from? A big ravine? Democrats? Republicans? Stupid people?

So in short, perhaps this needs to be modernized. So we say that he is our CEO and saves use from our sinful wrong lived lives???? Just at thought.

Man, there are a ton of questions here that have been kicked around quite a bit in recent years.  After the “seeker sensitive” movement, some have suggested that it’s more important to keep the Scriptural language and simply train people in that new vocabulary.  Others have suggested that “relevance” dictates the need to modernize the language we use.

I would simply want to offer the reminder that relevance is relative.  The word CEO, for people immersed in the language and world of business, makes a lot of sense.  CEO, for someone in a remote tribe, probably would be meaningless.  If that tribe had a chief, then perhaps Jesus as Chief would make more sense than Lord.

In addition to this question, we might also ask ourselves whether or not the individualistic language of, “Who is Jesus to you?” might preclude answers that include Jesus’ relationship to the Church.  Then again, one could argue that we might just be who we are only in relationship to the numerous socially interconnected ties that we hold.  In other words, maybe our individual subjectivity is more communal than individualistic thinking sometimes like to believe!

In any case, I agree that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  I also believe that Jesus is the incarnation of God and the crux of the overarching story of the world: creation, fall, and redemption.  I also believe Jesus is the Son of God who is always in a mutually self-giving and loving relationship with the Father and the Spirit.

A Few Thoughts on John 11:1-16

Lazarus is deathly ill. Mary and Martha expect Jesus to turn around and hotfoot it back to Bethany. The disciples, on the other hand, seem to be concerned about all the angry folks with rocks waiting back over the horizon. Amazingly, Jesus doesn’t meet either of their expectations. First he waits, upsetting Mary and Martha. Then he returns, upsetting the disciples.

In all of this, I love Thomas’ response. Even though he was just as scared as everyone else about what would happen back in Bethany, he has a classic line. “Well…let’s go. We might as well die with him.” If you follow Jesus, you really don’t know where it will lead. He has this strange way of failing to meet our expectations, only to transcend them in the very next moment. And the only way we can follow him is like Thomas, scratching our heads, shaking our heads, and then following him come what may.

Sure, there will be times when we get tired. Thomas eventually got frustrated enough that he said, “How in the world are we supposed to follow you if we don’t know where you’re going?! (v. 14:5)” But Thomas was the one who loved Jesus so much that he just had to know Jesus had really risen.

I suspect Thomas’ advice to disciples would be this: just follow him. Don’t lag too far behind. Don’t worry too much about your questions. Don’t hold too tightly to your expectations. Just follow him. That’s enough. You’ll see.