Resurrection Life starts…with the Church?!!

I have to admit I was a little frustrated that the first chapter in Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection was on….the church.

I have been involved in conversations around the Church for years. I have friends from all spectrums when it comes to dealing with the Body of Christ…some who have had a lifetime of good experiences, some who have been disillusioned, some who have been frustrated, some who have left it, some who have been (legitimately) abused within the Body of Christ.  Sometimes I feel like I have exhausted the conversation.

Myself, I have had overall good experiences, with some that give me a reality check on the sinful humanity that we are who make up the Body of Christ. Still…I love the fellowship we are part of right now. I love the community and conversations and the worship, I love the missions we support and are involved with, I love the influence on my kids. I look forward to being with this group of people, and I am challenged by the teaching and the call to follow Jesus.  So, as I was reading Peterson’s book, with the hope of understanding better what it means to walk in the reality of the Resurrection…I thought, “ho, hum…we’ll get the church discussion out of the way.”

Nothing new.

Then I read this:

Church is an appointed gathering of named people in particular places who practice a life of resurrection in a world in which death gets the biggest headlines: death of nations, death of civilization, death of marriage, death of careers, obituaries without end. Death by war, death by murder, death by accident, death by starvation. Death by electric chair, lethal injection, and hanging. The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life. This practice is not a vague wish upwards but comprises a number of discrete but interlocking acts that maintain a credible and faithful way of life, Real Life, in a world preoccupied with death and the devil.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 154-158). Kindle Edition.

Man that rang truth to me…in a world where death gets the biggest headlines. In the midst of this is a named people….Sarah, Steve, Noelle, Michael, Anita, Kim, Stephanie, Jill, Bryan, Kevin, Jim, Ryan, Andrew, Alyson, Bill….practicing a life of resurrection. It is not hap-hazard. It does not happen to us in a vague way; something that happens without our notice. Our coming together in worship and in the participation of resurrection life is an intentional, deliberate decision.  Life.

Ahhh….the product of ‘a number of discrete but interlocking acts that maintain a credible and faithful way of life, Real Life, in a world preoccupied with death and the devil.’

Discrete but interlocking.

Going to worship with the community of believers. Intentionally joining with others and declaring that God IS. That He hears our worship and is worthy. Intentionally turning our attention toward Him and recognizing Who He is and giving testimony to what He has done.

Intentional. Life over death.

The Lord’s Table…taking in the bread and the wine as recognition and embrace of the sacrifice and the redemption and the saving and the eternity altering act of God.

The Word. Intentionally turning our attention to the Word of God…believing that it is the Word of God and that it has bearing on our lives. Intentionally turning our attention to the testimony of the Spirit that this is Truth.

All these seemingly simple acts….added to the conversations and the involving in others’ lives…are part of Resurrection Life.

More, though….the resurrection plays out in our lives in ‘improvisation’….

The practice of resurrection encourages improvisation on the basic resurrection story as given in our Scriptures and revealed in Jesus. Thousands of derivative unanticipated resurrection details proliferate across the landscape. The company of people who practice resurrection replicates the way of Jesus on the highways and byways named and numbered on all the maps of the world.

This is the church.

The practice of resurrection is not an attack on the world of death; it is a nonviolent embrace of life in the country of death. It is an open invitation to live eternity in time.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 162-165). Kindle Edition.

I love this. This is what I needed to hear….especially the last line:  it is not an attack on the world of death, but an embrace of life in the country of death.

Worship, church, reading the Word, prayer…living life in relationship with other believers and hearing the testimony of God’s acts of resurrection in their lives…this is an invitation to live eternity in time.

We are not consumed with death. We are consumed with life.

Real life.

Life that is founded in the Resurrection of God. Life that is informed by the Spirit and is altered from the death we once knew.

There is more to this chapter, but I wanted to post just this for today. There is much here to think on, to pray on and to talk about. I so hope even just these brief quotations breath life to you as it has done to me this morning!!  But beyond that swell of hope…what does it mean. How does it affect how we view church.

Have you ever thought of Church as being part of the Resurrection life….a key element, however ordinary, in establishing the power and the reality of the Resurrection in your life?

Those who have been damaged by the church…how do we overcome that fear or hostility or anger or disappointment and come to a place where the Church again breathes life into our souls?

This weekend as we prepare to “go to” Church…how can we go with a different mindset? A mindset that intentionally approaches the community worship as an act of embracing life in a country of death?

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10 thoughts on “Resurrection Life starts…with the Church?!!

  1. Victoria says:

    I think I’ll be mulling over the “open invitation to live eternity in time” for a while. Thanks Sarah, as always, your thoughtful reflections on profound ideas are deeply satisfying.

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    • sarahkwolfe says:

      Hi, Vicki! I’m so glad you stopped by…would love it if you would continue to dialog about this idea of being impacted by the reality of the resurrection. I’ll be posting thoughts from Peterson’s book each Friday. Hoping for some conversation to develop.

      Such a different way of being intentional about our identity as believers, in a Body. The living out of the resurrection, as he says, in impromptu manifestations…and yes, an open invitation to live eternity in time. I am not there yet….but at least the desire is stirring deeply!

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  2. krisbslp says:

    I think a way to be intentional in this is going with an attitude to connect deeply with others in need–looking for who we can connect with instead of waiting hard-heatedly for others to connect with us or to be “entertained” by the teaching.

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  3. I hear echoes of this in N.T. Wright and others…where the paradigm is changed from enduring the world and escaping through death or Rapture to becoming agents of the kingdom who are part of God’s great plan of renewal and restoration.
    It requires an intentional change of mind and a true sense of purpose and participation.

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  4. sarahkwolfe says:

    Kris…yep, I think so many (myself included often) go with the mindset of wanting to be entertained…or even under the guise of wanting to be taught. We still are going with a taking mindset, waiting to see how the service will meet our needs.

    Going with the intention of connecting and being aware is the foundation.

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  5. sarahkwolfe says:

    Michael…I love the line that Church is the gathering of named people in a particular places who are living out this resurrection life. This “improvisation on the basic resurrection story”.

    Yes…it is a grasping of that reality in this moment, founded on the hope of the final resurrection.

    Being truly Alive in this moment…and especially in a world where the tone and the focus is on death.

    This is so far from a do-it-yourself mentality. I cannot just postiive think my way into this dynamic.

    The reality of the resurrection…I know that I have never fully grasped that reality. Praying that this is the season the Spirit kneads this deep into who I am.

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  6. kevtuc says:

    I haven’t read more of this book than what you’ve excerpted above, but I love where this is going in general. Among all of that, one little thing… I can’t help but get a little hung up on the notion that the church’s celebration of the Resurrection is not an attack on the world of death but a “nonviolent embrace.” While I think should absolutely be our stance in the context of holding up the Truth in a social/political climate that counters it, and to proclaim the Truth rather than simply attacking the alternative… but I can’t see how the Resurrection as it pertains to death is anything but the greatest attack of all time. An I getting hung up on semantics? Maybe, but I think that distinction matters… I don’t like the idea that we all sit Indian style in a circle wearing flowers and singing Kum-ba-yah around the idea of the Resurrection and that that’s all we have to do to convey its meaning amidst the world of death around us. But, y’know, I’m no Eugene Peterson 😉

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    • sarahkwolfe says:

      Hey, Kev!

      I will being posting more probably on Monday from this chapter, as Peterson goes into a bit more detail about the Church. I like what he has to say…and I think it will counter the concept of sitting around singing Kum-ba-yah, something I think Peterson would be against. I do think you are hitting against something semantically, and that will be more evident as we go on. The nonviolent embrace is not a compromise and willingness to pie-in-the-sky mentality, but rather an intentional focus to embrace the reality of the resurrection, and therefore eternity, in the midst of this world of death.

      The reason we can do that is because Jesus has already dealt with finality with death…He has attacked death so that we can embrace life: “The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life. This practice is not a vague wish upwards but comprises a number of discrete but interlocking acts that maintain a credible and faithful way of life, Real Life, in a world preoccupied with death and the devil.”

      I think (and I’m guessing at the moment) as we go farther into the book that he will explain more of what he means by this practice of resurrection. For the moment, the emphasis is on how we maintain as a Body these “improvisation on the basic resurrection story”…and that cannot be only proclaiming continually the once-for-all defeat of death. It has to be more of an embracing of the life that results from that one defeat. Does that help?

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  7. Nonnie says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing where Peterson in going in this book. The practice of resurrection …. “It is an open invitation to living eternity in time……” That line really has me thinking and pondering.

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