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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I can only bear so much sorrow….

I have had many discussions with my friend Michael trying to get a grasp on how much we are to bear as a people. The internet has opened the floodgates of information and given news media an even larger ability to stir our emotions as tragedies happen, it has opened the floodgates for information of people far from us to become an intimate part of our thinking and our hearts.  We now are in a time when the tragedies from far away impact us wherever we are.

 

I’m not sure that we are created to bear so much sorrow, to be called to pray for so many so intimately.

 

There was a time when the news came slowly, and I know that there would be challenges with that…the fact that you wouldn’t hear for a very long time about the death of a loved one, or a tragedy would be well over when the news reached the other part of the country, let alone the world. Each step of technology has brought news more quickly and made our world smaller. Radio, newsreels, television, internet. Now we are hit with news of all our friends near and wide on Facebook, and even those we do not know…the news of children suffering and of families facing great challenges. We are impacted emotionally and spiritually by all these stories, and I’m not sure our souls were made to carry so much.

 

Sometimes I think that we become incapable to reach out locally because we are overwhelmed by the needs of too many.

 

My heart has been broken along with the rest of the world as I have watched the events of Sandy Hook. I’ve avoided most of the news and filtered things so that I was not overwhelmed. I have, however, looked at each sweet face and I have prayed. I have been unable to look at my own 6 year old without thinking of shattered families. Today, though, I know that I have to release them back to their community. I do not have the right to grieve in the same way that those who knew these sweet souls and brave souls do. I grieve as a spectator. They grieve as a family, and I have to trust that they will care for one another well and they deserve to have their grief to themselves.

 

I was not made to bear the sorrows of all the country, or of all believers.

 

I was made to bear the sorrows, the joys and the trials and struggles with those within my grasp. My real, physical grasp. I can tell you the challenges that friends are facing around the country, but there are those within my grasp that I do not know their struggles. I have not reached out to them to weep and to walk alongside.

 

Sandy Hook shook us, and it should. We should spend time on our knees and we should grieve and we should hold our own children closer. But, we do not own their tragedy and it is theirs to walk through in intimacy that struggle brings…without spectators.

 

Somehow I need to translate the emotions that have been stirred by this horror to those around me who may not have as staggering a trial, but still are feeling hopeless and overwhelmed and grieving.

 

A few years ago I wanted to take a whole year with no internet. That didn’t pan out, and I realized that I have friends I rely on who I connect with through internet. It is not all bad. There are great things that the internet brings, and relationships are part of the blessing. Still….I think we have to learn to know our limitations in carrying suffering and sorrow.

 

There is only One who can carry the sorrows and the grieving and the struggles of the whole world.  I can weep and mourn because this was a tragedy and is not to be shrugged off as just part of a fallen world. Then I need to release them back to their community with a blessing that God may work in the intimacy of their relationships where they can physically care for one another and weep together without distraction of being watched by the world.