It’s Still Easter–So the Church Might Yet Live

The most difficult thing for us as Christians to receive, believe, and embody is that we serve the God who gives life to the dead.

I experience this dearth in myself.

I go into churches that were once vibrant, bustling, packed. And I experience hopelessness at the sight of classrooms become storage closets. I feel the emptiness, so much emptiness, in the spaces on the pews.

Can this death be undone? Can this people find new life? Can these bones live?

But this lack of hope—or is it faith?—reaches in from the dying gathering to the hearts of us who are called, ourselves, to die.

Such a place of apparent death holds up a mirror to us and asks, Have I been clinging to my own life, to the death of this place? Is the niche of power I carved out by finding my way to the vestry or diaconate, enabling me to maintain things here just as they were when they were so full of life—refusing to realize that clinging to the life of old is, itself, the source of the present death?

We create programs. We build a building. We find a place of influence. We offer an idea that sticks. We’ve birthed it. It is ours. It is us. It is me. So I will not give it up. I will not change.

I do not believe that God gives life to the dead.

I do not believe that those who find their life will lose it, but those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake, and the gospel, will save it.

If only life were so simply defined as “bodily life,” what an easy call that would be to follow. If only the life that I claim for myself weren’t in every word, or idea, or relationship, or place of influence.

But it is all these. And all of these must go with the body along the way of the cross.

Which is why the church must remember that it is still Easter. Our only hope, for thriving life as a people and as persons, is in the God who gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not into being.

7 thoughts on “It’s Still Easter–So the Church Might Yet Live”

  1. I had similar feelings while at a conference at Oxford last summer. Thanks for putting your thoughts into words. Great churches that have become memorials of a time past make me incredibly sad. Thank goodness for a God who can undo death and dying.

  2. Thanks Daniel and good to be part of your blog-community (what a strange term blog is…)

    The first chapter of Luke has two birth narratives with Gabriel announcing the good news in both of them. The two human players, Zechariah and Mary, both questioned Gabriel at how things could be yet Zechariah was punished and Mary was blessed. Why? Zechariah somehow believed in the death of his wife’s womb and did not believe the word of the God who could bring life. Mary, being just as perplexed and not able to fully grasp Gabriel’s pronouncement, chose to accept the mystery and allow it to play out.

    I just came back from Ireland and sat in pews of Abbeys that were built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Empty cold pews. Yet even through all that passing of time there was still a sense that at the coffee shop in San Francisco or the Abbey in County Mayo, we still serve a living God who can make these bones live!

  3. Daniel, over the past 40 years I have seen dozens of revivals/renewels blossom and wither in various churches. Earlier in my life, I have been both encouraged and discouraged by their comings and goings. The one constant I have found, however is this: my Father has always been willing to meet me in the common and even mundane concreteness of daily living. This direct and open contact I encounter between myself and the world is to me at the heart of Jesus’ preaching of the “gospel of the kingdom of heaven.” The God who we say is our delight, is actually waiting to be acknowledged/revealed in the common, ordinary encounters of our daily life. Realizing my Father’s presence in the everyday, gives me my greatest sense of meaning. On the other hand, to lose contact with a “collective” called the church, one based on connection through similar doctrine, or of agreement on a historical account hasn’t meant that much to me over the years. However, people with whom I have genuinely connected, and have known a life in common with,(fellowship) I am able to pick right up with even if I haven’t seen them in years. They always live before me. The key in life for me has become “direct contact” with my Father and “direct contact” with man in THIS world. Gnostic and metaphysical experiences no longer intrigue me. Do you feel me on this Daniel? Does anyone out there feel me?

  4. I wonder . . . doesn’t 1 Corinthians 12 imply that where there is a genuine confessing body of believers in Jesus as Lord, right there the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ARE at work? I wonder whether the deadness we see is at leat partly due to our failure (inability?) to see what God is up to right in front of our eyes. I don’t see the opening verses of that chapter suggesting that God is stymied in gifting his body, even when it’s as crazy and confused a body as the Corinthians were.

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