I guess we’ll go back to what we know.”

This is a quote from an email I received a few days ago. The writer overheard this at a retreat near the end of Lent, and it stayed with her.* I would say it has stayed with me as well.

She writes about the disciples in John 21 – where, sometime after they had seen the resurrected Jesus, Simon Peter says, “I am going fishing.” And the others decide to join him. Such a simple story – “And they went out, and got in the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:3) Jesus has appeared to them, but they weren’t called back into the kind of life they had had together before Christ was crucified. So, it seems like they have simply gone back to the life they had before.

I think we might all identify with this sentiment as we think about moving on from Easter “back into normal life.” There was a structure to Lent that does not seem obvious today; there was a movement, a journey that for many of us ended with Resurrection Sunday. But does it? Is that the best of what we are offered to do with our post-resurrection life? – to go back to what we know?

I’ve been reluctant to review the fasts I had kept (or mostly kept!) during Lent; only in that I am leery of saying – oh I was successful here, and not so successful there. At best I can say- oh this helped me in my journey, and this- not so much. There are ways I fasted that I want to hold on to. As a result of (mostly) staying the course during Lent, I feel freer to be more intentional about the choices I make now.

I’ve added a reflection moment to our weekly reviews and confessions – an encouragement to be more intentional about asking the Spirit where we experienced or saw the power of the resurrection in our day/week. But without anything to really hang our hats on in terms of practicality – simply asking the question doesn’t feel so helpful. It’s pretty vague. So, I’ve made a short list that might be helpful as a guide as we navigate our way into resurrection life.  

We find resurrection power for

Personal holiness – using our bodies for Christian living.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Romans 6:5-12

Sin no longer has mastery over us – even though we still struggle at times. Paul gives us a way through those struggles in Romans 8:10-11 –   “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

The “secret” (if you want to call it that) is to call on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. I wrote about this during Advent and used a quote from The Healing Presence for the Lectio quote for that week. Leanne Payne writes:

In Him we become fully human. In Him, we begin to do His works. This involves incarnation, a descent of the Spirit into our deepest beings and lives. In Him, the will, the intellect, imagination, feeling and sensory being are hallowed and enlivened. We begin to fully live, to participate in the eternal, the immutable, the indestructible.

Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence

Secondly, we find resurrection power –

for right relationships. We can love, serve, forgive, forbear those we are in relationship with. This means not only those whom we love, but also those whom we might see as our “enemies,” and all those in-between. At my church for a long time we had a phrase that would sometimes be used to describe people who were difficult to work with or to serve alongside with. We called them EGRs. Extra-Grace-Required people. (This is terrible I know… what a travesty as I look back on it). I’m sure there were people who considered me at times an EGR person – (I’m not just saying that… My impatience, my needs to control, my pride.. ugh).

            We find such a good example of this in Stephen’s story in Acts 7. He is preaching a sermon and toward the end of it he accuses the religious leaders of betraying and murdering Christ. They come at him in great rage and the text reads: 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Act 7:55-56 ESV) He has seen the resurrected Christ. The crowd chased him out of town stoning him. But as he died, he lay there, crying out to God in a loud voice – “Lord do not hold this against them.”

Once again, the power to love, and forgive even our enemies can only come from the Spirit of God who indwells us. The apostle John says in 1 John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

And finally, then, there is resurrection power

to be the Church, the body of Christ in formation, discipleship, proclamation, and practices.

“Christian practices are not activities we do to make something spiritual happen in our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of God is experienced. In the end, these are not ultimately our practices but forms of participation in the practice of God.” (Craig Dyystra)

In Baptism, and in the Lord’s Table – we come to take our place in Christ’s death – and then in glorious victory – we rise to take our place in Christ’s own rising. For we know there is real power in the sacraments. – Whatever tradition you come from – know and anticipate that Christ through the Holy Spirit will make your hearts alive in the knowledge of God in both baptism and communion. When we live from that place of resurrection power – that is from the place of knowing that Christ indwells us – we serve better than we know; we teach better than we know; we make coffee better than we know!

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…  (Eph 1:15-20 ESV)

Friends, I pray that as we consider these three ways to encounter resurrection power we might realize that we don’t have to “go back to what we know” – but to press on! To experience new life and maturity and good formation in Christ! May Paul’s prayer be ours:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love…

Ephesians 3:14-17 (ESV)

* Elizabeth Wickland, Punamulta Press