“Without ash to rise from, the phoenix would just be a bird getting up.”
Luther? Calvin? Kierkegaard?
The oft-shirtless and overly confident fictional character on TV’s “New Girl.” Though the words weren’t written by one of history’s greatest theologians, something about it has stayed stuck in my craw.
Because it’s true! And oddly, never more true than today.
Without death to rise from, Jesus Christ would just be another false teacher getting up.
Something powerful cloaked my body this morning. As the thousand people around me sang words of praise, I felt the supernatural nudge to let myself think about what it would actually be like to see someone come alive from the dead. Tombs of centuries ago aren’t logged in my imagination so I thought of saying goodbye to someone I loved dearly in the hospital. Hearing the beep of their heart beat disappear. I visualized watching them being wheeled away, cold and lifeless, to the mortuary. I could envision them being lifted into a long metal box and locked away as my everything shattered. And then I took a minute to imagine what my heart and brain would do if a few days later, warm & fully alive, they found me in line at the hospital cafeteria…
The story of Jesus’ brutal crucifixion and glorious resurrection are so engrained in my faith that I no longer find myself shocked or awed. I know what we’re celebrating and why. I talk about it it, sing about it, and instagram about it without hesitation … but turns out, I needed a little hesitating. I needed to pause and lean into it. I need to get my brain around the crazy of it.
After dinner tonight, my friend Karesse and I laughed acknowledging that yup, so much of the story of God and His Spirit and His Son are just plain nonsensical to our finite understanding. Why sin? Why a son that would have to give up a kingdom to come to our mess of a world? Why death? How does resurrection fix it all? What is salvation?
((FYI: I feel quite inadequate to write about salvation as the sun sets on Easter Sunday.))
But, let’s take a small bite. Let’s chew on the word and it’s implications so that the big boom of Easter doesn’t fizzle out until next spring…
Bandying around the word ‘salvation’ in a culture that takes pride on needing nothing can be met with irritation, rejection, and assumption.
On a surface level, it seems unnecessary. Americans ‘want’ for very little – we are the world’s richest, strongest, freest – what do we need saved from?
But all we need to do is dip below the puddle mark into the deep-end of any person’s story and we’ll see the need. No matter how many commas are in the balance of our bank accounts or how many guys swipe right on our digital profiles, there’s need in our guts and brokenness in our heart.
Jesus came to die because someone sinless had to. Heaven (eternity in the presence of God) wouldn’t be an option without Him because we messed up the original plan. The world wouldn’t be righted by a sinful man subjecting himself, so a deity that defied temptation took the punishment. BUT! There’s more!
If you look through your text conversations or prayer requests or the church pews – don’t you see a whole lot of need in every day?
While Christ offers us the opportunity to choose Him and repent and accept Him as the one true God – “salvation” isn’t just a ‘get out of hell free’ card from some eternity edition of Monopoly.
He came as a man so that we could relate. Tell him our secrets. Trust Him to understand. Know that He knows what it is to see sickness and pride and jealousy and broken promises abound. And the salvation He offers is a hand to hold while we navigate the same world He did.
Evangelism is my passion – telling everyone about the true God. Listening while they tell me what they can’t agree with // have been hurt by // are afraid of. Passing their shaky hand into His. But what a disservice I am doing to the hearts of non-Christians and antitheists if all I do is toss them the word “salvation” in the context of what’s to come without exemplifying and explaining that SALVATION IS ALSO FOR NOW.
This morning as I let myself think about what it might have been like to actually see the God-man prove Himself a phoenix, I cried. Jealous of the disciples who got to embrace the embodiment of salvation Himself.
There is brokenness in me. There is hurt in my story. And there are more days that I doubt He’ll save than there are altars I’ve built acknowledgining when He’s swooped in and scooped me up.
I can not save myself, but I trust the lie that I can.
Oh to be the woman to meet Him in the garden as He filled lungs that’d hung behind his ribs pierced and empty with fresh air! Oh to be the one to see His smile and fall face down at His feet! Oh to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing was impossible for Him! If I could Freaky-Friday with Mary Magdalene would I FINALLY trust Him with my NOW?
I tried to keep my eyeliner intact by catching the tiny tears before they streamed too fast, wiping them away quickly. But the truth of God’s power was making itself known and the pools on the edges of my lashes were swelling.
From the pulpit they quoted Blaise Pascal. The sixteenth century French philosopher kept a note in His jacket of the moment that He most powerfully felt God. That note read:
“From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,
GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God,
and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.”
“Certitude!” CERTITUDE! That word broke the dam and the tears fell down my cheeks.
We can be certain of Him! His truth! His love! And we can be certain that He SAVES. Both NOW and, oh praise His name, FOREVERMORE!
Shout it loudly and live it boldly my beautiful friends!