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Finding A Resurrection Faith
by John van de Laar © 2010 Sacredise
This article was written for the South African Methodist Newspaper – The New Dimension – and will appear in its April issue.
Are you a risk-taker or a “play-it-safe”er? Does your faith lead you into risky, transforming encounters with the Risen Christ, or into safe, predictable sameness? In an interview, author Len Sweet reflected on the risky business of travelling to church, often in cars or taxis moving at a hundred kilometres an hour, with little more than a few feet between us and the other vehicles. But, when we arrive at church, we play it safe, resisting anything unpredictable or challenging. It’s like we trust the other drivers on the road, Sweet says, more than we trust God’s Spirit in our worship.
Yet, the Bible calls for a different church. The writer to the Hebrews, teaching about faith and judgement, offers these words: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Our worship is intended to do just this – each week we gather and place ourselves into the hands of the Living God, inviting God to do with us as God desires. As the writer Annie Dillard said, if we really understood what we are doing in church, we would hand out crash helmets at the door!
It’s important that we embrace this fearful unpredictability in our worship, and not resist it. Life is not safe. It is challenging, painful, unpredictable, glorious and surprising, and a safe faith can never sustain us through it. Rather, we need a faith that strengthens us and empowers us to enter fully into life’s glorious mystery.
Where is such a faith to be found? We find it when we encounter the resurrected Christ. This is not always a comforting experience – as we read the Gospels we discover that the disciples were often afraid when faced with the Risen Jesus. But it offers life that even death cannot quench.
If we are to follow Christ into adventurous faith, we need at least two things. The first is to believe, not just in our heads, but with our whole lives, that Jesus really is a tomb-breaker. We say the words “Christ is risen” so easily, but it’s a frightening proclamation. Resurrection means that we lose control. All the rules change, death is no longer the end, and we are no longer able to predict where life may lead us. We are faced with a God who refuses to remain buried in tombs – or even in our little boxes of law, doctrine, habit or preference.
If we are to embrace the tomb-breaking God, then we must also embrace a life of constant learning. This is the second thing we need. In the resurrection encounters Jesus does not make it easy for his followers. It’s like a game of “hide and seek” with Jesus constantly appearing in different places and ways. The disciples have to let go of what they think they know, and adopt the humility of children, becoming students of the Resurrected One. This learning never ended for them, and it can never end for us.
So, as we worship in the glory of resurrection, let’s resist the temptation to make church a “safe” place. Let’s allow the creativity and the Spirit of God to surprise and disturb us. Let’s open our hearts and minds to new ways of learning from the Risen Christ. And let’s be a people who are driven by worship out of the safety of our buildings and into all the places in our world where resurrection is so desperately needed.
(Link to author, John van de Laar’s blog)