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. Romans 6:5
We have known death this year. In the United States, we are mourning somewhere around 550,000 deaths from Covid 19 alone in this last year, some of them folks that you and I love. We have lost others from accident or disease, alcohol and drug addiction, violence and hate. Those of us who have been insulated from that level of tragedy have experienced plenty of other kinds of deaths. We have lost jobs, missed experiences, suffered the end of friendships and mourned the changes in our church.
Okay Jesus . . . we have encountered the death. We are ready for the resurrection. The problem is, so often what I want, what we want, is not resurrection but resuscitation. Our prayer is that God will bring back everything to exactly how it was before. We want everything to be restored.
That isn’t what God promises. The gospel tells us that Jesus was well and truly dead. Three days Jesus was in the tomb, to ensure that he was fully dead. When he rose again he was transformed. When he appeared to his followers, they didn’t recognize him. Mary Magdalene didn’t realize it was him until he called her name; and the disciples on the road to Emmaus strolled along with him for much of a day without recognizing him. When Jesus appeared to the disciples gathered in the upper room, he was not restored to his former self—the holes in his hands and his side remained.
Still, he was made alive. Jesus was not restored to his past self, rather he was resurrected to a new life. A life that allowed him to dwell completely with his father in that moment and for always.
We have died a death like his, in our baptism, in our daily loses and letting go, eventually in our letting go of life as we know it. We are promised a resurrection like his. This does not mean a going back to the way things were. It doesn’t mean the old normal, untouched by the scars of grief and loss. Our world will not, should not, look like it did before this year. If we are hoping that our life, our church, or our world will be exactly the same, we are sure to be disappointed.
Yet, Jesus is always bringing resurrection into our lives, new life where there has been sorrow and death. It looks new, like something different and unexpected.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!“ 2 Corinthians 5:17 When we can let go of our hopes for resuscitation, we are more able to see the new life that God is bringing, through Christ in our life, our church and our world. I’m so excited to be on the look out for these new things God is doing in our midst and in our work together!