November 24, 2017

Living as Easter People (1)

Road to Emmaus (detail), Buoninsegna

By Chaplain Mike

We’ve had many posts here at Internet Monk commending the use of the church calendar for spiritual formation. When we follow the Church Year, we live in the story of Jesus.

  • We anticipate his coming in Advent.
  • We celebrate his incarnation in Christmastide.
  • Our mouths drop in amazement at the revelation of his glory in Epiphany.
  • We learn to walk with him to the cross during the forty days of Lent.
  • We experience the high drama of Holy Week, reliving the Passion, from the midday darkness of Good Friday to the mysterious, surprising dawn of resurrection grace on Easter Sunday.
  • For fifty days in Eastertide, we try to wrap our minds around the fact that Christ lives, and because of him, so do we.
  • We watch him pass from earthly sight to take his throne on Ascension Day, and then celebrate the birthday of the new community our risen, exalted Lord creates on Pentecost.
  • For the rest of the year, we learn to live day by day as citizens of heaven and messengers of his Good News in the world (Ordinary Time).

We have just entered The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide. Easter is not simply a day, but an entire season of celebrating the presence of the risen Christ and learning to walk in newness of life. Last year, during this season, we did a series on the Gospel stories about Christ’s appearances after the resurrection. This year, we will focus on texts that point us to the new life that is ours in him, and how we may live that out in the world.

We begin with Colossians 3.1-4:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (NASB)

Christus Victor, Chapel of the Archbishop-Ravenna

I will make a few comments on this passage, and then invite your participation in discussing its implications for our lives as “Easter People.”

  • This passage forms a transition between the section in which Paul warns the Colossians against following false teaching (2:6-23) and the section in which he encourages them to walk together in ways that fit their new life in Christ (3:5-4:5).
  • As such, this passage serves as a theological summary which grounds Paul’s exhortations. These are the indicatives out of which the imperatives flow. Here Paul reminds them of their true identity as Christians before he talks to them about how they should live that out in the church and the world.
  • Paul is reminding them of their baptism as the concrete action that changed their lives. See 2.11-15; also Romans 6:1-4.
  • What happened to them? By God’s grace, through faith, by means of baptism, they died to their old life. To use another image, their old life was “cut away” from them, as is the flesh in the act of circumcision (2.11). Furthermore, the God who raised Jesus from the death, raised them up with him into new life, forgiving their sins and overcoming all the powers of evil, sin, and death that had held them captive (2:12-15).
  • Having been “raised up with Christ,” their new life now is “hidden with Christ in God.” That is, their identity as God’s people is not defined by adherence to certain religious practices (2:16-17). Nor are they marked out as God’s people through ascetic disciplines or ecstatic experiences (2:18-19). It is not by following codes of moral regulations that they are identified as belonging to God (2:20-23). Instead, their “life”—their status as God’s people, accepted by him and recognized as members of his forever family—is found solely in their living relationship to Christ. They are members of God’s new creation, citizens of a realm that is now “above” (out of sight), but that will one day be “revealed” (made visible in glorious fashion in this world).
  • The Colossian Christians are therefore to “set [their] mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” This does not mean that they are to walk around all day thinking about “heaven.” It means they are to base their identity before God and their perspectives on life in this world on what God has done for them in Christ, and not on the kinds of “earthly” practices that lead to spiritual bondage. Being a Christian and living as one is not, at its root, about religious requirements, ascetic disciplines, ecstatic experiences, or moral codes (what Paul warned against in ch. 2). It is about Christ, being united to him, and being a living member of his new creation.

These are my cursory thoughts on this passage. As “Easter People,” we live out of our baptismal identity. We have died, not only to sin, but also to all false ways of trying to relate to God and be identified as his people. Instead, by God’s grace through faith we have been raised up as new people in a new creation, united to Christ who is our life, and freed from bondage to the “elementary principles of the world” (2:20) through forgiveness and Jesus’ victory over the powers. We find our identity in him alone.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think?

Comments

  1. “Now it’s your turn. What do you think?”

    I think that was an awesome post. That’s what I think.

    Enough of this ‘self-focused’, ‘self-transcendent’ religion. It’s about time we got back to trusting what God has done for us on the cross and in our Baptisms. It’s about time we understood that Christ Jesus has accomplished all that is needful for our sakes by everything that He has done.

    “It is finished”…means just that.

    And now that we DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING…what will WE DO ???

    We are freed from religion and trying to please God by what ‘WE DO’…so that we may forget about the self…and live for the neighbor and their needs.

    I pray He gives us all the confidence to do just that, to the best of our ability, and to rest in Christ and to return to our Baptisms whenever the sledding gets too rough out there, and the world, the flesh, and the devil come after us.

    • “We are freed from religion and trying to please God by what ‘WE DO’…so that we may forget about the self…and live for the neighbor and their needs.”

      Thanks for this quote, Steve. I think it helps me to better explain to friends that I am more freed by becoming more self less and living more for the love and care of my neighbors. Peace, Kris

      • Kris,

        Thank you, my friend!

        When I say it to you (and others), I am also saying it to myself. Because that Old Adam/Eve in us refuses to die, we need to hear that message of the gospel and the freedom won for us on that bloody cross, again and again and again.

    • I sincerely don’t understand much of what I’ll call your “Lutheran-speak,” Steve. We don’t please God by what we do? How do I forget about ‘the self’? What does that even mean? Being less self-centered? Is anyone here advocating salvation without grace?

      Forgive me, but I’ve been noting this cant here for some time, and I finally have to raise my hand and ask what the heck your talking about.

      • Jon-
        Steve’s post seems pretty straight forward to me.
        Know that I am a sinner.
        Jesus has forgiven me by his work on the Cross.
        Go love others and know that even as bad as we may do this, we are forgiven in Christ.

        How do I know that Christ’s forgiveness is for me? Look to your baptism in Christ.

        Steve seems to me to be highlighting the limitations of in much of what is called “spirtuality” or “faith”. He is proposing that we look at Christ’s promises for our certainty not how we feel or what we do.

      • Jon,

        Jon,

        There’s too much religion going on in Christianity, Jon. The focus, the emphasis seems to be on what we do. Jesus obliterated all of that on the cross.

        • I get that we’re saved by grace, but your comment, even as interpreted by Ron, still seems a non sequitur. Perhaps I’m dense. Yet the latter halves of Paul’s epistles (and virtually all of James’) seem focused on “what we do.” Sure, not to be saved, but … never mind.

          • Jon,

            I know what you mean. We’re saved by grace BUT now ‘we should be doing this, or we should look like that’.

            Well, maybe we should…but we don’t. In Romans 7, Paul puts that to bed.

            I think it is a matter of realizing who and what we really are. We are (like that ols horror flick) ‘the thing that wouldn’t die’.

            So realizing what comes out of our hearts, we’d rather put the emphasis on the gospel (what Christ has done and is doing) rather than on the law (what we do).

            We trust that in the hearing of the gospel, the Holy Spirit will work in us and through us that which He will. When the law is emphasized, then you end up with people who despair because they can’t cut it, or people who become prideful because they think they are cutting it.

            This way of looking at the Christian faith is different than a lot of other Christian messages out there, and it goes against the grain of the law (whuch is written on our hearts), so it takes sosme getting used to. But when you do get used to it, you become truly free, and you will never again go back under the yoke of slavery, which is the law (what we do).

            That might help a little, Jon.

  2. David Cornwell says:

    The power and presence of the risen and living Christ in this world means the fulfillment of the prayer “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” is/will be coming to pass even as we speak. Thus the power of the King, the arrival of the Kingdom within and among us. The advancement of this Kingdom of power is a sure thing. It’s time to stop wringing our hands in doubt, and to live in sure expectation. Some day it will be revealed in its full and wondrous glory as we bow before the King of Kings. The tiny expectation born with the Christ child is now reaching full bloom.

    ‎”Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
    Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
    Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
    Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!”

  3. “This does not mean that they are to walk around all day thinking about “heaven.” It means they are to base their identity before God and their perspectives on life in this world on what God has done for them in Christ, and not on the kinds of “earthly” practices that lead to spiritual bondage. Being a Christian and living as one is not, at its root, about religious requirements, ascetic disciplines, ecstatic experiences, or moral codes (what Paul warned against in ch. 2). It is about Christ, being united to him, and being a living member of his new creation.”

    Amen. It sure runs contrary to typical American pietistic/revivalistic/moralistic evangelicalism.

  4. great exhortation. So simple!, yet you have highlighted deep and penetrating insights on what Paul is conveying here.
    also, you have stated things in a way that is very grounding and gives me strength to carry out the practical applications of what is said.