Resurrection of the righteous – rich in what matters to God

This week we begin a new five week series we are calling, Resurrection of the righteous. It comes from the words of Jesus in speaking about holding a banquet an inviting those who cannot repay you so that you may be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. We hear about resurrection often in relationship to Jesus. In fact if there was no resurrection it is likely we would not be talking about Jesus at all. So what does resurrection mean? How are we to participate in the resurrection of Christ? What does it mean to be the righteous?  We will look at these things over the next few weeks in the context of the Sunday over the next weeks.

Resurrection is the principal event of the life of Jesus. It brings new life and Jesus resurrection is the basis of all resurrection for everyone, everywhere. We read, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12) Resurrection is more than an event for one man it happens more broadly and includes many more. Seemingly all is resurrection.

Resurrection is more than an event for one man it happens more broadly and includes many more. Seemingly all is resurrection. Click To Tweet

Richard Rohr has written a new book entitled “The Universal Christ” which defines Christ more clearly than I have read in other places. The book speaks of Jesus death and resurrection as Christ. I am influenced by his teachings and writings and should probably put quotation marks at the beginning of these words and at the end, but that would be unfair to Richard (I am sure misrepresent him often.) However, one thing that comes at me right from the start is that resurrection is for everyone and everything. Using Richard’s word resurrection is universal. We speak of God as being omnipresent; present everywhere at the same time, thus God is in everyone and everything. If God is resurrected than we are resurrected too. Being resurrected we are new, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) This is resurrection.

We speak of God as being omnipresent; present everywhere at the same time, thus God is in everyone and everything. If God is resurrected than we are resurrected too. Click To Tweet

This Week

The readings this week point us towards becoming rich in what matters to God. Many of us live our lives building up treasure, loading our banks with money, building up the size of our home, loading our refrigerators, filling multiple garages with multiple cars, sometimes even having two and three homes. The readings tell us this is treasure that does no good, it remains for someone else when we die and it brings worry and sleepless nights while live with it. The treasure that matters is stored with God, it is providing service and love to our brothers and sisters, it is being a worthy member of the Christian community, recognizing Christ in us and sharing what we know about the Kingdom of God. When we are rich in what matters to God, we are truly rich.

When we are rich in what matters to God, we are truly rich. Click To Tweet

The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Psalms  90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21. The readings guide us to build up treasure so that we are rich in what matters to God.

In the first reading from Ecclesiastes we have this phrase “vanity of vanities, all things are vanities!” Vanity is a kind of admiration of our own “thing” (achievement, appearance, work, accomplishments, successes, etc.) This in reality is futile, pointless, because first we likely have an inflated view and as the reading goes on to address what does it matter if we are happy with our own achievements. The book of Ecclesiastes explains exactly what things are made of, and shows and makes clear that for us it is vanity to care so much for things of this world. We are challenged to understand that the passing things of this life are not worth hungering for, and that we should not devote our attention to useless things or fix our desires on any created thing. Even working toward obtaining wisdom, someone who works hard to obtain it will end up leaving it behind and are things will be for someone who did not work for it. We can work all day and night, build up what makes us comfortable and rich ending up with backaches, headaches and sleepless nights because of it. In the end have striven for things that will just turn to dust in time. For an honorable, honest and enjoyable life comes from the hand of God. God bestows wisdom, knowledge and joy on the person who pleases him. We are invited to look at Jesus and see everything true and good is found in him. This is where we begin to see resurrection. If we want to be resurrected with him we must also die with him. Focusing our lives and doing what is necessary to be deemed worthy by God, is to be righteous, then we work toward being rich in what matters to God. Changing to work for God and we will celebrate in the resurrection of the righteous with Christ. This is not vanity at all!

God bestows wisdom, knowledge and joy on the person who pleases him. We are invited to look at Jesus and see everything true and good is found in him. Click To Tweet

In the second reading from the letter to the Colossians Paul offers a similar message, we should seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We should put to death what is earthly in us; immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, greed that turns to idolatry, we should stop lying to each other. In baptism we have put on new selves. We are being renewed, given knowledge, recalling we were made in the image of God. Our lives are hidden in Christ, that is Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Christ is our life, when he appears in us we will also appear with him glory. Again we hear the message that we should be rich in what matters to God. We should let the Christ in us appear in the world and we should live Christ resurrection of the righteous. There is nothing but reward in being in Christ and letting all we do point to Christ. In Christ we are truly rich. We are called to flip the current model, which has us living in the world and celebrating Christian community for one hour a week in Sunday. Rather we should live as member of the Christian community and bring it out into the world where we can convert others to work toward being rich in what matters to God.

We are called to flip the current model, which has us living in the world and celebrating Christian community for one hour a week in Sunday. Click To Tweet

In the gospel reading from Luke we read stories of Jesus teaching about storing up treasure in heaven. Much like the first reading we are dealing with inheritance, brothers fighting over more of the inheritance, hoping Jesus will help. Jesus steps away from their struggle and teaches the crowd that life does not consists of possessions. He went on to tell the parable of the very successful farmer who had to build a new, larger barn to store up his bountiful harvest not knowing the very night he fills his new barn his life will be demanded of him. All the contents and his new barn will be left to someone who has not worked for them, this is vanity as we recall from the first reading. In the parable Jesus tells the listeners this is how it will be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God. We should spend our life pleasing God and doing what we can to advance the message of resurrection. We will never have any success in life if we are not working toward the Kingdom of God. To worry about accumulating worldly treasure and ignoring treasure in heaven is a mistake and it gives us backaches, headaches and sleepless nights. Rather we should enjoy life as we could with God, trusting God is our only means to provide a life that matters, members of a kingdom that is honorable, honest and enjoyable.

The readings from this week point towards trusting God for a life well lived, and building up treasure that matters. In fact it is a good theme, we should become rich in what matters to God. The readings read that depending on our work, lying to one another and storing up treasure in barns is not going to do anything for us eternally, in fact it creates aches and unease for us daily. Trust God to help with daily needs, live simply, and work toward the resurrection of the righteous. Become righteous by being in right relationship with God and participate in Christ so you can share the resurrection message with others.

Trust God to help with daily needs, live simply, and work toward the resurrection of the righteous. Click To Tweet

Resurrection of the righteous

We have to admit that the resurrection of Jesus is the central event to creating a movement with Jesus as the leader. If Jesus goes into the ground and we never hear from him again then we never hear from him again. But on Easter morning we have stories of an empty tomb, the witness of Mary Magdalene seeing and speaking to Jesus and him asking her to get a message to his disciples. Jesus appears to others over the next several days and weeks, speaking and eating with them. The resurrected Jesus, is very important to the creation of Christianity. As @Andy Stanley often says, “If a man can predict his own death and resurrection, and pull it off, I just go with whatever that man says.

If Jesus goes into the ground and we never hear from him again then we never hear from him again. Click To Tweet

Christianity is the only religion founded on resurrection. Others believe in a resurrection of the dead and while their belief has strong claims I couldn’t find any actual examples of resurrected people in those religions. Therefore if you’re a Christian there is a good chance you believe you are going to be resurrected (and you should.)

What is resurrection? Simply it is rising from the dead, being restored to life. We could have the impression that Jesus went into the tomb dead and some all-powerful medic put the paddles to his chest three days later and restarted his heart. He got up and continued from where he left off before his crucifixion. But, this would more likely be resuscitation, not resurrection.

When Jesus is seen after his resurrection he is not recognized. Mary who was as close to Jesus as anyone, looked at him near the tomb and thought he was the gardener. It wasn’t until she heard him speak her name that she knew who he was. Others, who saw him didn’t’ recognize him, until something he said or did. For example on the road to Emmaus he joined two disciples who only knew him when he broke bread at their table. Peter and the other disciples at the Sea of Tiberias only knew who he was when he called out to them and told them where to catch fish. It was Jesus who went into the tomb and Christ who came out someone new, recreated in resurrection.

It was Jesus who went into the tomb and Christ who came out someone new, recreated in resurrection. Click To Tweet

Several people including Richard Rohr and Dominic Crossman focus on the idea that we don’t have a physical description of the resurrection. We have people meeting the resurrected Christ after, but no actual witnesses to the event itself. What would we have seen if we were witness to the resurrection? Many say perhaps it would have been a bright light extending in all directions, something that might come along with a nuclear explosion (without the destruction.) The tomb was opened and out steps this image of a person in what we have come to call a glorified body. Richard says, “In the resurrection, the single physical body of Jesus moved beyond all limits of space and time into a new notion of physicality and light – which includes all of us in its embodiment.” (The Universal Christ p. 177) This supports the idea that after the resurrection Christ appears in locked rooms circumventing space to be present. As an example, in the case of the upper room he was present to his disciples behind locked doors and windows.

Much more happened at the resurrection. We read in Matthew “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (27:51-53)  Many others were resurrected and appeared who had been dead. We don’t get much more about these resurrected saints and we are left to wonder. Where did they go? What was their life like after this event? Did they also ascend like Jesus? Who were they?

Jesus resurrection wasn’t the first of its kind. We have the story of Lazarus who had been dead for four days, called out of his tomb by Jesus. He walks out still wearing the burial garments. We don’t hear more about him. We also don’t get the same kind of change as we do with Jesus resurrection. There were no others walking out of tombs. We don’t read about problems of recognition. We also don’t think of Lazarus as a new person, perhaps his wasn’t a resurrection and more a resuscitation.

As a people of a creed we learn about from an encapsulated story of God’s plan and Jesus role in the plan, particularly around resurrection. The earliest of these creeds is called the Apostle’s’ Creed. We pray in part, “…Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, …” This line about descending to hell is believed to be Christ pulling the dead from their place of “sleeping” and bringing them into resurrection. Some believe using the word hell is unfortunate, some translations simply read, “descending to the dead.” The Nicene Creed a later version creed leaves this line out. But clearly in the early church there was this belief at Jesus death those who had gone before were given a chance at resurrection. Does this mean everyone was cleared out, or that only the worthy were selected? It is impossible to know. There are those who believe if Christ went to hell that in all likelihood he would have undone the place. (cf. The Universal Christ p 192) “Hell and Christ cannot coexist.”

There are those who believe if Christ went to hell that in all likelihood he would have undone the place. Hell and Christ cannot coexist. Click To Tweet

The impact of resurrection has a bigger change than just one man walking out of his tomb. Christ allows himself to be changed; summing “up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10) All things means all creation. To sum up means to “head up” or to read it in other translations, “unite” (RSV), “to gather up” (NRSV), “to bring … under one head” (NIV) “to gather everything together under Christ, as head.” (JB) In heaven and earth indicates that God plans to unite the entire cosmos under Christ. As Christ is changed we are changed. Noting from above, “whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As Christ is new, we are new in him. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16) We are new in Christ created (and recreated) in the image of God, restoring us to God’s own image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-27) Before Christ we are not righteous, we are not deemed worthy of God. In resurrection we are restored to the image of God. As Christ is new, we are new in him. With Christ we are righteous, “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The resurrection changes everything. Is it a moment in history that changes things backward and forward in time, or is it an event that changed everything from the beginning of time as all is created through and for Christ? It is impossible to know, but what we do know is Christ is new and we are new in Christ. Resurrection is not resuscitation, it is Christ power as risen Lord working in our midst, in everything, to bring about this change.

Resurrection is not resuscitation, it is Christ power as risen Lord working in our midst, in everything, to bring about this change. Click To Tweet

So when we are speaking of the resurrection of the righteous we mean so much more than coming to life at the end of our life or the end of time. We become new beings in resurrection. Who does this effect, everyone and everything, all creation? Resurrection is not just for believers, it is for all. We read, “I have the same hope in God … that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) This is Paul speaking at a trial in his own defense. Just as there would be no need to state there is a resurrection of the righteous if only the righteous were resurrected, Paul is confirming resurrection is for all.

Going forward

We can conclude resurrection changes Christ and us. Resurrection is the founding event for Christianity. We have no physical description of the resurrection of Christ. It is bigger than a single event in the life of one man, many were seen after the resurrection who had come out of tombs. Resurrection is not resuscitation. Resurrection impacts all creation. At death Christ descends to the dead and brings life to all who have gone before. Resurrection changed us.

As we look to become rich in what matters to God we see through resurrection how important we are to God. The impact of resurrection is so wide and broad there is nothing that is does not reach. This is God’s plan for life. Nothing dies, everything becomes something new. We become new and need to be worthy of God’s effort to make us new. We should work toward what will make us rich in what matter to God. This will make us deemed worthy bu God and our resurrection will be of the righteous.

This is God’s plan for life. Nothing dies, everything becomes something new. We become new and need to be worthy of God’s effort to make us new. Click To Tweet

We will continue to look at the resurrection of the righteous over the next several weeks. There is much more we can imagine is the impact of resurrection on our lives and all of creation. It should be fun to explore!

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