Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Christ Has Died, Christ Is Risen, Christ Will Come Again!

There's a group of pastors who meet every Tuesday morning to do a text study on the Bible readings for the upcoming Sunday. Well, mostly pastors. I'm there just about every week, as are a couple of other lay church professionals. Everyone takes turns leading the discussion from week to week. I had signed up to prepare and lead the study yesterday. Even though the Gospel reading was from Luke's version of the Beatitudes (blessed are they...), I've been thinking a lot about the epistle lesson, which was 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.

1 Corinthians 15:19 has taken on special importance to me ever since I discovered the book A Skeleton in God's Closet, by Paul Maier. This verse also serves as the epigram to the book: If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. It's the conclusion of an argument Paul (the apostle, not Paul Maier =) ) had begun earlier, aimed toward a group of folks who didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead. His basic argument is this: if you say there's no resurrection of the dead, then you're saying that Christ has not been raised--and that's the one thing that our faith hinges on. "If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (verse 17).

So anyway, I generally try to stay away from Christian fiction...I generally find it to be badly written, cheesy, and usually with an agenda I don't agree with. A Skeleton in God's Closet is a very notable exception to this rule. In it, an archaeologist digging in Israel finds what appears to be a box containing the bones of Jesus. If this is indeed the case, it would completely undermine one of the most basic tenets of Christianity--that is, the resurrection of Christ. The book reads like a Christian version of CSI. There's a very exciting plot line, and it's really interesting to learn about the different scientific methods archaeologists use to figure stuff out. But more interesting to me is the way Paul Maier unpacks the ramifications of what this discovery would or wouldn't mean to the faith of over a billion Christians worldwide. Very good stuff.

And don't worry, there's a happy ending. =)

Oh, lest I forget, the one negative in the book is an extremely poorly written love side-plot. I have a feeling Maier's editors came back to him and said he had to put it in, because it seems contrived and sort of an afterthought. It's completely unnecessary to the story as a whole, and I wish it wasn't in there. I'm a sucker for a good love story, but this one just ain't good. If you ever read the book, please just completely disregard the love story.

For a number of years now, I've made it a practice of mine to re-read A Skeleton in God's Closet during Lent, as a way to remind me of the power and importance of the empty tomb on Easter morning. It's really helped transform the relationship I have with what happened for me that morning 2,000 years ago--it's no longer a historical event that I commemorate once a year in the spring. It's a very present event that happens to me every day as the old Adam is drowned in the waters of my baptism and raised to new life in the freedom and grace of the Christ who overcame sin and death on my behalf.

The title of this post is a very old Eucharistic acclamation , over a thousand years old in fact. (Note: "Eucharistic" is just a fancy-schmancy church term for "having to do with Communion." A little education here...the root of "Eucharist" is the greek word "charis", which means "grace." An acclamation is something you shout to show enthusiastic approval.) So what we have here is something that ought to be shouted in enthusiastic approval as we celebrate the gift of grace and new life in Holy Communion.

Below is a picture I took in New Mexico. I was there with a group of college students, and we were visiting a site where there were bunches of small, natural caves carved into the cliffs. When I set foot inside this one, it was for me as though I was experiencing Easter morning. This is one of my favorite pictures. Ever. I added the Bible verse at the bottom through the magic of Microsoft Paint. =)

So then, lemme hear you!

Christ has died! Christ IS risen! Christ WILL come again!




Anonymous said...

Awesome book--and awesome picture!!
-Lil Sis

Rev Scott said...

and the "eu" in "eucharist" means "good" So, eucharist is "good grace," in a sense, just as euangelion/evangelion is "good news"

Sorry to bust the Greek dork on ya - but you probably already knew this.

Cool stuff!