“Raised?” Will Help You Teach The Implications of the Resurrection This Easter
Like most of you, at the start of Holy Week I am deep in reflection upon the most monumental event in history: the resurrection.
I'm deep in reflection not only personally, but pastorally. And the reason why is this: I want to preach the resurrection well. Not for the sake of professionalism, but for the sake of my people.
On the one hand I want them to believe it. To believe that that the tomb really is empty. That Jesus actually did rise from the dead to new physical life.
On the other I have something more pastoral in mind: I want my people this Sunday to grasp the event's significance and implications.
I want them to drink deep the marrow of its life-changing power, for them and for our world. I want them to know that death doesn't have the final word in their story because it didn't have the final word in Jesus' story.
Yes I want them to believe the event itself, that Jesus physically lives. I also want them to live the event, to understand how the resurrection impacts life right now, as much as the next life.
A new book is helping me craft my sermon to do just that. It’s called Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection. Its authors respect our doubts, though clearly challenge people to believe in and then live the resurrection. Right now it’s helping me outline three clear, compelling implications of the resurrection: give, celebrate, and serve.
Implication #1: Give
Dodson and Watson write that, as resurrection people, “When we look at our hands, our bank accounts, our homes, and our time, we ask, ‘God, how can I be a blessing to your people?’ There is no need to hoard possessions because you have abundant life in Jesus.” (89)
We freely and generously give because we have freely and generously received new life through Christ’s own new life.
Sometimes this giving is big and risky, like leaving everything and traveling oversees to preach the gospel with words and through deeds. Most of the time though it’s simple, it’s everyday.
Watson illustrates the point using his wife, who “gives up her day for the benefit of others” by baking delicious cookies on Portland’s dark and rainy days. She then gives them away to neighbors while they’re at work in order to bless them. Watson remarks, “This is something simple, but it is an everyday picture of the resurrected life. We give abundantly from what we have to bless others.” (90-91)
Implication #2: Celebrate
“Part of experiencing the power of the resurrected life is seeing your need to pause regularly and celebrate.” Such pausing and celebrating comes in two forms: the everyday and the holy day.
In the everyday, Watson and family host a rollicking yearly July 4th celebration. Their front yard is transformed into a resurrection-style party for neighbors, coworkers, and friends. “The day is marked by good drink, good food, and good conversations for everyone.” It’s the kind of celebrating the resurrection life produces, because “Who Jesus is and what he has done is at the center of [their] joyful celebrations.” (91)
There’s another kind, too, the holy day celebration. Each week Watson and their gathering meet to celebrate Jesus and the joy of the resurrection in song; they listen to someone expound on God’s story; people shout, sing, dance, and smile; they hug one another to live generously and courageously.
Why? Because Jesus rose from the dead! “Isn’t that reason to celebrate early on a Sunday morning? Who is welcomed? Everyone!” (92)
Implication #3: Serve
Finally, “Because Christ has served us, we are free to follow Jesus in caring for the vulnerable and those who need to hear the story of God.” (92)
Dodson warns, though, this implication will not be easy. Serving will require struggle and sacrifice. It requires a fight: for reconciliation, peace, and injustice. And yet, “Jesus did everything needed to restore the relationship between God and humanity, and [your people] are now invited to join him in his work of restoring broken relationships.” (93)
Yet in the midst of such sacrifice and struggle is joy. The power of the resurrection makes it so that we can’t imagine life any other way but to loose our life in the service of others, to die for the sake of others rising to new life.
“There is no sugarcoating it. You will lose your life. In its place you will find a vibrant, full, and eternal life. By dying to ourselves we become alive to the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit.” (94)
In their engaging, helpful book Dodson and Watson can help you this week preach the unbelievable in a way that helps your people both believe and live Christ’s resurrection.
"Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!" Now let us give, celebrate, and serve—all through the power of the resurrection.
Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA, a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and writes about faith and life at www.jeremybouma.com.