Ken Trainor writes a column for the Wednesday Journal, one of our local papers. This week's column had a provocative title: It's Spring--Time to Come Out of the Tomb. He got the idea for the column during a church service:
At Mass last Sunday, looking up at the enormous tableaux of the crucifixion behind the altar at Ascension Church, I wondered how the crucifix became the universal symbol of Christianity. Why not the open tomb? The resurrection is the main event, but Christians seem crucifixated on the suffering and death.
He goes on to make his point very plainly:
We worship death, not the resurrection. If we truly believed death had been defeated, we would live differently, worship differently. We wouldn’t pray to crucifixes inside buildings that resemble—more than anything else—a tomb.
Ken is a Catholic who tends toward the liberal or the progressive side of the theological spectrum. I mention that only because I think he's got a good point here. If you read the sermons in the book of Acts, the great point of all of them is that God raised Jesus from the dead. We sometimes get it backwards. We talk so much about the death of Christ that we leave the impression that the resurrection was an afterthought. If we focus exclusively on the suffering of our Lord, we miss the joy of his resurrection.
And this sentence really set me to thinking: "If we truly believed death had been defeated, we would live differently, worship differently." Paul says the same thing in Colossians 3:1, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (English Standard Version). Billy Graham said it this way, "We do not worship a dead Jesus. We worship a living Christ." Amen. We heard the phrase "Be not afraid" a great deal leading up to the funeral of Pope John Paul II. But we live in such a frightening world these days. Fear dwells near the surface of modern life. Death and fear seem to go together. But if we believe that death has been defeated . . .
If we believe . . .
Almost every funeral I've ever attended has included these stirring words of Jesus from John 11:25-26,
As a pastor, I see the overpowering effects of death every time I do a funeral. So the question is very pertinent and very personal.
Death has been defeated. Do you believe this?
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