Yesterday evening I was asked to talk to the Wednesday evening crowd at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in South Tampa. The occasion was their post-Easter "Resurrection Dinner". We moved into the sanctuary after an excellent meal, and a good number of people were gracious enough to hang around and listen to what I had to say.
The invitation came from my friend, Linda Beckham, who is Christian Education guru and all around mover-and-shaker at the church. "We want you to speak to the topic, 'Why I believe in the resurrection'," she said a few weeks ago.
"Great topic!" I replied.
Yes it is a great topic... but it was both easy and difficult at the same time. Easy because the resurrection is foundational to the idea of being a Jesus-follower. And yet difficult inasmuch as too many of us go through the motions of this Christian allegiance without living as if the resurrection ever actually happened; or, if it did, that it was an event frozen in time and more of an historical footnote than a present reality.
So that's where I started (Don't worry, I'm not going to blog my entire twenty-five minute talk!).
"One reason that I believe in resurrection" I said, "is the evidence of God's redemptive initiative that is so obvious in many people I know..." And I said that - for a lot of people outside the faith community - believing (and, quite often, NOT believing) hangs on the kind of evidence presented by those of us who profess to follow Jesus.
Or, put another way, "So do we follow a RISEN LORD, or do we gather in a mausoleum every Sunday to commemorate the memory of someone else's conviction?"
Bottom line is this: Those of us who claim to follow Jesus are evidence. We don't get to chose to participate in carrying the message or not. By virtue of our profession we are - by definition - part of the body of evidence when it comes to resurrection. This uncomfortable reality necessarily begs the question: "What kind of evidence are we?" When people meet us, have they encountered evidence of resurrection... or have they run into evidence of what I call "Commemorative religion" (a system or philosophy that honors the memory of a good man, one with an active ministry that ended on Good Friday 2000 years ago).
Here's a great quote from Gregory of Nyssa (circa 360 AD): "Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything."
Grasp this: I believe in the resurrection!