Friday, November 8, 2013

The Story We Are Actually Telling

Here's an example of how we're missing it when it comes to the resurrection. What's your typical evangelical conversion experience? I come to God through Jesus as a sinner, I pray the 'sinner's prayer,' he forgives me, lives in me by his Spirit, and lets me into heaven when I die. I am also baptized and have communion as symbolic of this experience. That's certainly pretty well what happened to me. So what's the problem?

Last night I realized that that does not line up with Jesus' death and resurrection very well.  I mean it actually changes the story by downplaying the resurrection. The real story of the Gospel is that Jesus was born as a baby, lived an obedient life in the power of the Holy Spirit, was put to death, bearing our sins in some sacrificial manner (yes I'm being vague here. I'm trying to avoid taking sides in the current brouhaha over in what sense he has died for our sins), rose again bodily, ascended bodily into heaven and will come again to rule. Do you see a conflict? What's always been told us, especially in our conversion narrative, as primarily important, is that Jesus has provided a way into heaven. But if that's so central, the resurrection is an embarrassing detail and the second coming is an anticlimax. We might as well eviscerate his story and say that he went to hell with our sins, left them there and attained heaven on our behalf so now we can also go there too. We need never again mention his coming back in the body. Who cares about his body? He's in heaven now. That's what counts. Who cares about our bodies? We'll be in heaven.

So. Big surprise. We're not getting it. Over years of evangelism we've boiled down the message to 'pray the sinner's prayer and escape hell.' The early church grappled constantly with all the resurrection could mean and we, all too familiar, ignore it. Can we go back and start examining it again? Do we realize what an absolutely shocking anomaly it is? Can we see again that it changes everything? Yup. It's time to grapple some more...

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