A Word from Our Pastor 2011 April Living a Resurrected, Eternal Life

Living a Resurrected, Eternal Life

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In the past few weeks, I have been preaching about the “I am” statements from the Gospel of John in which Jesus described who he was and his mission. The statement, “I am the resurrection and the life,” although it occurs early in the gospel, speaks directly to our joy at Easter.

I almost always begin every memorial service with these words, “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life, and the person who believes in me, though (s)he may die, yet shall (s)he live. . .” These are comforting words to hear at the loss of a loved one — the reassurance of life beyond life; life blessed by God, a peace that passes our understanding. We don’t know what that life will be like, but our Scripture and our faith tells us that it will be very, very good.

Jesus often spoke of “eternal life,” but he wasn’t always referring to the “hereafter.” Rather, the phrase “eternal life,” was a way of talking about living (right here and now) that was different from “ordinary” life. Eternal life began with the encounter with Jesus, and the response of faith/trust — at that moment, the person no longer was living “ordinary” life, but began the journey of “eternal” life. As the church developed after Jesus’ death, they created the sacrament of baptism to mark the even in the life of believer, when ordinary turned into “eternal.” That is why baptisms are traditionally performed on Easter morning — baptism was a celebration of the believer’s “resurrection” to eternal life. The old life had passed away, buried beneath the water into which the believer was immersed, and new, eternal life began as the person was born anew and raised out of the water.

Many, if not most of you who are reading this have been baptised — or had an encounter with Jesus to which you responded in faith. Does it feel like you are living “eternal life” — or do you feel stuck in ordinary life? Even people who are very devoted to God have times — which may last for quite a while — when they feel stuck in ordinary life. St. Paul tells us to be “in the world, but not of it.” That sounds easy for him to say. . . but the world can be so challenging. How can we not be caught up in the mess that the world is in? Today, we think of yet another war — in Libya — along with Afghanistan and Iraq. We also think of incredible suffering — in Haiti and Japan, along with the urgent threat of nuclear near disaster in Fukushima. Then, there is the economy, which still hangs over most Californians; just yesterday I spoke to a home-bound disabled woman whose benefits were being cut back so that she could not afford basic services. Most city budgets, along with the state’s, have meant that public services, schools, so many things that we count on, may not be available. And most of you have to work longer hours, as businesses are making do with fewer employees.

So: how do we live a resurrected, eternal life now? For one thing, the church is meant to be a sanctuary — a place of safety. So that even if we cannot stop a war, we can love others. On Sundays, we can share our love with those who attend, we can reach out to those who are sick; we can offer our resources by giving money to relief efforts. And we can go further: sharing our love and resources with those outside the congregation. In order to make a response to the wars, we can develop friendships with Muslims or Middle Easterners — or anyone who sojourns among us — foreign students, new arrivals. We can work for immigration reform, or support Iraq war resisters; we can write letters, demonstrate, befriend veterans, support people with AIDS, and always, pray. We can collect food and necessities or support homeless shelters. Instead of feeling defeated by the burdens of the world, we have been given the gift of life and God’s grace and compassionate love. We have been given the vision of the world as God would want it to be: overflowing with peace, justice and love. Every moment, we can heed this vision, be inspired by it, and through God’s strength, live that eternal life by bringing the world a little bit closer to it. Living a resurrected eternal life is not just receiving the blessing that God gives us: that is only the beginning. What will be your next step?

–Rev. Naomi