Asbury United Methodist Church
Love - Share - Tell - Serve

April 3, 2018

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day is now two days in the rearview mirror. 

We had a busy Holy Week!  But now, I kind of tongue-in-cheek feel like asking, “Well, what are we going to do now?”

          We’re done with the Easter bunny, finding hidden eggs, songs of the cross, the old-rugged one that we cling to I might add; and, we’re done with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and a Holy Saturday blood drive too!

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem is now a very distant memory.  The palm branches that the children waved on Palm Sunday are now being dried for Ash Wednesday of next year.

          Everything has been put back in the box!  So, what’re we going to do now?

          Well, we move on to what Christ wants from us in the first place, to undertake the greatest adventure that life can possibly offer us.  Jesus intends for us to heal the world!

          Fourteen years ago, Mel Gibson directed the film, The Passion of the Christ.  This film is brutal and pulls no punches.

          Jesus, who was portrayed by Jim Caviezel brought the visceral brutality of the crucifixion to the widescreen, leaving no doubt in the minds of the viewers that our Lord experienced the most horrific death one can imagine.

          Back in the day, The Passion stirred up a whole bunch of conversations!  Time Magazine even weighed in.

          Sunday School classes discussed the film.  I was even moved to preach a sermon or two while the film was being shown in theaters near us!

          The overwhelming question that The Passion provoked was, “Why did Jesus have to die in the first place?”  Oddly, this is not a new question, but one that has been floating around for the past two thousand years!

          Scholars have weighed in.  None of them seem to agree on much of anything.

          Even so, the answer to this question has for the most part been boiled down into two schools of thought.  The first is called: Substitutionary.

          I’ll tell you right up front that I do not like this one so much.  The Substitutionary theory states that Jesus paid the price for all of our errors.

          This implies that God needed those pounds of flesh to pay for our depravity and Jesus was the whipping post.  Because the Lamb of God suffered and died on the cross, we were given a Get Out of Jail Free card.

          There is some merit to this notion of course, but in practicality, it keeps God very distant from us; and, it depicts God as a tyrant who needed to punish somebody and Jesus was fair game.

          I don’t have to like a thing to report it to you!

          But, let’s chat a bit about what’s behind door number two!  We call this the Exemplary theory.

          Jesus was the moral exemplar of all humanity.  The Bible even calls him the Son of Man because was/is/and will be a new type of human who lives, moves and breaths for the mission of healing all of humanity.

          Jesus the exemplar, had a mission to model for humanity; and, it was the power and depth of God’s love and forgiveness.  The crucifixion was the most severe and extreme demonstration of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness that the world would ever see!

          And, we find tons of Scripture to back this up!  One of the pinnacles that we hang our hats on can be found in Philippians:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)!”

Holy smoke!  This changes everything!

In this gesture Jesus said, “Watch this!  I am going to settle once and for all the question of God’s love for the world!  I am going to show you the most extreme, severe love that the world has ever seen!”

And, there is a finer point that must be explained.  Yes, indeed Jesus’ death was a demonstration of cosmic love, but it is his life that truly saves.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile (Romans 3:22 NIV).”

Jesus used an extreme example of betrayal, abandonment and death to illustrate to us that there is no justification…ever, for humans to respond in the ways that humanity responded to him when we are upset!  

There are always other options besides crucifixions (in whatever guises we understand them to be).

          What’re we going to do now?  

Again, we move on to what Christ wants in the first place, to undertake the greatest adventure that life can possibly offer us.  Jesus intends for us to heal the world!

          Jesus’ death says to us that any act outside of the balance of the Holy Spirit is never justified.  Just simmer on that a while.

          Have you ever considered that the only acts of balance sanctioned by the Holy Spirit are 1) giving love or 2) asking for it?  Note that this is not pacifism!

We are not asked to be docile!  We are not asked to be weak!  We are asked to be strong in the power of love.

          Let’s be honest for a moment!  How many of us feel any safer by allowing fear and judgment to dominate our lives? 

          If a thing is not working, if the horse is dead, dismount!

Teachers of Jesus and his ways and systems are needed now!  Help wanted!  I think the survival of our species depends on us!

          Jesus asks, “Are you ready to help me save the world?”  This is a call to action!  We must labor to cease all fear, judgment, hopelessness and even guilt that is ruining our lives! 

          There are too many of us on this earth right now who are continuing to live in this old-school way.  On the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them; they don’t have a clue as to what they are doing (Luke 23:34, MSG, amplification by me).

          There is an old hymn that I dearly love entitled, The Old Rugged Cross.  This hymn tells the story of Jesus and his love for the world, unto death.

          The chorus sings, “I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”

          As much as I love this old hymn and all, we’re in the season of Easter now; and, I think it’s time to move on to the mission.

          “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).”  Yes, indeed there is a season for clinging but I think if we cling during this season of Easter, it’s going to impair the mission.

          Our focus shifts today!  Our focus is now upon the living out of the message of Jesus’ life! 

He has given us the tools of faith needed to refocus our lens!  He has provided for us all that we need to steer a new course.

          Finally, there are times that I think that talking about Jesus may be a waste of time!  (Hold on a minute and don’t panic!)

           Culture has picked up on the fact that lots of times when we talk, our talk and our actions do not match!

There are times when our talk comes off as being condescending, vindictive and judgmental.  Our attitudes and our language may express arrogance and we can harm the kingdom.

Have you ever considered how many ways there are to witness for Christ that does not involve talk?

There are numerous sayings about this stance:

You may be the only Christ someone will see today! 

We are the only hands and feet that Jesus has!

When we have the choice of being right or being good, choose being good!  We can do a lot of damage being right, but we can never do damage being good.

People may forget what you say but they will never forget how you made them feel. 

          So, what if…what if today we became Jesus instead?  Isn’t salvation collaborative?  Isn’t Jesus standing by, patiently waiting for us to complete our part?

          If we became Jesus, his message would reinterpret our relationships with everyone else, transforming these events into holy encounters.  Culture would come to us as a moth to a flame.  Life would rebalance.

          (Yes, of course when I say to become Jesus, I am meaning our best reflection of him.)

          “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10 KJV).”  God’s kingdom is one of balance and harmony.

          When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking for a kingdom to be established here on earth that looks a whole like the one in heaven.  This is a kingdom free of collisions and destructive behavior.

          What’re we going to do now? 

I will quote Microsoft, “Where do you want to go today?”  All we need to do is make that first step of Christ-likeness.  He will lead us onward!

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