Resurrection? Okay. What then?
A couple months ago, I started leafing through the pages of a popular, self-helpy sort of book that is sticking close to the top of the bestseller lists. (Looking at books that hang around on those lists can give us an insight to what is happening in the culture and what kinds of ideas people are digesting.) In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis coaches women, who often define themselves in relation to other people (wife, mother, daughter, etc.), to live into their own God-given potential. It’s a very motivational book.
But what really caught my eye was the FORMAT of the book. Hollis identifies three big movements, choices really, toward achieving your dreams and goals:
- Letting go of EXCUSES that keep you stuck
- Taking on BEHAVIORS and habits that can yield success
- Acquiring new SKILLS that make growth possible
Not bad advice for a person, really. I certainly wouldn’t mind if my own kids read it and took her advice!
However, in my own soul (and I also find it true in churches, as well) I find that, as St. Paul states it, “The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do” (Romans 7:18b-19 CEB). The truth is, as I usually find out every New Year, my willpower is so broken! I want to take all her advice, yank my bootstraps up, and reach for the stars! What I usually manage to do, however, is stumble over my own perfectionism, my stress-level, or guilt/shame for my past choices. What starts as REACHING FOR THE STARS usually crumbles into accepting that I’m too broken to change and that God loves me anyhow. Which is a fine thought, really.
Nevertheless, as St. Paul states elsewhere, God DOES want us to live a victorious life. And God wants to “give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57)! We are Methodists! And one of our Methodist distinctives is a thorough proclamation of grace. Often, we translate that grace as “pardon” – forgiveness for all of our failures and brokenness as well as acceptance of a relationship with God.
Friends, as awesome as that is, the grace of God does not stop there!
The cross of Christ is that symbol of God’s eternal sacrifice. It means we are forgiven! Hallelujah!
But God ALSO raised Jesus from the dead! The FULL grace of God offers BOTH PARDON and POWER!
The empty tomb is that symbol of empowerment: Power to live a new life, power to aim life toward our God-given potential as we surrender our will over to the care of God. That is the good news of Easter! In the Risen Christ, God offers us POWER to do what Hollis suggests: let go of EXCUSES as to why we can’t follow Christ and develop BEHAVIORS and SKILLS that are Christ-like. The resurrection gives us GOD-help for our broken self-help.
On Sundays from now through Pentecost, your worship team invites you to STOP APOLOGIZING and making excuses for our inability to trust and obey God. Each week, through a different story in the Gospel of John, we will encounter a Christ who raises us to new life and possibility, if we will only trust him.