So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the tag “easter”

Easter 2018- A Meditation

We have no choice about being born and no choice about dying. In-between these existential bookends our ‘life’s story’ emerges exhibiting meaning and purpose, a horrifying emptiness, a pathetic exercise in futility or some combination of these. How this story ends really depends on the world-view used to define and interpret the mystery of existence.

Secular social scientists, government authorities and, most of all, corporations see us through the lenses of naturalistic evolution concluding that our ‘life stories’ are random instances of blind, materialistic, accidental and purely ‘natural’ evolutionary processes ending in death. While alive we take our proper place in their grand scheme as consumers driven by consumerism, a commodity amongst commodities supporting a top down economic juggernaut that benefits the 1% by sacrificing the 99%. In other words, whatever ultimate meaning and value we have is extrinsic, not intrinsic; it comes from the outside, not something we possess in and of ourselves, it is imposed upon us.

But, let’s suppose there is a purpose ‘built in” to existence, that gives our own life’s story a context, that we are not just accidents of nature, but all have intrinsic value and that death is not an inevitable end to our story. And let’s suppose that this purpose, this design, can be discovered. If any of this is true, then it would explain why we seem driven to live as if there is a ‘higher order’ to seemingly random events, that we resist and resent being monetized and dare to think that life has such a beautiful and transcendent value that it should continue beyond death. So, if we at least entertain the possibility that life and death are not just natural phenomena but, at least to some degree, include supernatural elements it would give us a clue why despite a predominate naturalistic/materialistic evolutionary world view we still feel compelled to find intrinsic personal meaning when there shouldn’t be any to find.

And so, the two-major competing world-views come to light. On the one hand, we have secular culture and its commitment to naturalism and, on the other, supernaturalism which it turns out, does not reject the natural world but embraces it as part of a larger whole.  The world-view of naturalism reduces us to material beings and nothing else, whereas supernaturalism affirms we are more than the sum of our material ‘parts’, that while we are natural beings in the natural world we are, at the same time, much more and thereby expanded into our true and proper existential condition.

From the supernatural side there are many versions that seek our attention. The most profound and life affirming belief system (and, most importantly, true) is Christianity. Christians believe all human beings are “image bearers” of God because God created them so. To be sure, this image has been severely distorted by sin, but nevertheless remains present in everyone. For this reason alone, all of us have intrinsic value because God thinks we are valuable, so much so that all of history, whether secular or sacred, is a display of God setting things right again after sin entered creation. From the creation of the earth to the creation of the new heavens and earth, from the garden of Eden to the eternal Eden wherein God dwells with His people forever, this meta narrative illuminates not only our individual lives, but the life and purpose of creation itself.

Today is Resurrection Sunday, 2018. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead shows in a most dramatic way the intrinsic value of life, that what is natural (like death) is “swallowed up” by life, that the ultimate meaning and purpose of our existence is found within the love that God has for us and His creation, that life is precious in and of itself, and, therefore, continues on forever.

But we all must choose between competing stories that seek to define us. Are we the products of blind, evolutionary forces and thus nothing more than consumers defined by an economic world-view or are we something else altogether? The life, death and resurrection of Jesus show us that we are worth something because God loves us. If we choose His story, we choose life. If not, the only story left is that there is no point to anything we do, no significance to who we are, and so we “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. How pathetic is that?

So, here’s the point. All who end up thinking the supernaturalism embodied in His story is a religious fairy-tale and instead wholeheartedly commit to evolutionary naturalism as more ‘rational’ will discover that natural death is not the end after all, that their soul, which naturalism says doesn’t (and can’t) exist, will endure only to take on eternal death, forever separated from the Living God, the Source of all Life. Now, this is truly pathetic.

 

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Reincarnation: The Christian Version

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According to many of the world’s religions a human being will endure any number of births, deaths, and re-births on a journey towards enlightenment and a final release from the samsaric cycle. The ‘re-birth’ part is called reincarnation or being ‘rebodied’.

There is a Christian version of this called being ‘born-again’ which includes an eternal re-embodiment called ‘resurrection’ both given final definition by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus, the Christian who dies in Christ and whose body perishes, as do all natural things, will once again be re-bodied, only now with an eternally incorruptible body fit for the new environment it finds itself in, namely heaven and the presence of God. This will only happen once, no nearly endless reincarnations in hope of finally being released from samsara, because “it is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment.” Therefore, the Christian version of being ‘re-bodied’ is not an escape from, but a fulfillment of a grand design formed from eternity in the mind of God and executed in time, space and a material world.

Furthermore, Christianity rejects the idea that the true, ideal or ultimate existence is an amorphous one wherein all sense of self-consciousness is gone and the body is merely a vessel to be discarded when the samsaric reoccurrence is broken. Rather, being re-bodied is part of a perfection wherein the self becomes its true self, what it was meant to be from the beginning, fully conscious of its embodiment and of the God who created it in the first place.

It shouldn’t really be that surprising that similarities exist between the major world’s religions and Christianity. After all, Romans 1 makes it clear that the world stands guilty before God because it knows that He exists and what He is like by His creation. We must be careful, however, not to confuse similarity with sameness, as if they are both saying the same thing, only differently. Christianity brings together through two magnificent events, the Incarnation of Logos and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the final truth of what it means to be really, finally and ultimately alive that other religions can only hint at.

And this is one major theme of Easter: the triumph of life over death. Because He lives, we now live and shall continue so for eternity. We share in the life of God, the Source of all Life, Life itself, in fact for He is the God of the living and not of the dead.

 

 

What To Say to a Zombie If You Meet One

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I’ve heard death described as “just part of the natural order of things” like it’s all normal and therefore acceptable. Others act like death is a gross inconvenience, disrupting their grandiose schemes and must be met with elaborate attempts to squeeze just a few more days or years out of a life already wasted by consumption and unbridled hubris. Still others, as their last moments arrive, cower in fear, trembling before the great unknown that faces them, while some act arrogantly and defiantly thinking their bravado will ‘scare it away’.

I despise death in whatever form it takes because I know it isn’t supposed to be here. It is an aberration, an abnormality, a foreign invader, a much reviled interloper, but, most of all, an enemy. It came when sin entered His creation and indeed, thanatos reigns.

Unless you’re a Christian, that is. Believers know that death has no more sting for those born twice and that death, the last enemy, is swallowed up by life; not just any life, but eternal life, the very life of that God of the living whom we serve and worship. And because He is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also eternally alive now, this very moment, along with all who have faith in He Who Speaks, the I AM, the Word Incarnate, the Alpha and Omega, He who was, is and is to come. We who name the Name of Jesus say to death “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” because “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

We must come to understand that there exists all around us a real ‘walking dead’ very much like those depicted in numerous zombie movies. They must be given the antidote, the only antidote, to this scourge of death inflicted upon mankind which is His death and then His resurrection, that grand finale to God’s plan that all who share in His death share also in His resurrection. It is here that death is turned on its head, no longer an ending but a beginning.

The message to these ‘walking dead’ is this: “You are already dead so finish the job and die to the self that cruelly and inexorably drives you ever deeper into sin. Exchange your death with His redemptive death and victorious resurrection through faith and join the countless millions who can say with Job that “though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

An After Easter Meditation

Now that the festivities of Easter 2012 are over, the church calendar continues its yearly cycle eventually leading us back to the celebrations of Christmas, Good Friday and then, once again, Resurrection Day. The fundamental lesson this calendar (whether Julian or Gregorian, makes no difference in this regard) repeats for us year after year is that being Jesus’ disciple means participation in, and full identification with, His birth, death and resurrection’; i.e. everything about Him becomes true of us.

But most importantly it teaches that even though these holy days fall on specific dates, this participation and identification is an every day sort of thing, not just for special occasions. In other words, these holy days shouldn’t really be that much different from a typical ‘any day’ or, perhaps better, our ‘any day’ should be like a holy day.

I’m certainly not suggesting that these high holy days are insignificant; in fact they are because they affirm the central beliefs of the Christian faith, those beliefs that make us Christians and not some other religious devotee. They are yearly opportunities for Christians around the world to celebrate these beliefs before an unbelieving world. But, it is the continuation of His life lived through us every day, the all important ‘rest of the time’ after the celebrations are over, that makes a real and lasting difference in the world.

For me, anyway, the challenge is to live out the meaning of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter every day and I must admit I often fail at doing this, sometimes miserably. But at the same time and in spite of my failure, the power, love, forgiveness and redemption that the Lord of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter brought to our dark world shines in me (darkness is no match even for a dim light!) giving me hope and strength to continue ‘running the race’. I pray this same hope and strength is yours as well.

On the Death of Self-A Meditation

 

 

 

Death and life; they are so close sometimes, almost in the same breath, especially a last, dying breath. So, consider this: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The believing and the confessing (remember confessing something means saying something and speaking requires breath) unto salvation happens while the conditions of sin and death are still present. Thus, all my utterances to the point of this singular confession were mere death gasps, breathings of an already dead man just as my beliefs were about a world doomed to destruction. But with this confession and this belief I advance, as do you, from death to life, from flesh to spirit, from weakness to power, from darkness to light compelled by this confession that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead. This is the sum and substance of Easter for Christians, the very core of the Christian faith.

It’s wrong, then, to think God wants anyone dead; He is, after all, the God of the living and the very Source of life itself. The sinner, who is already dead in sin, He wants to make alive again. He wants Christians to die but only to the self, to the ‘me that is me’, the self-centered and selfish me so that the new man, the ‘me born after the image of God’s Son’ might emerge. This is not, then, to be considered some morbid exercise and it is not to suffer any kind of real loss nor is it a meritorious act to gain God’s favor. Rather, it is a joyful necessity because the old man and the new man cannot co-exist; one must yield to the other-there is no other way. The farmer knows this; unless the seed he plants in the spring dies, changes, leaves behind its original form, it cannot become the awaited harvest.

We are all “dead men (and women) walking” but for us who confess and believe, physical death merely allows us to keep right on walking eternally with He who makes all things new. Therefore, death is really all about life, a paradox to be sure, but only one of many in the economy of God.

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