Lesson 8: Resurrection is Hope

Jesus' resurrection from the deadMost of us can’t help ourselves when we speak the last part of the Second Article, “On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Conditioned by simplistic popular ideas, we think it means Jesus has been brought back to life and taken to heaven. Sometime in the future, he’ll return to raise us in order to take us to heaven where we shall spend eternity with him.

If we try to make sense of this, we usually end up responding to two other goofy versions: Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series or Billy Graham’s “Decision for Christ” crusades. Both turn the promise into a threat, as they focus on hell rather than heaven. Both remove the resurrected Jesus from having any transforming effect on our communities or present lives. Whether they place the Last Judgment immediately after death or sometime in the future, they define it as a court appearance determining whether individuals spend eternity with God or Satan.

To say the least, this mangles the Gospel proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection. The phrases at the end of the Second Article are short hand for claiming Jesus is in charge of things right now. God’s Right Hand Man is the one who runs things like a Prime Minister.

It might seem that the world authorities won. It might appear that victory belongs to those who wield violent power. However, those who confess these phrases claim otherwise. They proclaim Jesus is still at work healing the Creation, and he is still operating with love.

Those speaking the Creed pledge to work with Jesus by following his lifestyle now. They promise to practice a love that includes forgiveness in order to change the world. To use the Creed is to confess it is Jesus’ Way of Life, not Caesar’s, that shall bring peace and joy.

Obviously, this reading rejects any idea that Jesus will return as a militant king wielding violent power. He comes as he went, a lover. His sword is his Word and the blood on his robe is his own.

The Third Article of the Creed makes clear the benefits of Jesus’ resurrection are already available to us. It lists the work of Holy Spirit among us right now. To push our own resurrections to a time after death is to deny the ability of Jesus’ Spirit to raise us to a new life here and now.

Our confession has certainly been challenged recently by the outbreak of terrorism. We who confess the Creed have to ponder carefully and compassionately how returning good for evil applies to responding to ISIS. A good beginning is agreeing that it does not include bombing them into oblivion. The benefits of resurrection are available right now.

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