It definitely felt strange to be preparing the altar for World Communion Sunday knowing that people would only see it through our livestream, but also powerful knowing that everyone was preparing their own tables at home. We continued through Paul’s letter to the Philippians in our service and talked about what it means to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and how we can continue to do this during these unprecedented times.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 4, 2020
We Can Know Christ And The Power Of His Resurrection
I have, like I am guessing many of you all have, as well, been on information overload this week.
Between the chaos of the presidential debate, reports of fires continuing to rage out west and, of course, news of the President and First Lady’s covid diagnoses overnight Thursday in Friday, I have to admit, I sat down to write my sermon and found myself a little at a loss of words. In fact, my sister texted me on Friday morning and asked what I thought of everything and my response was, “I didn’t realize Hope Hicks was younger than me,” because that was about all I could process at that point.
For better or for worse, I had to make a conscious decision to step away from the news at various points throughout the week. I spent time with my family, painted the trim in my living room and poured myself into my work, finalizing the stewardship packets, putting together a timeline for the bazaar and filming a video with Harrison for this week’s Church School lesson about World Communion Sunday.
I do think that, to some extent, sometimes it is okay to be a little uninformed for the sake of your mental health. The time I spent away from the news and social media this week was restorative for me; it allowed me to come back and process things with a clearer mind and a stronger heart. In fact, it allowed me to lead prayers on Friday evening and be a little more politically candid than I usually am, addressing the President and First Lady’s covid diagnoses and my complex feelings on the matter.
My time away from the news, however restorative it was, did not change the fact that we are living in tumultuous times. Chaos surrounds us pretty much constantly. We are very unclear about what the future holds, both short term and long term. So much has been taken away from us.
And yet, I found hope in this passage. Because as I read Paul’s words, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,” I realized that this is something that cannot be taken away from us.
Nothing can take away our ability to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Not the pandemic. Not political divisiveness. Not the ramifications of having our top political leaders diagnosed with covid-19. Not blazing wildfires or the evils of systemic racism or the complicated task it has been to re-open schools.
In the midst of the chaos of this current world, we can still know Christ and the power of his resurrection. This cannot and will not be taken from us.
And I believe this is something that can change the trajectory of where we are and where we are going. Knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection is something that can make order out of the chaos of the world. Knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection is something that can transform hearts and minds and can bring much-needed reconciliation to this world. Knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection is something that can proclaim the radical truth of love and justice and can offer hope – real hope – to a world that is so broken right now.
I, too, want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, because, these days, this is the only thing that reassures me that this is all going to be okay. These days knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection is the only thing that gives me hope that we will find ourselves on the other side of the pain and confusion and anxiety we are feeling right now.
Now more than ever, we – we as individuals and we as a community of faith – need to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. And we need to let this truth and this promise and this love guide our words, our actions and the hope we hold onto.
When we first “shut down” back in March (and I use the phrase “shut down” pretty loosely, because we all know we closed our building, not our church), I was not really concerned about the spiritual health of our church, because one of the important components of it – the ability to hear and reflect on scripture and then pray together – was something that we could very easily bring online. The transition was seamless (mostly). Despite the fact that we could not physically be together, we still had ways – through our livestreams on Facebook, our worship videos later uploaded to YouTube and physically mailing copies of the week’s scripture, sermon and prayer to people without access to services online – to immerse ourselves in the words of scripture and then think about what they mean in our lives today.
We have seen this over and over again in our nightly prayer meetings as members of our own community – with no formal theological training – have logged onto Facebook, pressed “go live” and offered beautiful and powerful and meaningful reflections on scripture and their faith. We have, amidst very challenging circumstances, used scripture and prayer to get to know Christ on a deeper level and strengthen our faith.
Here’s the thing – there are a lot of things that we cannot plan for right now. Too much is outside of our control; much has been taken from us and more might still be taken from us in the future.
But no one can take away our ability to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. No one can take away the journey of faith that lies in front of us and our ability to take the first step on that journey.
I really like what Paul says at the end of this passage, “Beloved … this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” These words remind me that there is only one way to go right now and that is forward. In times such as these, we have no choice but to forge ahead. And, you know what? We can forge ahead with hope or we can do so despondent and miserable, but I, for one, think hope will carry us a lot further than any other alternative will.
We have to look forward.
As Christians, we have to look forward to the hope in resurrection and what that means for our lives here, on earth. We have to believe that this is not how our story ends; not with a pandemic and injustice and political divisiveness, but with healing, justice and unity. We have to believe that the chaos of the current world is only a part of our history; one that we will certainly learn from and that will shape our future, but also one that we will emerge from stronger and with a deeper understanding of who Christ is and what his resurrection means.
Paul says that “[he presses] on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” I do think that right now we have to ask ourselves, what is our goal? As Christians, what do we hope to accomplish during this time? When we look back on this moment in our history, in this poignant chapter of our faith that we are writing in this generation, what do we want to see?
Friends, to know Christ is to understand a faith that is radical and transformative enough to overcome the chaos of the current world. And this is something that we can control; this is something we can do, despite any kind of social distancing or quarantine measures that are and might be put into place. Nothing and no one can take away our ability to read and reflect on scripture, pray, offer support to our siblings in Christ and deepen our faith.
This is an opportunity; an opportunity for us to make a commitment to get to know Christ. This is an opportunity to walk away from the distractions of the material world and really focus on clothing yourself in the Gospel and walking in the light of God. This is an opportunity to begin to understand what resurrection means and why it is so life changing and what it can do for us, as the Body of Christ – the Church – as we seek to share it with a world that so desperately needs hope and healing right now.
May we all seek to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.
And through the turmoil of our current world, may this knowledge help us shine light, demonstrate love and uncover grace in the most unexpected ways and places.
Thanks be to God!