Easter is the celebration of the establishment and offer of new life in Christ: "life" meaning not simply isolated existence, but the web of relationships that is life and "in Christ" meaning the power and foundation of its "newness." Paul also calls the new life in Christ a "new Creation" (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). What is this "new life in Christ" for? What is its connection with and distinction from the "old life"? In this newsletter we will hear a couple of answers to that question. Not exhaustive answers, but suggestive ones. Suggestive enough so that your experience of the new life, and confession of it among other brothers and sisters, can help to expand the Easter proclamation, that there is "new life in Christ" right where you now live.
First, Crossings Community Member Timothy J. Hoyer, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in little Lakewood, New York, offers us an image of Easter's new life in Christ by way of an imaged situation in which the relationship between a group of neighborhood kids and a home owner is strained -- indeed, broken -- by the proverbial baseball through the window. Can those kids play ball with joy and confidence again in open view of this neighbor? By analogy, can we enjoy life before the God whose world we have shattered? Easter is precisely about relationships renewed, but with a twist. The renewed relationship isn't simply a matter of going back in time and having things as they were. No, it's about going forward to something that is different, even better than what existed before. How to explain it? That is the task of every preacher every Sunday and the struggle of every Christian as they seek to give "an account of the hope that is within [them]" (I Peter 3:15) in the course of their daily, ever emerging, "new" life.
The second suggestive answer comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as expressed by the pen of Steven C. Kuhl, President of Crossings. April 9, 2005 marks the 60th anniversary of Bonhoeffer's martyrdom at the hands of the inevitably doomed regime of Nazi Germany, just days before the Allied forces reached Flossenburg where he was hanged. From Bonhoeffer we see that Easter life is for cross-bearing. If that sounds paradoxical, it is. "New Life in Christ" emerges from the cross -- precisely at the point where the old passes away "in Christ" so that something surprisingly "new" may replace it through this same Christ.
The paradox is exhibited well in Paul's pithy statement: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." Who is this "I" that no longer exists as it did, but which still exists as a totally different, totally new "me" in Christ?
Bonhoeffer wrestles with that paradox of Christian existence and seeks to give testimony to it, while in prison, through a poem he writes called "Who am I?" Explaining this new life in Christ is the obsession of the Christian (obsession not in the slavish sense of neurosis, but in the liberal, freedom-filled sense of outpoured love for the other) and few people have exhibited the truth and winsomeness of that paradoxical obsession more effectively than Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
C is for
as when the neighborhood kids playing baseball in the street hit the ball through the big living-room picture window. For a moment, all the kids are frozen in place, looking at the broken window. Then they look at each other. They all see what's in each other's eyes. And then they run and hide.
R is for
The breaking of the window is what Christians often only think of as sin. When the breaking of the window is the only problem, then Christians should only "repent" of what they did and try their best not to do it again. Christians should only try their best to live the right way according to God's will. Christians should not go around doing those kinds of things, like breaking windows (dancing, drugs, gambling, cards, living with someone before marrying that person, cheating, swearing, staying home on Sundays, and all that kind of stuff of the Ten Commandments). Being a Christian means your life will change for the better and you won't go around breaking windows anymore.
O is for
"On the other hand"
On the other hand, in the Crossings' way of seeing through (diagnosis) life, the above way of using repentance stays at the first level, The External Problem. The External Problem is that the kids broke the window, the diagnosis says the kids must repent of breaking the window. But that diagnosis never gets to the deeper problem of the kids being un-listening [sic!] and disobedient, that is, that they did not trust or love the person who told them to play ball in the park and not in the street. Instead of listening and obeying the person who told them to play in the park, they disregarded that person's offer of a better place to play, a place where windows would not get broken. The kids trusted and loved their own desires more than they loved the person who gave them the chance to play in the park. This lack of love and trust is the second level of the Crossings' diagnosis, The Internal Problem, the problem of not having faith in God and having faith in something besides God.
S-S is for
the Surprising Switch, the Sweet Swap, the Sanguine Substitute
An amazingly good thing happens next, though no one notices at first. A new kid appears on the block and he hangs out with the kids under the back porches and in the alleys. He gives them a startling promise. His promise is that he can bring them to the owner of the house with the broken window and that for his sake the owner will be glad to see them and call them good kids. To be sure, the new kid, who happens to have very big ins with the owner, knows he'll be the one taking the heat for what they did--taking it as though he himself is the guilty party. That heat is the cross of Christ. Nevertheless, so he promises, if they stick with him, cross and all, everything will become different, renewed, reconciled--indeed, better than ever. For they too will share the same "ins" with the new kid.
I is for
Invitation, as in Welcome
The highlight of the Easter story is that the word of welcome outlives, overrules, replaces the word of retribution. That highlight hits home as that word of welcome is offered to kids like us and received by faith. The resurrected Jesus appears to the kids who broke the window and assures them that he is why they are welcome in his home. He has made for them a new relationship with the owner of the house. And that relationship is himself. They relate to God through Jesus. Trusting that promise of Jesus, the kids have faith that the owner will not condemn them, but have mercy on them and love them and will invite them in for a big supper. This trust is Step Five, The Internal Solution.
N-G is for
the dark, death-dealing reality in which Dietrich Bonhoeffer shines with the Light and Life of Christ, then and now. We remember his witness (literally, his martyrdom) 60 years after the fact -- April 9, 1945.
S is for
as in Ed Schroeder, beloved co-founder of this Crossings Community and endearing, often provocative, yet always profound, Thursday Theology writer. Ed turns 75 this November 6. We think that's cause for celebration, so we're making plans.