This afternoon as the rain pours down, I have been reading Peter's story of good intentions, bold declarations and epic failure. I am so much like Peter – impulsive, bold to start, often missing the point, so often failing in the critical moment.
That's my testimony. For many years, I thought my story was about what I could do for Christ. More recently I am acutely aware that my testimony is, "But Jesus…" Over the last 15 years, as I have struggled with cyclical depression, I have come to love the Greek word for resurrection – anastasis – "to stand again." Every single day, that is what happens to me. I would be down in that pit. But Jesus…
This Sunday is Easter, and at our church we begin a new sermon series called "Epic Fail." Next week we will talk about Peter, but this week we must talk about Christ. It is his day. As a Messiah, he was disappointing to most of the people of his time. And, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15, if Christ had not been resurrected, he would have been an epic failure. Our faith in him would be useless and we to be pitied.
But Christ has been raised, Paul writes, summing up our hope and our salvation in five explosive words.
And then Paul employs an old Hebrew word picture to describe the risen Christ: the firstfruits. The firstfruits were an offering made from the first of your crops that had come in. The firstfruits were proof that God had kept his promise to provide. There was new growth, new life, a new crop, the promise of bounty. The firstfruits offering was a celebration of life.
And Christ has been raised, the firstfruits - the proof that God has kept his promise, that there will be new life, that we will also be raised.
When I was growing up, the preacher always said these words from Romans 6 as he baptized people: Buried with him by baptism into death, raised to walk in newness of life.
Newness of life is what I need, every day. Every day I wake up sliding into the pit. Every day life knocks me down. But Jesus empowers me to stand again.
It's Easter, and I am depressed.
Made like him, like him we rise. We sing those words every Easter, and when we do, a little chill runs up my spine. Because one day, we will forever and finally really do it.
There are a lot of people like me who will be in our congregations on Sunday. I am praying for them as we speak those powerful words that are the Gospel: But Jesus has been raised. How different history, and our stories, would be if that were not true.