Pastoral Perspectives

Christ is Alive!

On Tuesday, we woke up to the news that the famed Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was engulfed in flames. Social media was flooded with tributes to the iconic building. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined world leaders to express his sorrow and wrote “The Notre-Dame is part of the heritage of mankind, an expression of the religious faith and human spirit of generations of people who conceived it, built it, and worshipped in it.” President Emmanuel Macron vowed that France will rebuild Notre-Dame and immediately launched a national campaign to restore the building to its former glory.

It is indeed particularly poignant that this happened during the Holy Week. For many, the cathedral is a symbol of their faith and to see it burn before their eyes must have caused much grief. By evening, many people have pledged to donate toward the rebuilding of this iconic building.

As I followed the news, I cannot help but think of what Jesus said about a particular temple. The Bible records for us in John chapter 2 that Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. With a whip of cords, he drove them (money changers and animals) out of the temple and overturned their tables. The religious authorities and the crowds then must have watched in disbelief at the cleansing of their iconic building. When the Jews demanded a sign for His authority, He answered them “Destroy this temple and in three days I will restore it.” (John 2:19) Jesus’ opponents and even His disciples clearly did not have a clue what He meant for it had taken forty-six years to build the temple. It was only after Jesus was raised from the dead that they remembered His words and believed the Scripture (v21). They realised He was talking about the temple of his body. We know that under the terms of the old covenant, the great meeting-place between a holy God and His sinful people was the temple. It was a place of sacrifice and atonement of sin. As a result of Christ’s death for our sins, He becomes the temple where God meets his people. In His death and resurrection, He reconciles us to God and becomes our temple, between God and sinners and therefore, we preach Christ crucified “who was dead and buried…but rose on the third day…”

Jesus Christ, our true temple is alive. The hymn Christ is Alive by Brian Wren beautifully sums up what Christ’s resurrection means for us.

Verse 1: Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, shall never die.

As we celebrate Easter Sunday, we may be tempted to think of it as just a historical event and look at this day as a mere observance of history. But for us believers, we know that our Lord’s resurrection was more than that. It continues to be a celebration of a current event that Christ is alive. We are called to join all the believers in the world to celebrate and sing because Jesus is alive yesterday, today and forevermore. He is risen once and for all and that is why the cross is empty. Whether we are in our homes or out in the streets, our praise of this risen Lord is to ring out because Christ is alive. What He has done for us in love on the cross continues even today and it shall indeed never die because He lives.

Verse 2: Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.

Christ is risen and yet we remain painfully aware of the suffering and sorrow in our lives. The message of our risen Lord may truly seem very distant because Palestine is so far away from us. Our sufferings, here and now may seem larger than life. Our near and dear ones may be dying, suffering and struggling. What does Christ’s resurrection mean for such people and for all of us who will eventually die too? Christ’s resurrection was not only for Palestine nor at that time in history. It is for all places and time- saving sinners and bringing healing to the nations. If Christ has risen from the dead, there is hope for the resurrection of the body. Paul says in Phil 3:21 “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is our confident hope, not only for ourselves- our persons, our bodies but also for the world.

Verse 3: In ever insult, rift and war,
where color, scorn, or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.

This song was written 10 days after Rev Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. How do we believers celebrate in the midst of devastating news that continues around the world today? How do we preach the good news of Christ’s resurrection in the face of suffering? In this part of the world, we may not face what Martin Luther King went through but we are not spared from colour, scorn and wealth division. Even in the church, we will have hurts and disappointments. We continue to experience brokenness and human sufferings in families too. In the midst of the devastation that we bring upon one another, Christ suffers with us and yet loves us still even when there seems to be no way because He lives!

Verse 4: Women and men, in age and youth,
can feel the Spirit, hear the call,
and find the way, the life, the truth,
revealed in Jesus, freed for all.

Christ’s resurrection is not only for a particular group of people and age but for everyone, young and old. Christ’s resurrection – the victory already gained at the renewal sure to come have bearing in our lives now. Resurrection means Christ is with us, giving us the power within us- to change. By His spirit, God is gradually transforming us to be like His Son. There will be aspects of our character and behaviour that need to be crucified in keeping with the Lord’s death. There will also be aspects that need to be brought to life in keeping with the Lord’s resurrection. When Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?” Jesus answered “I am the way, the truth and the life“ (John 14:5-6). Anyone who hears the call of the Lord can find the way in Jesus who has come to free us all from the bondage of sin.

Verse 5: Christ is alive, and comes to bring
good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring
with joy, with justice, love and praise.

Christ, by His crucifixion and resurrection overcame sin, death and evil. In this way, Jesus validated his teachings and vindicated his messianic claims. By faith, we share in His triumph because Christ won the battle for us. We have been freed to join an exuberant new exodus- of the new creation! Christ’s resurrection continues to remind us of the cosmic joining of heaven and earth when all creation will ring and sing together. Our joy will be complete, and justice will finally be delivered for those who have been denied for now. Our love will be complete, and we will praise our risen King eternally. This is the good news, given for all.

May Jesus Christ, our true temple continue to whip and overturn our hearts, and cleanse our temples of idolatry so that we may join the heavenly hosts in proclaiming Christ is alive!

Pr Loliro Sani

April 21, 2019