Readings Romans 6:5-11 and Matthew 22:23-33
Anyone who has played a hand in raising children knows that a lot of time is spent teaching the importance of sharing. And part of learning about sharing is learning how to respond/treat the thing that has been shared. It is not ok, for instance, to take a favourite toy and then break it, it is not appropriate, for example, to demand someone share a chocolate with you for upwards of 15 minutes only to take one lick and then toss it away. Learning the importance of sharing includes learning how to respond to being shared with.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen how the Easter season is the sharing season… where what’s Christ’s becomes our own. Christ shares with the disciples his breath and Spirit so that we might share in his mission (for as the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends us). Last week we explored how Jesus descends unto the dead, so that all humanity might ascend with him – Jesus shares his victory over death so that none should be lost. And now today, Paul reminds us that we who share in Christ’s death will surely share in his resurrection, indeed we share in Christ’s own life. Christ thus shares with us his victory over sin, so that we would be freed to be alive to God in Christ.
What does it mean for us to live as beneficiaries of all this that Christ has shared? As those whose lives are a result of Christ sharing his breath, spirit, mission, life, and resurrection? How does this shape our life together? This is the ongoing question of the disciple: having recognised that we have been set free, having been plucked from death into life, what does it look like to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ?
At one level we could try to respond to such a question by turning to the lives of the saints, diving into the biography of those held in the memory of the church for the ways their life reflected their devotion to God and neighbour, the hardships they endured, the trials they faced, the witness they maintained, and the many lives that were impacted because of their great faithfulness, their love of justice, their heart for the needy. I wonder who comes to mind for you, as such an example of being alive to God in Christ?
On another level, we might consider those faithful saints who are not preserved in stain glass or written about in books. Those faithful Christians we have been lucky enough to know, who served their community and church with great love and devotion, who fought quiet battles for others, who sought to treat others always with love, dignity and grace. Those who we can warmly recall, whose names are known only to a few, but whose impact on their community was a holy and significant thing. I wonder who comes to mind for you, as such an example of being alive to God in Christ?
I think both of these are valid approaches, as what it looks like to be dead to sin and alive in God, is something better lived than described. It looks different in different times and places. A life lived for Christ looks differently in each person as their gifts, passions, community, and contexts shape who they are and the relationships they form. Reflecting on the saints (both famous and non) also reminds us that to live for Christ is something that can be remarkable and majestic, but also mundane and everyday… it is not preserved for the elite, but the goal of all who have died and been raised with Christ.
Ultimately, the question, “what does it look like to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ?” is one we consider together as a community. We all have a stake in this question, and we need one another to help us answer it in our own life. It is thus of no surprise then, that the season of Easter reaches its crescendo with Pentecost! Pentecost – the sending of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.
The bookending of this season by Easter Sunday and Pentecost, teaches us two things: First (and as initiation) Christ is the agent of our liberation, it is he who breaks the bonds of death and shares with us his resurrection and life, and then the Church is the site where we respond to gift. The church is the people we are given in the power of the Holy Spirit and the name of Jesus in order that we might learn and live out our freedom and commission as disciples.
This is why it is helpful that Easter is both a Day and a Season. In a day Christ claimed victory over sin and death, rose from the grave, and made us his own, sharing with humanity all that is his. And then, starting from that day, is the season (which stretches from that day until the last day – the times between Christ’s resurrection and return) where we seek together what it means for us to live as one who is dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, to live as one who has been set free, to live as one who – daily – dies and rises with Christ.
We might consider, for an analogy, a family (perhaps a somewhat idealised version of a family, but nevertheless one which might help). Our birth is the easter moment, the moment we receive life. We did nothing to be born, nor anything to be born into this particular family, we are simply welcomed into a new family because life was shared with us (as was a name, a home, care, and nourishment) – by this we a brought to life, and – importantly brought to life within a community (a family). It is within this family that we are then taught how to live (how to speak, yes, walk and eat, yes, but also, more deeply, it is here we observe how to love, how to respond when someone has a need, how to work together. It is here we learn values, priorities, it is here we are granted the freedom to make mistakes knowing we won’t be abandoned (because it wasn’t our good behaviour that earnt us our birth). It is here that we have an environment to experience joy and sorrow, to grow and to change, to prepare to meet the world. Christ is the one who gives us our life, it is through the Spirit that we are born (again), into the church, this family, where we grow up together, learning from one another and those who came before and after, who we were born to be, what it looks like to be part of this family.
Easter is a sharing season – we have been given so much, so much that everything needs to be reconsidered and reconceived (death is not the ultimate power over life, sin does not hold us in captivity, we are sent to do even greater works than Christ, and we share in the very divine life in which all things find their end and perfection). How do we live after this? What does life look like because of this? In many ways being an environment where we can consider and respond to these questions is the purpose of the church. The church is the site (the people) where we work this out together, encouraging, supporting, and journeying with one another on this path, each and every day.
Let us then take up the charge once more, to use what we have received to help each other consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Image: Church Interior, Grace Cossington Smith (1941-42)
Please enjoy a collection of sermons preached in recent months at the Kirk. If you have questions about the sermons, or attending a service reach out using the Contact Page.