Well it’s the time when almost everyone is making New Year’s resolutions and starting new things. For me, I am going to try — emphasis on try — to adopt a new discipline of following the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Company of Pastors regimen. In addition to daily Scripture readings, it includes readings from the denomination’s Book of Confessions and then a question for reflection.
Today’s question: How does resurrection feed Christian living now?
The confessional reading comes from The Larger Catecism:
Q. 87. What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?
A. We are to believe that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the selfsame bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls forever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonour by him, as an offended judge.
Q. 88. What shall immediately follow after the resurrection?
A. Immediately after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of angels and men; the day and hour whereof no man knoweth, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord.
It is for things like this that it’s good to remember why our ordination vows talk about believing the “essential tenents” of the Confessions, and how we are to think about and interpret the Confessions. As the preface to the Book of Confessions says:
The tension between the confessions’ historical and contemporary natures is a fruitful tension within the church. The confessions are not honored if they are robbed of historical particularity by imagining that they are timeless expressions of truth. They are best able to instruct, lead, and guide the church when they are given freedom to speak in their own voices. The confessions are not respected if they are robbed of contemporary authority by imagining that they are historical artifacts. They are best able to instruct, lead, and guide the church when they are given freedom to speak now to the church and the world.
So just because the Westminster Divines thought there would be centuries worth of bodies rising up from the graves on some final Judgment Day — some “Great Gettin’ Up Morning” — and that thought was based on their prayerful and educated understanding of the Bible, does not make it so.
Instead, resurrection feeds contemporary life by being the ultimate expression of grace and forgiveness. It means that death is not the end.
That is especially comforting right now as we just learned yesterday of the death of my wife’s aunt in New York City, and then, as we were finishing watching the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last night, read on Twitter of the collapse on the field (and subsequent death) of a former AP colleague.
Indeed there was a lot of death this past year: my mother, my aunt, a fraternity brother, other extended family members. But I am fed by a belief in resurrection, in whatever form it takes. I am reassured and comforted by grace as reflected in resurrection.
A new year, a new life, an old faith.They go quite well together.