The East Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is meeting this week at Lakeside, Ohio as it does every year in June. Our conference begins on Monday morning with a service of commemoration and Holy Communion. For me personally, it is this first event that is the highlight of the week.
During his sermon on Monday, Bishop John Hopkins reminded us that there is a difference between resuscitation and resurrection. Resuscitation is the return of the same life, resurrection is the giving of new life, transformed life. Lazarus was resuscitated; Jesus was resurrected. Bishop Hopkins then suggested that more Christians, more churches would rather be resuscitated than resurrected. They would rather breath life into the same old body that once was instead of receiving new and transformed life that brings transformation.
I believe that Bishop Hopkins is correct. Too often we would rather resuscitate the past, the supposed glory days of the church, instead of allowing God to do God's renewing and transforming work in our midst. Resuscitation hangs onto the past for the past's sake; resurrection allows the past to speak its wisdom so that the church may move into the future in new and different ways. Resuscitation seeks the old life without change; resurrection is new life that is intrinsically converting. Resuscitation seeks only the comfortable, the familiar; resurrection leads us into the kind of new life that moves beyond the boundaries of our comfort. Resuscitation desires life on our terms; resurrection insists upon new life on God's terms. Resuscitation desires life only within the four walls of the church building-- the church as a mighty fortress; resurrection cannot be contained as the true church-- the people of God-- move out into the world in Pentecostal power. Resuscitation will only result in death once again; resurrection leads to redeemed life that will never end. The task of the pastor is to lead the people of God in the new ways of resurrection, not the old ways of resuscitation. We must not try to dig up what God has buried.
Do we desire resuscitation or resurrection?
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)