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Tell the Story - Around the Campfire With Jesus (part 2of 3)

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tell the story

around the campfire, with Jesus (part 2 of 3)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

scripture focus

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

theme

the resurrection of our lord.

summary

Easter is the day that we remember and retell the story of Jesus’ resurrection. this is a story to be celebrated every day and forever!

1Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you —unless you have come to believe in vain.

3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them —though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ —whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

isn’t it just a story?

Today is the day that we tell the story that surpasses any other story.

Before the printing press, people gathered together and shared the stories of their life, of their family, of their tribe, of their environment. I’m not talking about mates gathered around a campfire, a stubbie in one hand, trying to outdo each other with the most unbelievable story. I’m referring to the passing on of the collective wisdom in the form of story-telling.

There is, perhaps, no more important day in the Christian calendar than the day on which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. That is because there is no more important event in all of human history than the resurrection of Jesus. If he didn’t come back to life, then Easter is simply mates gathered around a campfire. If, indeed, he did come back to life, then his resurrection becomes pivotal for our worldview and for our culture.

The story of Jesus’ resurrection recalls a truth that surpasses and underlies all other truth; the basis for all knowledge and wisdom.

If Jesus brought himself back to life:

then he is God;
then God exists;
then God created all that is;
then God created you and I;
then God cares for us;
then our rejection of God has caused him pain;
then we must be reconciled to him;
then we would do whatever we can to be reconciled to God;
then we would accept that God initiated our reconciliation in Jesus;
then we would celebrate Easter as if it were the most important event in all of human history.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

not a nice story, at first

In retelling the story of Jesus’ death, we remember that he suffered a painful and public death. One need only watch Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, to realise just how painful was Jesus’ death.

Beyond the physical pain Jesus suffered, which would undoubtably have been far beyond anything I could endure, he suffered a spiritual and psychological suffering equally unbelievable. In Galatians 3:13, the apostle Paul reminds us that, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us —for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’”. So, Jesus became cursed on our behalf. In other words, he assumed all the sin of everyone who has ever lived, or will ever live, upon his shoulders. At the moment of his death, he was the furthest away from God that anyone could ever be.

Recall your relationship with your father. Imagine that as the best relationship that it could be, perfect in every way. Now, imagine that you disappointed your father, through some minor episode, and he refused to ever look at you, or be anywhere near, you for the rest of your life. How terrible do you feel at the thought? Jesus’ separation from God was immeasurably worse, and he accepted that pain innocently, for us to be reconciled to God.

We also need to imagine the emptiness the disciples must have felt in being without their teacher and friend for three days. Jesus had invited them to be his disciples, when no other rabbi would. They had walked many miles of dusty Judean roads and endured much. They had also witnessed glories and mysteries of which we could only dream, and of which the gospels only begin to indicate. They had committed themselves completely to Jesus, but he was arrested without their protection, he was tried unfairly without their testimony, he was tortured without their rescue, he was crucified without their presence at his cross. The disciples had seen in Jesus’ eyes a glimpse of their redemption, and now he was dead. All that they had hoped for was lost.

not the end of the story, no matter how manipulated

Yet, the story does not end with Jesus’ death on the cross, for three days later, the most glorious display of life burst forth from its tomb: Jesus was alive again! Praise be to God.

What does this mean that the promises of the Bible were fulfilled in this way? It means that Easter is a demonstration of life in all its fullness, as it was meant to be, supernatural and eternal, a gift to us from God.

Now, I’m not too fussed with the commercialisation of Easter. In fact, I think that the commercial promotion of the Easter Bunny and chocolate, without explanation of their symbolism, is manipulative and distracting. But, I don’t really have a problem talking about the Easter Bunny with my children. The Easter Bunny story is an example of mates sitting around a campfire, or what English professors call folk mythology, in the same genre as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. It does represent, if only in a simple way, a sentiment that is good.

There is quite relevant symbolism behind the secular aspects of Easter. For instance, if we were living in the northern hemisphere, we would be in the beginning of the season of Spring. This is the time of year when animals mate and birds lay eggs. Eggs, therefore, represent life at its cusp of breaking into the world, a symbol of fertility. The giving of eggs a sign of blessing for fertility.

Consider also that the saying, “Mad as a March hare”, has nothing to do with insanity, but is rather a reference to the chaotic violence of the mating ritual of some hares. First, the males fight for domination and the right to mate with a chosen female, who then may actually rebuff the advance of the winning male, such that the ensuing mating looks to observers as a crazed dance. So, it is not surprising that rabbits too became symbols of spring and fertility.

Rabbits and hares are prolific breeders. Rabbits can and do give birth more than once a year, to more than one bunny at a time. So, it is not hard to imagine that eggs and rabbits would, over time, become equated with spring and fertility. Given the nature of campfires, it is also easy to imagine that the story of a bunny giving eggs to children in the spring would develop. This is a story that cuddles the imagination and celebrates the gift of life.

Imagination is not a bad thing; indeed, imagination is necessary for salvation. Imagination enables us to hope for a better tomorrow. Thus, imagination is a gateway to faith. Indeed, I have been told, although I cannot verify it, that J.R.R. Tolkien stated to C.S. Lewis that, “To not believe is a failure of the imagination”. Allegedly, this statement was the final conviction that brought about Lewis’ conversion to Christianity. As I said, I can’t verify this, but the idea is true. Without imagination, there is no hope or faith.

the salvation story

Every morning, we wake up and have to believe that there is a reason for doing so. Despite the chaos and violence all around and within us, is there a glimmer of sunshine? Yes, there is, because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

Through salvation, we no longer need to fear death. Salvation frees us into life, as it was meant to be, abundant and everlasting.

God fulfills his promises. We don’t simply read the Bible and think, “Those are nice stories. I wish they were true.” Jesus’ death and resurrection and the continual presence of the Holy Spirit confirm and guarantee those promises. Our salvation is secure and relevant!

The story of Jesus’ resurrection is true and powerful and makes a difference to every moment of every day, for eternity. The Easter story is one to be remembered. Thus, our celebration today is right. But this celebration is not worth only a moment. It captures our imagination and our heart and releases us to really live. Let us celebrate today and forever!

The story of Easter is to be shared, not just here in this sanctuary or in cathedrals, but around campfires, in pubs, at the dinner table, around the water cooler, on the cricket pitch, while waiting for the next wave, on radio, tv, and by satellite. This is a story to tell our children, so that they will tell their children, and so on, until all the world is captured and receives the gift of life for which Jesus died and rose again. Alleluia!

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