• Steven Marsh

Connecting With Others in the Unconditional Love of the Triune God–Love Has Been Fulfilled, De

Death, the end of all life as we know it, the destroyer of all dreams, the breaker of all hopes, the crushing burden of all life, and the loss of all love was defeated at the resurrection. Its power has been broken. The empty tomb by itself is not sufficient for faith, but it is necessary to the faith.[1]Where do you stand this Second Sunday of Easter in regard to the truth of the resurrection?

Whatever forms of despair, discouragement, and doubt you bring to church this day, a new way of living is available to you. On this Second Sunday of Easter, the Psalmist declares, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!”[2]The hoped-for outcome of Jesus’ crucifixion occurred. He was raised from the dead. Hope is the anticipation of the future as the fulfillment of God’s purposes. “Remember that life is precious and ephemeral, and love like there’s no tomorrow.”[3]

The reading in The Revelation to John is about the Church. God uses John’s voice to remind the Church, represented by the seven types of churches, that it’s all about grace when it comes to “being” church. Churches, made up of people like you and me, cannot exist or more accurately be effective, on their own merit. To the contrary, as Christians rest in God’s unmerited favor, they recognize how they have been, are and will continue to be enveloped in and embraced by God’s unconditional love.[4]In John 20, we learn that on the evening of the resurrection the disciples were afraid and “playing it safe.” They hid behind locked doors. Jesus, aware of the disciples’ fear, appeared to them by walking through the locked doors and greeting them with the words, “Peace be with you.” The usage of the Greek word for peace ειρήνη, has both common and uncommon meanings. Its common meaning is simply a greeting for the day. Its uncommon meaning is the epitome of the blessings of the kingdom of God that are realized in the loving, redemptive deeds/acts of the incarnate Son of God. And the psalmist confidently reminds us that we are to join with creation in singing praises to our God. God’s loving and redemptive acts in creation and our lives, on a continual basis, warrant our praise. Marci Auld Glass, a workshop leader next Saturday for the “Covenant Conversations” event writes, “…it is our job, our vocation, to lift up praise while we live.”[5]It is praising God, the One who loves us unconditionally in all circumstances, that brings home the truth that our religion is not a set of rules and prescriptive behaviors, but a relationship with God and others.

By placing our faith in Jesus, the first-born of the dead, we begin to experience the unconditional love of the Triune God. Jesus’ victory over death shows us the way to conquer despair, discouragement, and doubt. Faith leads us to participate in Christ’s resurrection. With the psalmist we proclaim, “Praise the Lord! …Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness.”[6]Richard Allen Farmer a pastor and gifted pianist writes this about the importance of praise,

Let me recite some lines from some ancient prayers from the black church. We have some people in every tradition who pray pretty much the same prayer every Sunday if they’re asked to pray. Many of these lines are well known all over the black church. One of the lines is, “Lord, I thank you that the blood is running warm in my veins this morning and that my bed was not my cooling board.” Cooling board is a reference to the slab of concrete or marble on which a dead body lies in the mortuary. They just let your body cool down. You get these old saints who say, “Lord, I thank you that this morning when I rose, my bed was not my cooling board. One more day to praise you and thank you. You’ve been good.” Or another line is, “Lord, I want to thank you that you’ve allowed my golden moments to roll on.” I love that line: “You could have stopped my life at any point, but you allowed my golden moments to roll on.” God says, “I’ve been good to you. You ought to worship and praise me.”[7]

The Christian faith is based on two premises: the redeeming power of the cross and the triumphal power of the resurrection.

Randy Frazee in his book The Connecting Church 2.0 encourages followers of Jesus who want a deeper experience of God’s unconditional love to gather regularly with a small group from their church. At these gatherings, spend time sharing in a meal, scripture reading, discussion and prayer. Common place and purpose take on meaning and significance.[8]God’s unconditional love has always been true, is true and will remain true.

Without the empty tomb there would be no resurrection, no faith, and no Christianity.[9]Love has been fulfilled, despite…our fears, doubts and complaints about unconditional love. Believe today. More importantly, be loved and love today!

[1]Some ideas gleaned from James C. Goodloe’s sermon “Why Seek the Living Among the Dead?”preached on January 15, 2006.

[2]Psalm 150:6

[3]Eric Utne in “Community is the Answer,” Utne Reader(Winter 2018), 80.

[4]Some ideas adapted from A. Katherine Grieb in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 207-208.

[5]Marci Auld Glass in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 2, 206.

[6]Psalm 150:1-2

[7]Richard Allen Farmer, “The ‘Whats’ and the ‘Why’ of Worship,Preaching Today, Tape No. 150.

[8]See Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church 2.0(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 147-159.

[9]Gleaned from James C. Goodloe’s sermon “Why Seek the Living Among the Dead?”

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