‘The Man Who Missed Easter’ by Dr. George O. Wood


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‘The Man Who Missed Easter’

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‘Seven Stanzas at Easter’ by John Updike


Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

 

It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled

eyes of the eleven apostles;

it was as His Flesh: ours.

 

The same hinged thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose.

 

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

 

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.

 

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,

opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen

spun on a definite loom.

 

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are

embarrassed by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.

Imitating God (Ephesians 5.1–2)


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SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 5.1–2

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

When I was in high school, I played basketball. One afternoon, my coach decided to forego practice and take us to see a movie instead. The movie was Hoosiers. Set in 1951, it told the story of Coach Norman Dale, who led a small, ragtag team of Indiana farm boys to the state championship.

My coach took us to see Hoosiers for two reasons: inspiration and imitation. We, too, were a small, ragtag team that regularly played larger, more talented teams, and coach wanted to inspire a fighting spirit within us. But he also wanted us to imitate Jimmy Chitwood, the star player on Coach Dale’s team. Jimmy always squared up for his shots. He always tucked his elbows in when he shot. He always followed through with his wrist. He always went to the boards for a rebound. Coach wanted us to do the same.

In life, as in basketball, we learn by imitation. As young children, we imitate our parents. As adolescents, we imitate our peers. As adults, we imitate—or at least try to keep up with—the Joneses. Imitation is inevitable. The real question is not whether we imitate, but who we imitate.

As Christians, we are expected to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4.1). Whose “walk” is worth imitating? God’s, of course! Consider Ephesians 5.1–2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

How do we imitate God? Certainly not by becoming gods ourselves! There is an infinite, qualitative distance between Creator and creature that simply cannot be bridged. We are not eternal, for example, and we cannot become all-powerful or all-knowing. Some Mormons proclaim, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be,” in the words of LDS Apostle James E. Talmage (1862–1933). Some New Agers speak of the “divine spark” within us. No Christian says these things. We simply cannot become God. But we can become like God, at least in terms of our moral character.

How so? Paul commands us to “walk in love, as Christ loved us.” Implicit in this command are two profound theological ideas. (1) God is love (1 John 4.8). And (2) his love is most fully expressed through Christ’s death on our behalf (Romans 5.8). The more we imitate God, therefore, the more loving, self-giving, and forgiving we should become.

My basketball coach wanted my team to shoot like Jimmy Chitwood. Square up. Tuck your elbows in. Follow through with your wrist. Hit the boards. Shooting like Jimmy Chitwood didn’t happen overnight, however. We had to unlearn bad ways of shooting and learn new ways.

Walking like Jesus Christ isn’t easy either, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But every time we love a little more, give a little more, and forgive a little more, we become more and more like God.

P.S. If you want to know how Jimmy Chitwood shot, watch this video:

Five Case Studies in Change (Ephesians 4.25–32)


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SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 4.25–32

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Yesterday, I wrote about the three-stage process of change Paul teaches in Ephesians 4.17–24:

  1. Put off your old self (verse 22).
  2. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind (verse 23).
  3. Put on the new self (verse 24).

In Ephesians 4.25–32, Paul applies this process to five case studies.

First, lying: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (verse 25). Dishonest speech violates the Ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20.16). It also violates Jesus’ commandment to speak with absolute integrity: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5.37). Lying is an old-self behavior that needs to be exchanged for new-self truth telling. Why? A renewed mind understands that truth telling is indispensable for building strong relationships, and in the church, “we are all members of one body.”

Second, anger: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (verses 26–27). Anger is a legitimate response to injustice, at least initially. But it is possible for “righteous anger” to become “unrighteous rage,” which is why Paul writes both “Be angry” and “do not sin” in the same sentence. Unrighteous anger is the old-self behavior that needs to be put off. Quick resolution of grievances is the new-self behavior that needs to be put on. Why? A failure to deal with anger allows a little bit of hell into your heart.

Third, theft: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (verse 28). Paul is most likely referring to individuals who are freeloading off the church’s generous social welfare programs. Such freeloading by able-bodied workers is tantamount to theft. The antidote to freeloading is hard, honest work. Why? We work to provide our own needs, as well as the needs of others.

Fourth, unwholesome speech, that is profanity, obscenity, sarcasm, and insult: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (verse 29). The antidote to unwholesome speech is praise, encouragement, sincere compliments, and constructive criticism. A renewed mind recognizes that our words are means of divine grace to others.

Fifth, divisiveness: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (verses 31–32). Notice the stark choice: The old self divides a community through malice, but the new self unites it through kindness. A renewed mind knows that we must pass along to others the very same forgiveness God has given us through Christ.

Let us strive to change every behavior that grieves the Holy Spirit (verse 30), whatever that may be!