The Truth Is

A friend of mine has written a Bible study called “Believe.” It is an exploration of the pillars of the Christian faith and serves as a kind of “Christianity 101.” One of her chapters explores the Apostles Creed, which is a kind of Reader’s Digest version of centuries of Christian thought in one lovely statement.

If you take a moment to unpack it (rather than say it by rote, as we all tend to do), you will find all of the foundations of what we believe. God as creator. Jesus as his son. Mary as a virgin. Jesus crucified, dead and buried. And then on the third day, he arose from the dead. It’s all in there:

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The early church began to struggle with the notion of the resurrection of the body. Paul dealt with this in the church in Corinth. (Lord have mercy! Paul dealt with EVERYTHING at the church in Corinth!) Secular thinking had infiltrated the community of faith, pointing out the ridiculous notion of a bodily resurrection for both Jesus and his followers.

So Paul fights back:

1 Corinthians 15 (The Message)

12-15 Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.

16-20 If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot.

But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.

The truth is that Christ was raised up. There were witnesses! And if we trust that, and we do, then we can trust in our own resurrection. It is indeed ridiculous. And miraculous. And unbelievable.
And true.

When I officiate a funeral, I encourage the mourners to hang their hats on this one unshakable truth. Because Jesus lives, you shall live also. And at the other end of all of this is a great heavenly reunion with all who have gone before us.

I believe, and I can’t wait. How about you?

Over the Rainbow by Michelle Robertson

The Smallest Seed

We are supposed to be having Vacation Bible School right now at my church, but of course the pandemic has changed that. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I have always had the role of storyteller at VBS, and the creative fun that ensues with sweaty, wiggly kids is one of the best parts of being a pastor.

Today’s parable took me back to a time when I was working with two off-the-wall pastors at VBS. We shared the story time, and I suggested we create a “growing plant” to use for this parable. You make it by rolling folded sheets of newspaper into a tight roll, and then cut slits from the top of the roll about half way down through all but the outer sheet. Then you tape around the base to secure it. When you reach inside and pull out the very center sheet, it grows into a large tree-like thing. If you use enough paper, it can be over six feet tall.

So I prepared several of these to use with each group, and the three of us took turns telling parts of the story.

Well, if you’ve ever been to VBS, you know that toward the end of the week and by the end of the day, the participants get punchy. So do the pastors. So at our last session, as I was pulling the paper out and making the tree grow, the narrating pastor decided to change the story and described how the mustard tree attacked the farmer. On cue, the other pastor grabbed the tree and pretended it was attacking him. His academy award-winning performance included the tree pushing him down as he wrestled with it, causing him to roll off the steps of the chancel and down the center aisle.

Well, that’s one way to tell the story! The kids LOST it. I still laugh at the memory of it!

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

The applications here are endless.

With a tiny grain of hope, life is renewed.

With the smallest seed of faith, peace is restored.

With just a little perseverance, a door is unlocked and you are set free.

With one man’s actions on a cross two thousand years ago, an entire world was saved.

With one word gently spoken, a lashing out of anger is prevented.

With one small act of kindness, a day is made.

With one selfless move, an accident is prevented.

With one smile, a stranger decides to hang on for another day.

With one quick phone call, a lonely person is comforted.

The question for us today is, where is God calling you to be that one small thing? What little effort on your part could turn things around for someone else?

You are the mustard seed. Go and plant peace, hope, and love in someone’s heart. You can make all the difference in someone’s day today.

From Small Seeds by Barbara Hudson