Friday, April 2, 2010

Resurrection Aging

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

This is the most significant weekend for a Christian. Good Friday is somber, Saturday is a mystery. Sunday is Victory!

I’ve reflected a lot about Saturday.

Saturdays are amazing days. There’s an unspoken universal agreement that life is supposed to slow down on Saturdays. Parks and playgrounds fill up with parents in t-shirts and tennis shoes trying to remember how to share simple adventures with toddlers. Dogs with their owners leashed to their sides run and play and fetch logs in cold lakes. Farmers and bead makers bring their products to open air markets. Neighbors put their junk out on driveways and exchange it for quarters. And Starbucks serves up tons of that famous energy source known as latte, mocha, and Americano.

Saturday. A day typically looked toward with anticipation, greeted with relief, and enjoyed with abandon.

There was one Saturday, however, that was not so lighthearted. In fact, it was the darkest day in history (and it wasn’t really Saturday, but humor me, because we’ve changed our calendar to make it so!)  It was that long, dark day that separated Good Friday from Easter. It was a day where fear strangled courage, and despair smothered hope.
Review that day with me:

We read in the gospels that after Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea took the body and placed it in his own new tomb. They had to hurry in order to complete the burial process before the beginning of the Sabbath. The Bible calls it “preparation day.” It was not a simple burial, however. It required strips of cloth to bind the body, a large cloth or shroud to cover his face, and 75 pounds of myrrh and spices. The women followed Joseph to be sure they knew where the tomb was, and then they went home to both observe the Sabbath and to prepare more spices and perfumes.

Think a little about how it was to “go home” and observe the Sabbath. These dear disciples and followers of Jesus had just watched the barbaric execution of their beloved teacher, master, friend, leader and yes, Savior. Their worlds were crushed. A crisis of unbelievable proportion had shattered their lives. Nothing would ever be the same.

We also get some insight into the despair the followers of Jesus experienced when we encounter the men on the road to Emmaus – the day after the resurrection – but they do not know that Jesus has risen. They are talking among themselves about the events that had happened. In response to a stranger (Jesus himself!) they utter the words that resonate in many of our hearts following crisis and painful experiences: “But we had hoped….”

That Saturday, or the day following Good Friday, was anything but a lighthearted reprieve from pain. It was a day of immense pain, isolation, bewilderment, despair, despondency, gloom and melancholy.

All of us have experienced a “Good Friday” in our lives. We’ve known the gravity, the pain, the disorientation of a life crisis. We’ve shared the words of those disciples when they uttered, “But we had hoped . . . .”

An interesting thing seems to happen as we age. We seem to be faced over and over again with life’s crises, with change. Change is always happening. It is not a moment in our existence, but a pattern. Change is at the heart of aging.

We are faced with transitions and endings. And as we age we sometimes feel that we cannot bear another one – but they are pressed upon us anyway, sometimes one upon another – a death, an illness, a loss.

Sometimes it feels very, very dark. It is interesting to me that the gospels record that the women went to the tomb while it was still dark (John 10:1). What they find is confusing, disorienting and frightening. In their loss, in their simple faith, they walk through the dark to the site that entombed their despair. And they found that everything had changed. The empty tomb shattered all the previous way of seeing things.

The resurrection of Jesus! Easter morning changed everything! Hope burst forth from death. Light radiated out of darkness. That same power of the resurrection is present with every Good Friday experience, every transition, every ending. People of faith can see in every transition cycle, whether a death or ending, a darkness or disorientation, the hope of the resurrection.  A new hope. A God moment.

The message of the Resurrection is the message that an aging globe needs to hear. We are at an incredible time in history. We have never had so many people living so long! The demographics are staggering! We are experiencing the mass aging of our society.

If it is true that people living a long time (or aging) experience more transitions, losses, endings than at any other stage of life, then it stands to reason that the message of the Resurrection is one that aging people need to hear.

The aging of our society is, I believe, the opportunity for revival, renewal and spiritual awakening like we have never before witnessed. As people age, face the questions of meaning of life, the meaning of death, they will need to understand the power of the resurrection.

What a mission field! What an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ at this time in history!

There are many movements in our society trying to make sense of the aging experience, such as “creative aging,” “successful aging,” “vital aging,”  and “productive aging.” 

I propose today, that what we really need to see is “Resurrection Aging!” Paul said in Ephesians 1:17ff:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly realms.”
That same power that rose Christ from the dead – the power of the Resurrection – is the power God instills in our lives. Even in our aging journey!

The hope of the resurrection is experienced individually, but it is sustained in community. We are one body, one community. We all are gifted (I Corinthians 12) and there is no age limit on being gifted to serve.  True community means we are safe to be dependent. We learn to accept help and we learn to offer help. The Community of Faith is where we learn and experience together the power of the Resurrection!

We all experience the Good Fridays of life – and the dark lonely Saturdays of despair. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I KNOW that the Resurrection comes. That Easter comes. I can still hear the lines of that famous old sermon where it says: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

I know that the resurrection is not just hope in today’s life, but it is the promise of eternal life in Heaven.

This is a message that an aging world needs to hear.

This is a message we all need to hear.

May the power of the Resurrection fill you this day as you celebrate your aging journey, as you celebrate Easter, as you celebrate new life!

(Photo by jsrice00, shared via Flickr)

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