Anderson notes that in Christianity that we rightfully make much of the cross – the cross is essential to the mission of God, but then he remarks that the cross is the end, it is not the beginning – Resurrection is the beginning.
As we celebrate Christmas this week and focus on Christ and his incarnation, we realize that his participating with God in God’s mission put him on a trajectory that leads him to the cross. Yet, the good news of the Gospel, of God’s reign, of the outworking of God’s mission, is that it does not end at the cross, God’s mission through Jesus is fully manifested through the Resurrection.
Hear Anderson’s reframing of our understanding of the cross:
“The cross is the end of our life as mere sinner, not the beginning. The cross put an end to the law which condemns, says Paul. The cross is not a place to revisit time and time again in morbid fascination with the things that weigh us down and destroy our worth as God’s children. ‘I died to the law so that I might live to God,’ wrote Paul. ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2:19). What Paul says of himself is true of every human being. In the cross all of humanity died when Christ died. That is, through Christ God brought the consequence of sin upon himself, so that death no longer has power to determine human destiny. ‘It is no longer I who live,’ added Paul, ‘but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life that I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). Not every person can say that, but only those in whom the spirit of the resurrected Christ dwells (Romans 8:9).‘The world behind me, the cross before me,’ we assert when singing the familiar song, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. That is so wrong!! I would rewrite it to say, ‘The cross behind me, the world before me!’ No one should think that following Jesus leads back to the cross. That is finished! Once and for all. . . . The Lost Lane-end Into Heaven, as the novelist, Thomas Wolfe, wrote, is not found at the foot of the cross but in the pathway marked by the light shining out of the empty tomb. There is indeed a cross in my past, but not in my future. I want to walk in the light and be singing of a Risen Savior when Jesus walks in the door!” (pp. 115, 116).
Yes, those of us who have been set free through Christ have a cross in our past, but now as we live, identifying with Christ, continuing the ministry of Christ in the world, we live participating with God in God’s mission in the light of the Resurrection. We are a resurrection people, a people who still have stuff in our lives that needs to be crucified, but the trajectory of our lives now is beyond the cross, living in light of the resurrection of Christ – which in being identified with him through our baptisms, we are living as ones who have been resurrected into the life that is God (I say this because in Exodus 3 we discover that God’s name is not a noun, but a verb meaning Being, Life, Is – God is Life, because God is the Living One from whom all living emanates!)
And in being resurrected, we are living participants with God in God’s mission of bringing life, peace, hope, joy – life to all of humanity and to all of creation. Mission is not something we do, but rather how we now live because we are a resurrection people connected to God, in relationship with God, through Christ Jesus in the power of the Spirit of God. The mission of God is about transforming all of creation. And as we live as transformed ones, being infused with resurrection life, we participate with God in God’s mission, because we now share in the life that is God. The resurrection has re-created us and prepared us, so that our living as human beings is all about what God is accomplishing in this world to make all new.
What a Christmas gift – a gift of God that began in the incarnation of God in Jesus, that led to the cross – Jesus taking on all the violence thrust against humanity, and culminated in the victory over sin and death through Jesus’ resurrection. Because of this gift in Jesus, we now are empowered and filled with the Spirit of God to participate with God in God’s mission of making all creation new. Merry Christmas!