Christ Is Risen – He Is Risen, Indeed…
So what’s new?
by Tim Eby-McKenzie
(Tim Eby-McKenzie has just completed a three-year term on the ABC Deacon Board, during which he has been Chair of the Finance Department. On April 1 he began as the church’s elected Moderator. In these leadership roles he has his finger on ABC’s pulse. In the next two Messenger articles he will share his insights into the financial challenge the church is facing.) – Pastor George Van Alstine
Easter’s message of the Risen Lord is astounding. Jesus’ resurrection is in fact the most incredible, spectacular and unusual story imaginable. In this one event, Jesus utterly changed the trajectory of history; death has been killed! When people say it’s unbelievable, I get it! Yet, I do believe the unbelievable.
I believe in the gospel of life from death. I believe in the resurrection of the living Christ. Therefore, I want us to consider this notion – life emerging where once there was only death – as more like, well… normal. Yes, normal. I know this is a challenge. On a daily basis, my heart leans toward the conviction that turning death into life, creating everything from nothing, is simply “too good to be true”. So when I hear the message of the gospel, that God’s abundance has come to dwell in flesh, and to die, and then three days later rise again putting death in its grave, so to speak, it all seems utterly astounding. I’m inclined to meet this Easter message with amazement. But why should I be amazed? This message has been around from the beginning. “B’reyshit bara elohim…” (“In the beginning God created…” – Gen. 1:1). The term “bara” is widely thought to mean “to create without material”. It is literally something from nothing; quite an unusual concept, actually. When I taught world religions in India, the students there were struck by the fact that the God of Judaism (and later of Christianity) created from nothing. The self-sufficiency implied is astounding, but for the God of Genesis, it is just “normal”.
As the passage moves beyond these first words, just prior to God’s creative action, “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.” This image is important. I remember a time snorkeling in the Philippines. Happily floating and staring at the gorgeous tropical scene behind me, I suddenly felt a strange chill and turned to look ahead, finding nothing but blackness, and below me an even greater void. I had lazily drifted over the shelf, and I was now in one of the deepest ocean areas in the world. Disorientation. Dizziness. Terror. Visions of Leviathan filled my mind and almost instinctively, I swam as fast as I could to the shore. That terror is something like the way the early Hebrews imagined the formless, void and dark deep before creation. So when God hovers over the face of the waters, he brings comfort and a peace that passes all understanding to a terrible and hopeless place in the Hebrew mind. God speaks shalom – peace, abundance and life – into being.
All this is more than a theological exercise. The images of God’s immensity and abundance fill me with hope, right to my core. So when I pray, I know I am in the presence of the God of limitless resources, who sees my deepest desolating fear as powerless amidst his motherly brooding and comforting presence. Power, abundance and love – all focused in my direction, because I am the pinnacle of his creation, his beloved child. And God certainly doesn’t need anything from me to make this happen. Psalm 50:11 says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine.”
So with this in mind, I would like to offer a few thoughts and encouragements about our finances at ABC. As the outgoing Finance Chair, I have watched our congregation struggle with the financial reports each quarter. As giving remains lower than anticipated, the refrains have begun to rise from Barinaga Hall: We should look at where we can cut our spending! We have to increase our giving! We really need to… <insert your solution here>. Great ideas, no doubt! Yet, there’s a danger in having our initial thoughts focused on our own resources. That is not the heart of the message of Genesis. The good news of Genesis is that God is (always) the God of abundance. In him, there is no lacking, and he is with us. His Holy Spirit is in us. Meditating on and reminding each other of God’s abundance is what brings us peace in troubled times. It is from that place of peace, confident in Him, that we expect to hear his assurance and direction as we consider our financial choices.
Ours is the God who brought a creation out of nothing, who dismissed death through the resurrection of Jesus. Why would we not trust in his abundance for our families, our communities and our church? Let’s commit together to start every thought, every idea and every strategy by marking and remembering that God has provided wonderfully for us and with the assurance that God will continue to provide lavishly. He is the giver of the feast and he has invited us to sit down with him and receive, and celebrate.